When I was young, and a school-going boy, I was the only son, the only child. My father was an engineer who worked for some time and later went to the US for higher studies. After a brief work experience before he returned to India, he started his career as a lecturer in a local engineering college. I have heard that he was a great teacher.
At that time, when we were living modestly, my mother would always be the first to get up in the morning at 3:30 am, as we would get our supply of drinking water only for a couple of hours during that time. Once done with that, she would go for a walk for about an hour, and back again into the kitchen, preparing coffee or tea — whichever we preferred — and simultaneously planning the ingredients and their preparation for the day’s breakfast, which we would all eat together. A good family time.
Post that breakfast, my mother would help me get ready for school, pack me lunch, and give me money for the bus fare. She would help my father get ready for his office, making sure he got everything he wanted, and send him off to work.
She would then ‘catch a breath’, during which she would read a lot of general knowledge and current affairs. Then, time to get the house cleaned spick and span — dusting it, wiping it. And then, on to the laundry and drying of our clothes, and pressing the clothes that my father and I would require for the evening and the next day. She would then prepare some snacks and get ready to serve us a cup of coffee or tea. That would be a ‘we time’: my father, my mother and myself talking about family matters and future plans, along with the inevitable little gossip for a fun break. And then I would go off to play with my friends, and my father would work on his preparation for the next day. During this time, my mother would be in the kitchen preparing our dinner, and then we would be sitting around the table, sometimes with invited friends, and sometimes with drop-in guests. My Mother was versatile enough to fix them something to eat as well. Post-dinner, and after a great evening at dinner with guests, she would quietly disappear and finish off washing the dishes and sort out clothing for the next day, and put away the clothing that needed to be washed.
Some more small talk, and the guests would say goodnight and bye! As a small boy, I would fall asleep on my father’s lap, and he would carry me to my bed.
Later, my mother and father were fond of going to the movies and eating out at restaurants. My mother loved Carnatic classical music, and we would not miss the good ones even if we had to travel out of Mysore. Sometimes I would fall asleep half-way, sometimes I enjoyed it too.
When we went home and got ready for bed, my mother would make sure everybody was comfortable, even if there were guests at home.
I was growing up reasonably comfortably by the time I was in 11th-12th grades. We did not have to move from one rented house to another, but my mother never complained. We finally had a small house of our own, a trust board house for which my father had borrowed a loan from LIC (Life Insurance Corporation), and he cleared the loan when I was doing my 3rd Year engineering course. He saved enough to send me to a grad school in the US.
Even if it was for a week, I would visit my parents during every semester break! I still do not know how he managed to pay for my trips. They would have sacrificed a lot of their needs.
When I decided to try my hand at being an entrepreneur, it also meant more expenses and more expenses. When my business graduated from a garage to a little building, and then went through numerous challenges as a startup and an early-stage company, I would always get worried about challenges that such a nascent business would throw up. I would many times wake my father up in the middle of the night to discuss. Irrespective of how tired he had been, he was always available to me — always solution-oriented, positive, encouraging, supportive. Many times, when we were discussing a business problem, my mother would either pass by or would be at the table, and the solutions she would come up with would be striking. She had a tremendous amount of commonsense; they say, “Today, the most uncommon is ‘commonsense’”!
At some point, like in many other families, we fought through major illnesses, starting with my father’s heart attack and subsequent surgery. I crumbled, but my mother stood like a rock — all positive, courageous — and my father was back on his feet and continues to live with us and guide us.
My mother was detected with stage 3B cancer, but she fought it boldly and it went into full remission. The family did a 2-month tour of Europe, and she was fine. Many years later, she passed away due to metabolic disorders, but cancer did not recur.
She took care of the family — my wife, and daughter. And we did the same when she was unwell. She was positive, and had the will to live until the last few days.
My Wife Lajwanti plays that role now equally effectively in a larger family, and of course, a much larger business that the family is associated with. At some point, I am sure my daughter, Shruthi Sudhanva, will play this role.
This is not ‘feminism’. It is gender equality, if at all with more burdens on the mother and the wife.
I built a house and named it ‘Sukanya’. Sukanya was my mother’s name. I now have a 5-month-old granddaughter Akshara, and I see a lot of my mother in her.
On International Women’s Day, I wanted to write this tribute to my mother!