Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
My mother passed over last year on this day. She had cancer in the brain and she slipped into coma at home and Baba carried her away to His abode. I was not physically present when both my parents passed away and I guess that does not say much about me in my role as a son.
I have learnt a few things from my mother as I am sure each one of you has from your near and dear ones.
Before I go about rambling about my mother, I need to write a bit on her mother. My grand- mother was born in Iran and arrived in India when barely a year old. She came along with her elder sister, who was two years older than her and a brother who was in his late teens. My great grand dad used to export dry fruits to India and when he fell ill, the doctors advised him to leave for India for better medical help.
So the parents and three kids arrived in India and the medical treatment failed and my great-grand-father passed over in Mumbai a few months after they arrived. It was decided that my grand uncle would return to Iran, liquidated all the business and return to India where they would settle down amongst the considerable then Zoroastrian and Iranian presence.
He was barely out of his teens and he climbed on to the boat, embraced his mother and his two young sisters and left for Iran.
That was the last he was seen by his loved ones. He never reached Iran. Something took place in mid sea and he passed away and his body was released into the womb of the Water Goddess. Nobody knows what really took place. Whether he died of natural causes or was murdered or an accident, we can still just conjecture after nearly a hundred years of his passing away.
My great-grand-mother went into a state of shock and lost her mental balance. Her two young daughters were given up for adoption and spent a considerable amount of time in Pune, where they used to play with Avatar Meher Baba. My great-grand-mother just began to recover when one day she sat in a local train, shut her eyes, began to pray and then never opened her eyes ever again.
My grand-mother was barely twelve or thirteen when she was married to a young, hot headed man, living in Hyderabad or Secundrabad. He was the only heir of a very wealthy man, with a huge palace like home and large estate.
When my grand-mother was barely thirteen or fourteen she became pregnant and one night her hot headed husband had a spat with his father and in the middle of the night, my grand-father along with his young pregnant wife, left the huge house, the vast estate, lots of hard cash and never looked back. I really mean, he never looked back. He walked away and nobody knows what happened to the huge house and the damn estate.
So my grand-mother born into a wealthy family and married into a wealthier family, for some reason had a strange karmic connect with hard ship and grappling with the callous hands of poverty.
My mother was one amongst the seven siblings. My grand-father worked and supported the family while my grand-mother took care of the children, the home and to supplement the meager income she cooked sent Tiffin to the homes of others for a paltry amount. My grand-father a tough, hot tempered man, was in love with his first daughter. She would wait for him every night and would help remove his shoes, place his slippers, wait till he washed up and then have dinner with him.
When she was seven or eight years old, while playing she fell down, hurt the back of her head and two nights later died in the arms of my grand-father. A man who could take on a fight with seven men and come out whistling performed the last rites of not only his daughter but in reality of himself too, as after that he became harsh, violent ruthless as the very reason of his existence had been wiped out.
My mother would often tell me that when he came back from work, all the kids were to stand in line and he would talk to each one and ask how their day was and the marks scored and if there was a slip, the belt would be brought out and the kid whipped senseless. It was as though a part of him hated the kids to be alive when the throb of his heart, his daughter had died. If only she had lived and one of the others had died? All this of course is my arm chair two bit psychoanalysis.
So my mother lived amongst four sisters and a brother; her mother who was still a young girl, many dogs, and a father who was a dead man walking.
My mother was a beautiful woman. She excelled in studies and sports. Everybody were certain her future was luminous and she would make a name for herself and make her family proud of her.
My mother usually stood first in her class and when she appeared for her tenth standard, she wanted to study to be a doctor. She was one of the most compassionate human beings I have ever known. She was fearless, intelligent and very cool.
Anyway, they had shifted to Mumbai when her tenth standard results were declared and her father called her up from Hyderabad and told her she had failed. My mother’s world collapsed. How could she have failed? A student who excelled all her life in sports and studies could not just fail. But her father assured her she had failed.
Completely disillusioned my mother decided no longer to pursue her education and to help her mother and her sibblings to begin a new life in Mumbai, she took up a job in the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer. She was barely sixteen years of age then.
It was only after a few years she got to know the truth that she had stood first in the entire State but her father decided that as he would not be able to support the educational dreams of the remaining children, it would be best to let my mother assume she had failed and thus get on with life and help to support the family.
So my mother began work in Pfizer at the age of sixteen. She worked in Pfizer till she retired at the age of sixty and then was a consultant to Pfizer for another few years.
Those days to reach Pfizer one had to go by train to Thane, then take a bus, work in the factory, hard manual work, catch a bus to the train station, take a train and then reach home. The work was manual. Those days technology had not reached Indian shores the way it has now. So it was hard manual work with medicines and chemicals.
My mother being beautiful had many suitors but she was focused on her career. She needed to help my grand-mother and did not want anybody or anything to come between the wellbeing of her mother and her sisters and brother. My grand-father remained in Hyderabad.
