This one is from Anamika from Delhi, I am also posting part of her email.
Ma was my best friend, one who taught me good touch-bad touch at age 10. And told me that anyone other than Baba (my father) or Dada (elder brother) were ‘male’. That included her brother, my Dad’s brother…anyone really…
We’d fight often, make up oftener and my phone bills are minuscule, now that she’s no longer around to share my triumphs and setbacks.
“I’ve read that the brain stops rejuvenating after the age of 50. One must learn a new skill continuously, to ensure the brain cells stay rejuvenated and healthy. And I’m 10 years behind!”
That was Ma’s lament to me over the phone in the year 2003.
I still remember that phone conversation, because Ma’s life changed soon after. She had taken this newspaper article quite seriously, and informed all of us that hereon she would learn a new skill set each year. We (my father, brother and I), heard her out. And to be very honest, didn’t pay too much attention to her statement.
Year 2004, she started learning crochet. Whenever I’d visit them in Mysore, I’d see evidence of her handiwork all around the house. Ma though, was not satisfied. She thought that what she was knitting was too frivolous. Her work needed to be more meaningful. Ei shob shajanor jinish diye ki hobe? (What’s the use of all these decorative items?). That is when she discovered ‘Knit for peace’, an organisation that knits utilitarian items, and sends them to war ravaged countries. Knitting hundreds of socks and caps for children in Afghanistan, it was 2006 when she remembered that she hadn’t learnt a new skill in the last 3 years!
She was 63 years old when she started learning yoga. And the first aasana she learnt was how to cure a migraine (for me, her daughter, who’d suffer from terrible migraines!). She learnt the ‘Surya Namaskar’ amongst others; cured her breathing problem to a large extent through ‘Pranayam’.
At age 64, she learnt driving. The oldest student in her driving class, but one who passed the driving test in her first attempt.
At 65 years of age, she learnt swimming – again the oldest student in her class. She was terrified (petrified would be a better term) of water, and only took on the challenge because of my brother. Mother and son had a pact – Ma would learn swimming and Dada (my elder brother), a chain smoker, would quit smoking as a reward. Ma kept her end of the bargain, unlike Dada!
At 66, we gifted both Baba and her mobile phones for their anniversary. Ma took to it so naturally. She would take pictures, send us poems through SMS; was learning to type in Bangla on her phone.
The next year had been slated for learning how to use the laptop…
All of these milestones were being achieved in the middle of failing health, serious breathing problems, and health issues which were being dismissed by senior health professionals as figments of her imagination (later proven to be actual ailments, not addressed in time).
When I look back, I remember Ma being this beautiful, graceful human being. Ma, who would dance to Rabindra Sangeet and the latest Bollywood numbers. Ma, who would be in tears, listening to the poetry of Nazrul Islam. Who believed the best in people, who’d cry on being parted from my friends, even if she had known them for just a few hours.
Ma, who would say, “When you feel good, dress up. When you feel bad, dress up even more.”