“The Iron Lady” - A tribute to my Grand Mother
Today when we are talking of our mothers and penning praises about the relationship and her acts, I am reminded of my Grandmother - whom I revered as the “Iron Lady”. Let me just have the opportunity to pay a humble tribute to her by briefing some of the odds that she fought to give life to her progeny.
They had come to Patna in 1942. My Grandfather used to narrate proudly whenever I asked him about circumstances leading to settle here.
“We had come to Patna. I had left Janaki in a dharma shala near the station to finish some work. On return I found her waiting on the footpath with the luggage, taking lunch from the tiffin-box along with my sons and a gutter flowing just behind. It felt me so bad that I finalized this piece of land the same day.” He would say recounting his memories. He was an inspector during the British rule and was transferred to Patna in 1942. The freedom bug had taken its control. His attitude towards fellow Indians had aroused the wrath of the Britishers and left him with no choice but to take compulsory retirement. Janaki Devi, my Grand ma from there took the charge and brought up her eight – sons (seven own and one step) and one daughter. Herself a daughter of land lord and an Inspector in the British Soldier, she had never known hardship. Leave aside working; she had traveled only in Palki’s from her village escorted by barahils. But situation made her strong and she turned into an Iron Lady.
From here the role got reversed. My grand father took charge of the kids and she managed a social worker assignment in the railways. She would toil her 8 hrs on the platform in the ticketing room to have the liquid money for the kid’s studies. With my grandfather’s pension that would serve the basic purpose.
She had enough of Agriculture land from her father. She actively took control of it. She would travel to her village which had no other way but to cover 6 kms on foot. She would do this at least once a week to ensure the work on the fields and take control of produce. I remember - when the paddy used to be ready she used to stay there and bring load full of 2 to 3 bullock carts at one time. She used to cover those dreaded naxalite belt village in night - all alone with a lantern hung in front to show the way. No one dared to say a word. In fact when our parents or we visited the village she would arrange for escort or advise to leave the village before dark. Those villages are still so dreaded that even today if we visit – we do that in the day light only. (The six inch small formula was from those villages). She knew that agriculture was backbone for her family and increased it slowly. When she left it for her sons in 1985 it was enough to give food grains for the families of her eight sons (23 grand children and today more than 100 great grand children). We still have our rice and wheat from that land (though now it has been divided among our parents).
She tried and reared all for her family. She expanded the house big enough to give all her son’s at least one room. But I still remember she would sleep only in the verandah – all through the four seasons. We would press her to her room in the winters which she would accept very reluctantly.
It was pity – as it happens with all families – as her sons got married the family feuds started cropping. I remember my uncles fighting on trivial matters and she would just sit in her verandah not talking to any of them for weeks but never got angry with her grand children. We remained listening stories with her. I was a darling grand son to her. I used to sleep with her.
When the marriage of her eldest grand son got fixed, her ecstasy had no bounds. But there was some facts hidden during the settlement. She came to know and went angry. She left the house but allowed the marriage to take place from her own house. She tried to turn stone. But I know – she saw the whole marriage and her grand son in Groom’s suit… hiding from behind the trees. She wanted every one to enjoy and be happy, but she didn’t want to compromise on her ideals. She never liked lies. Forgiveness was her ornament. Within a week, the moment the new bride paid regards, she lost her anger.
She was modern in her approach. She had liked my mother – a cousin of my eldest aunt and had asked for her hand for my father when she was just 15 and in school. But she didn’t crush her in family rituals instead became a true mother. She allowed her complete the studies up to PG level and go for job, at the same time took care of us.
She knew to fight for her rights as well. In early eighties when her social work job was being abolished from railways, she had the courage to go to Delhi and meet the then PM Mrs. Indra Gandhi and follow her case. We would not even think of it now.
Her obsession in her last years was TV. A staunch fan of Dada Muni – she would not miss the chitrahaars, the Sunday movies, Ramayan & Humlog on DD. Even if our exams would be around, she would manage to persuade and we would be required to move to the other floors.
Thus was she – “An Iron Lady” – with strong will power, soft at heart – predicting the reverse. - A love for her progeny, ready to sacrifice. Verbose but compassionate. A self made lady – never ready to take help.
Even when she died in 85, the attack was so strong that we didn’t even get time to think. I saw her vexing sons crying clinging to each other. I always say: even when she died – she united her son’s. She was always there to give something.
Originally poisted on Sulekha as a tribute to womenhood :The Iron Lady - A tribute to my Grand Mother