Amma, even today Ranga reminds me how upset I was when he hinted that all could not be well with you when you had one of your earlier bouts of sickness. You made me come a long way from this that when your end came, I did not even have tears in my eyes. You were my spiritual guru right from my childhood, imparting bits and pieces of philosophical truths sprinkled in the various stories you have told me, be it stories of Mahabharata or neighbourhood, was missing right from the day you lost your father figure, Thatha! You gave enough time for this fact to sink in.
We all understood very well that you were the backbone of our family and Appa could not take any decision even on something as simple as coffee or tea, but this truth hit us badly when you fell sick and Appa was lost. Despite this, we thought that Appa will outlive his wife like Thatha did. But I think from above, you observed him and decided to call him to you in a matter of three months! Maybe you decided that no one can take care of him like you did? Maybe you understood that he was lost without you?
Amma, when I think of you now, I recall your sick self of the last 2-3 years, to the point that I tell my sisters, I am not so upset about Amma’s departure as I remember only her sickness. Now I am going to recall your greatness point by point in this tribute!
Annapoorani, wasn’t that your nick name given by all known to you? How many times we have heard people, be it family, friends, Thatha’s clients, distant relatives, neighbours, strangers, etc etc, say that they can never leave our house on an empty stomach? How Thatha’s client Lakshmi mami used to say that whenever she refused the food you offered, she had to starve that day? Not just feeding people at home, for how many people you have packed food and sent/taken to their homes!
Amma, I don’t think I can get your business acumen at all! Your business ranged from diamonds to pickles with various types of clothes and accessories in between!
Your ever smiling face - have I ever seen you sulking over things? It was always “vettu onnu thundu rendu” straight to the point. Point out a person’s fault and then forget and forgive!
Enterprising - you learnt this quality very well from Paati. For Appa and your hardworking nature, if you had begun a wedding planning business early in life, you would have been Number One in this business!
Duty - I think you learnt this mantra from Appa, but you followed him ditto in this path. You did your duties not just to your daughters, your father-in-law, your mother-in-law, your brother-in-law but to the extended family of siblings of your in-laws! My relationship with Ranga’s Paati grew only because I have heard how you did things for your mother-in-law’s mother!
Despite being a vakil, Thatha always asked you to speak to people if a point had to be conveyed or instructions to be given clearly and precisely without wasting time. I always recall this quality of yours when I need to do this and try to imitate you!
Fearless - you never hestitated to drive a point home whether it is somebody big or small. I don’t think I can ever be as fearless as you were.
Hardworking - Amma I feel you became sick overworking for this family! The number of times you used to run to the shops in the neighbourhood and also cater to the needs of others not taking enough care of yourself, made you sick!
I recall lying next to you as a small child in the hall of Ranganathan Street house.
I recall you taking me to school, pakkathu school first and corporation school later. It was always you who took care of school admission, fees, complaints, etc as Appa was ever busy with his office.
You also had the time to accompany your mother-in-law to the never ending trips be it a casual visit or wedding or death or any other occasion in the family / extended family / friends / neighbours / thatha’s clients etc etc!
Every shopkeeper on Village Road right from Majestic Medicals, Khaleel Stores, Rahman Stores, TUCS, Velan Stores, maavu machine, Salam Stores, paper kadai, Alif Fancy, Gautam Jewellers, Canara Bank, TNSC Bank, Suprabath Hotel, pookadai, vetrilaikadai, vegetable shop and even the Police Station knew you and Paati and thought for a very long time that you were mother and daughter!
I recall that you knew all the bus routes and most of the main roads in the main parts of Chennai and could direct people well. I don’t think I have this knowledge even now. Ask Ranga and he will tell you that I am really bad at this.
I recall that you only took us to movie theatres and beach all the time and Appa always met us at the respective venues straight from office. I wonder how you timed the arrival precisely in those mobile phoneless times and travelling by public transport!
I recall asking you in awe, how you roast the appalam on fire without hurting your fingers and you assuring me that it will come with practice! Amma, I still love cooking in iyachombu and kalchatti learning from you!
I recall you making tiny round dosas for me and this has now developed to different animal-shaped dosas with guidance from Sundari!
I recall the sugared chappathis you used to make for me - chappathis sprinkled with sugar!
I recall the nila saapadu we used to have almost on all days with you serving all the daughters or better still make us all sit in a circle and gave us spoonfuls of curd rice with vathakuzhambu or pickle. It never made a difference to you if Anu or Nalini or any other friend joined us in this, they were also your daughters!
I recall how you followed Paati’s instruction with regard to the quantities to be cooked, but always increased it slightly without her knowledge to ensure there is plenty for all your children and the ever unexpected guests! You ensured food was never short in our home.
I recall how you used to ask us to be kind to Paati when we were a bit irritated with her for her attitude with you!
I recall how you used to not restrict Paati eating pickles or drinking Rasna stating that we should give some allowance to old age.
I recall how you used to play cards with Thatha almost every evening with one of us joining you occasionally.
I also recall how you used to argue with Thatha on many occasions, but in the next half hour make him his favourite “rava upma” with ginger, perungayam and a little extra ghee.
You always said rava upma is faster than the 2-minute noodles if one has roasted rava ready, which you always had. I totally agree with this!
I also recall your hesitation to stay in the hospital when Gokul was born stating that you were a bit sick of hospital stay. Should we have taken it as the first sign of your failing health?
Losing Thatha made you lose everything in life, after all, you lost your own father at the age of 16 and Thatha was your father after that, showing his support on many occasions when you had issues with Paati! But Amma, the Annapoorani, the expert cook forgetting how to cook was a big shock for us! Still Amma you came back to normalcy a bit and tried to keep a cheerful front but your sickness did not allow you much! To repeat what I said above, I take your sickness as the time for me to accept your departure. If you had not given me this time and passed away suddenly, I don’t think I could have accepted it.
Love you Amma!