8th March was Women’s day, and I read a lot of people talking about women achievers. I pondered as to why do we need to have a Women’s day. Because women are an inseparable part of our whole life. A woman is ‘janani’, the giver of birth.
However, I realised, that marking a day helps to go over this inevitable phenomenon called WOMAN and be grateful. As I introspected more, I realised that if there is one woman, who has played a humongous role in shaping my life, it’s none other than my mother (Aai), who was one of the main instruments in making me what I am today.
Aai instilled honesty in me, she not only drilled it into my brain but also ensured it became a part of my character right since my early childhood.
An incident, when I was in my 7th class in my school in Mumbai, is still etched very clearly in my memory. The results of our unit test were out. The Geography answer sheets were distributed. I totalled the marks I was given for the various answers. It was 36/40. But on the front page, it was written wrongly in bold 38/40. As a result of this, I was declared 2nd topper in the class amidst applause and praise from my teacher. The topper had scored 38.5. My conscience pricked me, my mother’s image flashed in front of my eyes. “Never cheat in life, God gives the best to those who are honest”, her words rang in my ears.
Without a second thought, I got up and walked up to my teacher and told her about the totalling mistake. With obvious embarrassment, she checked it herself and corrected it to 36/40. The very next moment, without batting an eyelid and her eyes gleaming with a sense of acknowledgement and pride, as though she was patting my shoulders, she struck it off again and rewrote 39/40. She then showed my paper holding it high in her hand in front of the whole class, and announced Saleel has scored the highest in class. He scores 3 extra for honesty. Well, I wasn’t fully convinced, but accepted the treat graciously and thanked Aai in my heart.
Compassion & Good Karma
Aai rarely turned down anyone who came to her for help. Whether it was a beggar on the street or a relative or friend or neighbour. She genuinely felt for the other. She always encouraged my brothers and myself to have a helpful attitude and sensitivity in our conduct with others. She instilled basic human values in us telling us various stories with good morals.
I remember, once she asked my brother Harshal and me, when we were hardly about 5 or 6 years old, that if God gave you Rs. 100 crores what would you do? Spontaneously both of us replied that we would keep some of it and donate most of it to the poor.
Responsibility, Hard Work & Management
At the age of 22, Aai was an extremely hard working housewife, cooking 3 meals a day for an 8 people joint family and a proud mother of two sons, Harshal, a year old and me 2.5 years.
When a bit of an emergency arose, in her mid-30s when Dad’s (Baba) company was not doing so well and he took voluntary retirement, Aai completely sprung up to the occasion. She started giving Marathi tuition to the English medium students and the ‘teacher par excellence’ in her was unveiled in no time. Our house was stormed the entire day by not less than 125 students visiting at various times throughout the day.
The way she managed her different roles of wife, mother, teacher, friend, sister, etc. would have been an education worth a University degree in Management. The brunt of it all was taken by herself without the rest of the people in the house feeling even an iota of it.
A Karma Yogi Teacher blessed with loads of patience
Aai had the amazing ability to get into the shoes of the other and hence was able to pull her students up from where they stood. And this was done in a friendly yet authoritative way. She became a best friend to most of her students. At the same time the admiration and regard they had for her, enabled them to take the best guidance from her about other challenges in their life.
Some of them were very slow at grasping the language. Learning Marathi was a big handicap for them. While others would laugh at them, Aai would never give up. She would take the onus on herself and sit with them personally for extra hours, many times compromising on her food and even giving up the time she would have reserved to spend with us, especially Rashmin, the youngest of us three brothers, who was very possessive and demanding.
Guess, she cared more for and loved the human in the student. Else stretching to this extent was quite rare and incomprehensible.
Connection & Social Skills
In spite of having hardly any time for her in the day, which started taking a toll on her health, she managed to maintain contact with relatives and friends, in an era which was devoid of email, facebook and whatsapp! The relationships she built and nurtured were not a mere formality wrapped with superficial courtesies, but were straight from the heart and genuine with a lot of caring and sharing from both sides.
A proud Hindu & a proud Indian
Aai would narrate to us with such passion and reverence, the episodes of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, she inculcated in us the pride for righteousness (Dharma), Hinduism for its humaneness and the rich culture and heritage of India. I have always looked forward to growing up with high ideals and moral values with Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as my role models, imbibing adhering to principles, fighting for the truth and courageously protecting one’s own people and culture, respectively from those three. This was only owing to the way Aai projected their qualities through the devotional fervour in her narrations.
Endurance & Will Power
Our family went through a lot of adverse times. There were some moments when the whole world seemed to have collapsed. The way Aai handled all of us in those formidable phases was admirable. Her ability to endure and sacrifice was so high that we never even realised that we had started taking her compromises for granted.
The toughest time for the family was when she revealed to us that she had breast cancer and it was already in the advanced stage. Though the Fight-against-Cancer continued for a gruelling and torturous 6 months, leaving us more and more helpless by the week, when I look at it in hind sight I can clearly see that her Self-Reliance took over her will power. She had endured the worst and we all knew she could endure this too and come out triumphant and the world would soon read about her in books and magazines about Cancer survivors making her an inspiration for millions around the globe.
However, she was too self-reliant to be able to take the physical dependence her disease had dragged her into. As she started losing her ability to walk, eat and later even to talk, I am sure, in the silent corner of her heart, she hated having to be cared for and looked after. She had experienced it always from the giving end. Being pampered was an alien concept for her.
The epitome of Sacrifice that she was, Aai had always LIVED for us, and hence she decided to DIE for us.
The void she left was later, in another dimension, filled by my Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. She left it for us and passed on the baton to become role models and inspiration as Art of Living volunteers and ambassadors of our Master. Each quality of hers has been an integral part of my role as an Art of Living Teacher, Life Coach, Corporate Trainer and Youth Mentor.
Let me proudly declare to you Aai and proclaim to the world, that though I might have miserably failed to keep your body alive, I never allowed YOU to die, YOU are as alive as ever in my heart, mind and spirit, in every endeavour of mine to enhance the quality of lives of the people, I touch in various ways. As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, the mother is your first Guru, it’s YOU who is embodied in me in the form of your love, compassion, teachings, moral values, humaneness, responsibility, friendliness, devotion and sacrifice.