Tuesday, February 02, 2010
The Almighty has always been gracious to me by blessing me with some such relationships that cannot be defined---the bonds are so firm and very deep!!!One of these bonds is the one with Amma---my Ayah (Nanny).
We first met when I was two months old and she was nearing thirty----in mid-November 1953.
She was a "Pahaadan" or Hill Woman----she hailed from a village called "Sabaattu" in the county of "Mahasu" in "Chhota Shimla" District of the erstwhile Punjab State. She came highly recommended---carrying Letters of Recommendation from ICS(Indian Civil Service) Cadre----these being the 'Elite' those days---and my parents snapped her up!!!
According to her I was an angel---maybe then I was because from what I've heard I did just three things---ate,slept and played for the first six months of my Life!!!My mother was a total novice -----I was her first baby----therefore it was Amma who walked her through bringing up a baby----from which Gripe Water to use to when to start the Solid Feed----she was conversant with all the Stages and the brands available!!!She became my constant companion---one who felt I could do no wrong---and therefore always shielding me from Mummy's wrath!!!
I was growing up into a very headstrong,stubborn and hot headed child---and with the exception of two people---Amma and Aazoba(my maternal Grandpa) every body saw this.
Mummy and I were at loggerheads constantly---she couldn't understand how to discipline me and I grew more and more defiant by the day!!!Amma was the only one who could get to me----reasoning with me---she had tons of Patience and managed to tone me down a bit----till things changed with the advent of my sister Mikki when I was four.
My mother had very difficult preganancies----she needed bed rest for all the nine months----so Aazoba insisted on us coming to Bombay(as Mumbai was then) till the baby was born.This left Amma at a loose end for almost 9 months---Mummy was going to continue paying her but she'd be lost in Bombay!!!!She asked my parents permission to take up a temporary job ----replacing a cousin of hers who was very sick with Typhoid---till we came back and her cousin too recovered.My parents agreed---this meant that she too was occupied----and so everthing was decided.Then Amma blundered!!!She took me along to finalise the deal----and I raised Hell!!No way was MY Amma going to look after any other child----she belonged to only ME and therefore MINE was the will that would prevail!!! That was that----Amma spent all those months in Sabaattu----farming!!!
My sister Mekhala (Mikki)was born in 1957----she was a Blue Baby at birth and needed specialised care.Amma became her constant companion much to my annoyance and rage.I felt ignored and cast aside by Amma more than my parents-----and my defiance grew!!!One day Amma sat me down and gathered me close.She asked me if we should give Mikki away---I didn't like her so there was no need to keep her.I replied my parents wouldn't let her.She then said that they were agreeable and if I agreed they'd do just that!!!This forced me to think----was Mikki THAT bad????I loved her sweet smile and the way she gurgled.I also loved the way her eyes shone when she saw me----if she went away----she wouldn't be MY sister anymore---would she???
I realised I loved and accepted Mikki as a part of my life---though I pretended I tolerated her just because Amma had put in a good word for her!!!!Jealousy of a sibling is a bad Emotion---but my uneducated Amma managed to create a relationship between the two of us---today we're there for each other but don't live in each other's pockets!!!
Three years later in 1960 Ritu joined us----till then I was used to sharing Amma----and to a certain had become independent of her too.She treated all three of us like Princesses----she even ironed our Undies!!My parents trusted her implicitly---and she in turn became a surrogate parent for us.She was also a baby sitter for the children of their friends----she'd look after all of us for 4-5 days when these Folks went out of town to attend the Musical "Mehfils"(Concerts) of musical Geniuses like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan,Ravi Shankar,Ustad Akbar Ali Khan and Bhimsen Joshi.
She was an innocent, loving,simple soul---deeply religious and very superstitious!!She'd take us to the Ram Lilas (something like Christmas Pantomimes)during the Dussehra Days and insist on us bowing and touching the feet of the actors playing Ram ,Laxman,Sita AND Hanuman!!!"Aashirwaad lelo baawa"or "Take their blessings child"was her constant refrain.As we grew older I began to notice a stink around these actors---that was when I began saying a firm "No" because they stank strongly of "Beedies" and stale cheap Liquor they indulged in!!!There was this film called "Sampoorna Ramayan"(Complete Ramayana) which was screened at the Kiran Theatre in Sector 22.All the kids and their Ayahs went to see it.What a pandemonium there was when Ram,Sita and Laxman appeared on the screen!!!!Their appearance was stilled and one by one we were led in a line by our respective Ayahs to pay homage to the Dieties----Amma had even carried Garlands and Coconuts as offerings!!!!She was a great believer in rituals and was fixed on these.She'd offer cold sweet Jaggery Water to the passers by on the roads on "Nirjali Ekadashi" every June----the heat used to be terrible with tempratures well over 45 degrees Celsius---while she fasted and spent the entire day((24 hours)totally without Food or Water!!!As she grew older,her religious activities increased----her Food began being cooked separately on a "Shuddh Choolah" or pure stove and her utensils----including Ladles and Spoons were stored separately!!!
Days passed by and we grew up----she began feeling redundant---we didn't need her as much any more!!!Besides her father was very sick in Sabaattu and there was no one to care for him.She asked my mother for her advice----Mummy said she'd be sorry to see her go---but if she felt that was what she wanted to do---she was free to take her decision.So finally when I was thirteen she left to take care of her father and we didn't see her for two years though she'd write to me via the letter writer in her village---we had a regular Hindi correspondence.
Her father passed away soon after and she again took up the job of an Ayah----that was the best thing she knew.Each year she'd take a vacation and spend half of it with us.We three looked forward to it----she told us the Legends of God and Goddesses and tried to mould us into better human beings----along with our parents she too deserves a mention as one of our guiding spirits.Her biggest regret was that my parents had no son----only three daughters!!! She'd give generously to evry mendicant who came beggin at the door---"Dua karnaa ki Sa'ab aur Bibiji ko jaldi Beta ho"------"Pray that my employers are blessed with a son soon!!!"
She came down to bless Sudhir after our wedding and presented Rs.101/ to him as "Shagun"-----he kept the Re.1 and returned the Rs.100.She promptly distributed the amount to the poor to ward off the "Evil" eye---he was her son-in-law after all!!!.She also came when Lotta was born----she was very happy!!!I think of her daily----there so many small things today which are an intrinsic part of me--- these were taught to me by her.However I do know that her blessings are always with me!!!
Thank you Amma!!!