Mother Day- A Tribute to Mai

Mai-My Mother





My mother’s name was Subhagi Devi, popularly addressed as Subhago Phua in Bodarhi. I adore my mother for the supreme sacrifices she made for me. I was the only child. I would have inherited pretty good share from the joint family. But my mother wanted for me much more in landed property.

According to my great grandmother and the grandmother, I was a pretty difficult child. I would insist my mother to come and feed me her milk on bed itself in the morning, when she would be busy in household works as the eldest and only daughter-in-law of her generation. Though annoyed immensely, she would come with dirty hands and oblige me. She had to cook. She had to clean. She had to take care of all elderly ladies. That was the practice, and my mother religiously did it all.

My Nanaji, Hari Rai was having six brothers including one step brother too who had separated pretty early and lived in his mother’s village. I had seen three of them: Hari Rai, Jagan Rai, and Brahmdeo Rai, and one of the aunties of my mother.
My mother’s aunty was the sister of my Nani, and thus my mother’s Mausi. She was terminally ill. My mother and I went to Bodarhi, my maternal village when I was just a kid in a bullock cart. It took almost the whole day for a distance of 20 and odd kms. As mother said, I didn’t miss Pipra and started enjoying living there. My Nanaji brought everything that I wished. After some months, the village had shown symptom of an epidemic that was very common in rural India those days. My Nanaji and my mother got concerned. A message went to my grandfather who happened to be in Pipra on holiday in Pipra. My grandfather came with three other persons, got me in the mango garden in the eastern part of the village and took me to Pipra, my paternal village. He had a mention of that in his diary. In Bikramgunj we had to stay for the night as we had missed the last train. I had cried for my mother while in sleep that night. Thereafter I came to my maternal village only rarely mostly accompanied by my grandfather. I never stayed for more than two-three days. When I grew up and started living in Birlapur (near Calcutta), I went to Bodarhi as she would give me a lot of money. She used to insist on me to stay for some more days with her. But I never found the village congenial for me. My mother kept on telling a story. Once my Nanaji asked me, “Whom will I love and play with if you go away.” I bluntly told him, “Love Gopal, the son of Shri Sankar Dyal Rai”. Goap was a little younger than me. The old house of Nanji in Bodarhi shared a common courtyard with him. I preferred to spend most of my holidays in Pipra where there were many including my Sadhuain Aaji to love me and many of my age group including Nand Kishore Chacha to play with. I am sure Mai would have been feeling bad, but she never expressed it. She thought I was away from her only for schooling and to achieve bigger goal that was good enough a reason for the sacrifice.

My mother couldn’t return to Pipra to live there. My mother’s Mausi died first, and soon after that my Nanaji got an attack of paralysis. He wanted nursing that my mother could only provide. He remained bedridden till his death. She rarely came to Pipra. It was in my marriage in 1955 that she came to Pipra with Hari Nana for few days. And just after the marriage, she returned to Bodarhi. Hari Nana had gifted his share of the landed property to us. But even after the death of Hari Nana, my mother remained in Bodarhi for her uncle, Jagan Nana, as she had assumed the responsibility of the household.

My father remained in Pipra. After the death of Jagan Nana in 1960s, my father joined her in Bodarhi, but he remained dormant. She mainly controlled all the land related matters. She remained the ‘malkin’ of the family. I liked very much one aspect of her behavior. She would appear to be very angry and annoyed with my grandfather, uncles, and even the tenants of her land or workers. But after some time, she would become very kind and generous and give whatever they asked for, the money or grain.
When I got employed and started earning from Hindustan Motors. I tried to do what my mother wanted even against my wishes. She had some land in eastern side of the village that didn’t have any irrigation facility. In one annual holiday, though I didn’t have any experience I got a well dug for using the Persian wheel (Rehant) for irrigation. No one helped me. I searched for the labour (nonias). Sometimes, I myself worked physically too to expedite the completion. I could see the happiness that mother got out of my interest in getting the work done. The well got ready. She got pleased and that I cherish. And then she wanted a house to be constructed on the outskirt of the village where we had our land. Our old house was inside the village and too cramped.

I started the construction of the new house after getting bricks made a year earlier. I wanted a big enough modern house, built with all facilities with a hand operated pump inside the bathroom and toilet inside the house itself. I had to invest all that I had saved for the education of the three kids. I really worked hard and Yamuna too. Cement was scarce in those days. The trouble in building the house can be appreciated only by those who had experienced it. I went up to the cement factory at Banzari near Rohtas Garh alone in search of cement, but failed in the mission. I bought suspect quality in small lot from different places. I reached many a times pretty late in night carrying the stone chips or other building materials. My mother would not like it and worry about my safety. But in my youth I did never care about anything to happen with me. My mother got completed the house.

My mother was very happy and I was happy to see her happy. I planned and arranged a seven days Yagya with Siva as the main deity at Bodarhi after the completion of the house. That was the time when our car with me in driving seat overturned and toppled near Asansol, while we were going to Bodarhi. Yamuna with the three sons, a servant and late Gauri Sankar Rai was in the car. We got some injuries. The car got badly damaged. Every one seeing the damaged car with no front glass would ask if any one survived. But we could start our Ambassador and reach Bodarhi on the next day afternoon. My parents performed the Yagya. I made all arrangements. On the last day, it was big feast with many relatives and all the village men and women whom I had invited by personally going to their house. My father had gone very weak because of the fast. My mother was very happy to see perhaps the first major function in her village. Unfortunately, it became the last one too. I took her to Varanasi also in my car one year from Bodarhi. Chandramani Mama and his wife accompanied us. I had myself driven her. I took her also to Pipra in my car to attend the last function when the wife of Jamuna Baba died. She would keep on talking about it with whom so ever she met.

My mother came to Hind Motor for the first time after the birth of Rakesh. Thereafter, my mother started coming more frequently. Many a year, Mai would be with us to take the lead in Chhuth. Yamuna went to Dev, a small village in Gaya to perform Chhuth. Mai joined us there from Bodarhi. She was the favourite of my sons. The call of duty and the attraction of Bodarhi would make her leave us and go to Bodarhi. I still remember the real touching scene with tears in my mother’s eyes before boarding the train.
In 1982, I went to UK with Yamuna and stayed there for almost two months. Rakesh was appearing for School final. My mother took charge of the house and my ailing father and her grandsons in Hind Motor.

It was only in 1988 that we made her leave Bodarhi to come and live with us in Hind Motors permanently. My father was with us because of his bad health. He couldn’t go back. There was no point to leave my mother alone in Bodarhi. It used to be real worrying days and nights with no facilities of telecommunication in those days. With the presence of my mother at Hind Motors, I found my worries about her gone.

Unfortunately, I failed to understand that she really loved to go back to Bodarhi with all the problems. In late 1980s, we were constructing our Salt Lake residence, AJIRA. My mother was very happy about the AJIRA project. She had been to Salt Lake house in Diwali to light the lamps and had stayed overnight.

Mai was also very happy as we have been working on to find a bride for Rakesh who was getting graduated from IIT, Kharagpur and going to US in few months. One could see her excitement whenever someone came with a proposal.

It was February 28, 1989. Yamuna had left for Salt Lake. I was fortunately in factory board room in a meeting of Corporate Project Planning. The news reached the office. My mother suffered a severe cerebral attack. I rushed home. I lifted her in my hands and came down the staircase. I called SK Roy Chaoudhry, my colleague who was passing by. He took us to Hind Motor Hospital. We sent message to Yamuna in Salt Lake through Mrs. Santi Singh. She returned and came straight to Hind Motor Hospital. But by that time, my mother had gone in coma. She never recovered. The same night she left us. My father took the news very boldly. A big crowd joined her last rites on Sivatalla Ghat. The saddest day had come for me. I had to face it. I did everything for the last rites whatever my father wished in Hind Motors itself.

After the death of my mother, I had to sell the landed property of Bodarhi that she had owned with a lot of personal sacrifice. It became essential, as I couldn’t have managed it from Hind Motor and saved it from the rogue relatives in the village who claimed to be the nearest to my maternal grandfathers by blood. None from the sides of Yamuna or my own family was ready to help me in keeping the property with me even after I had offered all sorts of incentives. They perhaps wished it to be handed over to them free. They didn’t even help me in selling the same to get the best price or even the right price. I had to sell it myself sitting in Hind Motors for my own safety.

From Autobiography- ‘Over the Years’

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