Story of My Mother – From Her Point of View

Story of My Mother – From Her Point of View

A TRIBUTE on her 3rd Death Anniversary Feb 15, 2016

My name is Sushila. Sushila in Hindi (my mother tongue) means good-tempered and with a good disposition. I was born on August 2, 1936, in the city of Bannu in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. At that time it was part of India, the country that I now belong to.

I lived with my parents and my big brother Shiv Kumar. My father Ram Chand Mehndiratta was a businessman and my mother Savitri Devi, a stay-at-home mom. Our spoken language was Bannuwali which is a mix of Persian, Arabic, Punjabi, and Urdu. We are Hindus. Hindus and Sikhs were the minorities in this largely Pashtun (people from Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan) dominated area. We lived with our Sikh brethren as a truly integrated community where my family worshipped both the Sikh gurus and the Hindu gods and goddesses. We went both to the Hindu temples and to the Sikh gurudwaras. But primarily we went to the Arya Samaj Mandir (Mandir means temple). Since my parents belonged to the Hindu sect of Arya Samaj, we would go there every Sunday to congregate with the like-minded people, listen to discourses on being a good human being and perform “Havan”. Havan is a ritual that involves making herbal offerings to the fire while chanting mantras. It is believed that the act of rekindling the fire and its resulting smoke purifies the environment and wards off negative energies.

At that time, there was British Raj (rule) in my country and the British had set up a military presence in our town. But there were movements underway in India to implement self-rule. In 1940 at the Lahore session, the talk of the partition of my country and the creation of Muslim dominated Pakistan started coming up. As the talk of carving out a new country comprised of predominantly Muslim areas started gaining steam, hoards of our neighbors started leaving Bannu for states that had a Hindu majority. However, my father who had a flourishing business in Bannu and good relationship with the Muslim community did not want to leave. He felt no threat in being a Hindu minority for he looked on his Muslim neighbors and customers as his brethren. So while most Hindus & Sikhs left for India, my family stayed and went about their normal business.

But this all changed on August 15, 1947, when my country India was sliced and Pakistan was declared a country separate from India. It became clear very rapidly that only the followers of Islam were welcomed in my city of birth. There were riots and mass killings of Hindus and Sikhs still remaining there. The mob-mentality was ruling the roost. My father could no longer deny the truth that if we wanted to live, then we had to leave.

So my family and I became refugees. I was only 11 years old at that time. We took a handful of our most treasured possessions and landed in the refugee camps set up at the Indian-Pakistan border by the Indian government. We stayed there until our family relocated to the city of Rampur, a predominantly Muslim city in the province of Uttar Pradesh. A high percentage of Muslims had decided to stay on in India because it was made clear to them by the authorities that they were welcome in this newly formed secular country of India. Rampur became our new home. My father restarted his business and me and my brother went on to continue and complete our education there.

During this period of my growth from a child to an adult, I lost my mother to cancer, a heart-breaking unbearable loss of the young and felt by the young. With my education completed, I took up a job as a teacher. Being at a marriageable age of 23 years, my father found a husband for me in Jitendra Nath, son of his Bannuwali Arya Samaji fellowman. So with happiness and dreams for my new life, I got married and moved to Dehra Dun, a much-anglicized city in the same province of Uttar Pradesh.

My husband was a very learned man and I was blessed with 3 children, 1 son, and 2 daughters. Here in Dehra Dun, which is now a capital of the new state of Uttarakhand, I took up a job as a teacher at a prestigious private school, St. Josephs Academy, where I served until my retirement.

40 years have gone by and I am proud to say that all my children are doing well, albeit in faraway cities and countries. I wish they were closer to me but I am not the one to hold anyone back. My husband and I have managed to save enough money so that we will not be dependent on anyone during our retirement and old age.

I am retired now at the age of 63 with too much time on my hands, leading a life, which, how should I say nicely, not very interesting. So I have started volunteering at various non-profit organizations. Tired of commuting to these places, I have found my niche in taking care of the stray dogs in my neighborhood. Seeing them sniffing food out of the trash and even eating the trash, I started preparing home-cooked meals for them. Once a day, a group of dogs would come to my house for their tummy-full meal of chicken, rice and potatoes. Two of the dogs, a black one who I call “Kalu” and a white one who I call “Goru” have started frequenting my home more often. One of them had gotten hurt and so I had taken him to the animal hospital. The veterinarian had vaccinated him and I would give him his medication. So he has started considering my home to be his home. Both these dogs are big but so docile and affectionate when I am around. I do not have the heart to shoo them out of my house. They come inside to escape the sweltering heat of the summer and the chilling cold of the winter. When the weather is nice and I walk to the nearby bazaar for my groceries, they accompany me. Strangers now know me as the lady with the dogs. I am old and frail, but I am not afraid to venture out alone because of the bodyguards I have in Kalu and Goru!

But life is getting hard. With my husband not keeping in good health, and me being so frail, I cannot take care of these stray dogs as much. Its as if they have sensed it. These dogs come and visit me only once in a while, but make sure to seek me out and accompany me whenever I am walking to a nearby store or a neighbors house.

Health issues have started surfacing for me too. The doctor has prescribed so many pills for me and my husband. We cannot keep track of them and often forget whether we have taken them or not. We decided that we will not take any medication and it’s been 3 years and counting.

Small small illnesses have now started to plague me. I am spending a lot of time going to the doctors. Initially, it was for my husband, but now it’s for me too!

Today is February 15th, 2016 and I had my daily dose of telephonic conversation with my children. But I feel unwell. I seem to have lost my appetite. I went to see the doctor today and he gave me some medication. There is a wedding in the neighborhood. I told them that I will come to bless the marriage. So I went and gave them the wedding gift, said hello to my friends and after a few minutes came back home. I feel tired. I feel uneasy. I don’t feel hungry. I think I am going to sleep early today. I need to rest since there is so much to do tomorrow. Next week all my children are coming for a visit. There is so much preparation to be done.

Its 11 pm now. I am having trouble breathing. I pick up the phone and call the caretaker who lives just outside our house. I ask him to come in and call the ambulance. He and his wife come by my side. But I hear someone calling me. Could it be God? Has my time come? Already?

4 thoughts on “Story of My Mother – From Her Point of View

  1. There was so much more to her which can’t be expressed in words. How I wish that God had been a little more kind to us by granting her a little more time with us on this earth. Missing her terribly😥😥

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really your mom went through a lot . Your mom was really brave, smart and had a great personalty. you have her blessing. you did a great job. Keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

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