My dad on the other hand very dejectedly entered the work force. He wanted to work in a bank but for whatever reason that was not happening and thus kicking and screaming he entered Pfizer. He hated the work. As willingly my mother worked, with all her heart and soul, my father worked as grudgingly, till he saw my mother and fell in love and remained in love with her till the last moment of his life.
So here you have a woman who wanted only to work, excel, grow, and take part in sports and on the other hand you had a man who was least interested in work, had never played a day in his life, was least interested in sports or career but now was besotted with this beautiful woman.
My mother did not know of my father’s existence as she was the most popular employee of the company, had a lot of friends but her focus was work. My mother had got numerous proposals of marriage from the rich and known families of the Zoroastrian community. My mother was tired of the many suitors and now years had passed and she was in her mid twenties and pressure from home for her marriage had commenced and one day, tired and frustrated with everything, she announced that the first man who walked into the house and proposed marriage she would marry him off, no ifs and buts.
Ten minutes later in walked in my dad along with his parents and sought the hand of my exasperated, shell shocked mother. It was obviously the hand of fate and the barely ten minutes before pledge still rankled in the air. She thought she recognised my dad and when it was known that he too worked in Pfizer, mom decided she could not over look the hand of fate and she consented.
My mother and father were cheese and chalk. She was a tough woman, who could handle any life situation and did not know the meaning of fear, gave each moment her very best, there were no short cuts, was intelligent, athletic and stood out in the crowd. And then there was my dad. If moodiness was an empire, my dad was its uncrowned emperor. He could bring the house down with his sense of humour and then ten minutes later he would behave as though he was in intense mourning. He was quick to temper but calmed down equally fast. He was a child in heart and habit. He worked because he had to work and if there was a short cut, oh boy, he would take it. He had never played a day of sports, fell ill religiously, had the least pain threshold ever seen in man or woman.
But he had the heart of an Angel, never held a grudge, would help even those who had mistreated or cheated him, was generous to a fault, never wished anybody harm and yes, he could never look beyond my mother. Till he lived my mother got roses, valentine cards, birthday gifts, cards on every occasion; she never had to shop as he would buy every little thing she needed or wore. So often as a kid he would take me shops and pick women stuff for mom, while I pleaded with Baba and Mother Earth to open and consume me.
My mother’s presence in the lives of all those she touched has always remained. Even now people call me up and say they miss my mother. Rich, poor, old, young, she spread her light in their lives.
My mother taught me a few things with her very presence. She would always tell me, no matter what, an individual may have ninety nine faults and flaws, but each individual will have at least one good, redeeming thing in his or her character and conduct. Always focus on that one redeeming quality. Learn how not to behave and be, from the ninety nine flaws but do so without judging that individual and then try to emulate that one thing you feel is God like or exalting. And she lived by example. She showed me how to treat saint and sinner with respect and compassion. That we all could slip, all could make mistakes and we should never prevent our light and radiance to be dulled by entertaining thoughts of darkness and negativity. We all are going to mess up and do not judge an individual because of one mistake or one character flaw. Go beyond and see the real person. Do not be a fool and trust everybody but do not be so blinded by life that you doubt everybody.
The second thing she taught me was to give one’s heart and soul to all that you do or else do not do that particular thing.
She worked all her life and gave each moment her best and she worked with a smile and joy. She was promoted and eventually handled the entire medical billing of Pfizer and each colleague was helped in a manner that they felt safe and secure that she was handling their affairs. I have not met a single individual who did not love her for who she was and the joy and care she brought into their lives. My dad worked all his life in Pfizer only because he could spend time with her. Of course each morning he would grumble and rant and rave about going to work but mom would cajole him and he would like a good boy oblige. She had an inherent sense of dignity about herself.
Dad passed away six years back and it hit her badly. He was not only her husband but her friend and companion and child too. But she continued working and three hip surgeries did not stop her from working and laughing.
I have still to meet anybody as unaffected with money. Money did not matter to her. Whether she had money or it was short, it did not matter to her. If somebody was in need, that person was helped out, no questions asked and with no expectations.
Hours before being operated for brain tumour, she looked at me and said, two things confirmed, ‘I have a brain and if I survive but have no memory, you take all the decisions and make sure I am consigned to the flames. There are no more vultures left for my body and no matter what pressure is put on you, I do not want chemotherapy. Promise me this’.
The operation was not a success. The cancer had spread extensively and she lived for a few months. Chemotherapy being ruled out it was a matter of months and she lived that with grace too. She would call me up and she had become a child. I met her two days before she left her body. She wanted to eat ginger biscuits and I managed to get the ones she liked and I fed her a bit and I have been told she did not eat after that. She could not talk much and she scribbled on the page that she loved me and that she would see me soon. In spite of all the pain she sat up and embraced me for one last time.
She passed away an hour or so after midnight. I had just finished my prayers and when the phone rang, I knew my mother was with Baba Sai and dad. Her ashes, my sister and I scattered in the Arabian Sea. She always wanted to travel. Godspeed mom.
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha