Make your own free website on
I got this article written by Mera Srinivasan forwarded by my friend.


I grew up for a long time with a sick mother and then lost her when I thought her last hospitalization would be just another one in her cycle of disease and treatment. We (my father, my sister and I) thought that she would go into the hospital sick, get treated, recover and come back home - we were wrong! She went in and never came back. She died on May 10 at 4:00 am in the morning. I remember the day, crystal clear, like it was yesterday. It happened over ten years ago.

It was hard without a mother. As women we are supposed to receive our intimate training about self-care, home management, traditions and of-course courtship and love from our mothers. When you lose her permanently there is a gap - a big gap.

In India where social and family traditions are maintained by the woman of the house - her absence can leave a gap in knowledge and a sudden loss in our roots. Deepavalli can be easily overlooked and the rituals that accompany such festivals and holidays can be forgotten. Similarly, when all the warmth and nurturing are supposed to be displayed and passed on by mothers in traditional cultures - an absent mother could mean no special sweets on your birthdays; no hand picked clothes for holidays; no surprise packages in mail; no home made spices sent through friends; and no recipies to ask over the phone.

At first the pain of a gone-parent is very deep and raw. Those of us who know death first hand will understand the trauma and the shock. Only time heals and it does so very slowly. Nobody's words will make it go - others' words can only give us hope and understanding. That can strengthen us but the ultimate healing can only come from within us.

It used to always surprise me when people say humanly negative things about their mothers. If mine were alive today maybe I would have said the same thing - but since her death, she remains only a fond and longed for memory. Her weaknesses (and she had many like any human being) tend to be forgotten or minimized. So I am always tempted to say to people who criticize their mothers, "How could you say such a thing, I have no one and there is not soul in this world that I could call amma or ma?" I envy friends who would say, "Look what I received from my mother", and would show me what their mothers had bought for them and sent them. I sometimes watch my friends go shopping with their mothers for jewelry and clothes and know that for many years I was my only fashion consultant and no-one else was and ever will be. My friends served that role for me sometime (but it is still easier to do these things on my own). Maybe I dress like a true academician because that is the only world my sister and I ever knew and ever could! :)

I learnt cooking on my own and had to consult with aunts and women friends. Holidays were always hard for me and the only people I check with are two of my wonderful aunts who tell me what I have to do on Ganesh Chathurthi day or Mangilli poondigel morning. I don't have the resources to do these rituals nor the inclination to follow all these traditions so blindly but I remember my mother being so conscientious about them. I try to follow what I can so I can hold on to some identity.

Her cold bath at 4:00 in the morning and her insistence that we follow suit irritated all of us but we gave in. She had the power to use fear, love and nurturing to convince appa, myself and my sister that this was all for the ultimate good of the family. Now as I get older I appreciate her struggle to keep the traditions and will always admire her eagerness to pass it on to us. If amma only knew how much I miss her Deepavalli marunduu - that awful tasting paste of cleansing. (Ask your Tamilian friends what this is.)

It still aches, after all these years, to know that the best moments in my life - my graduation, my marriage (if it ever occurs), my child birth (with or without a man :); my book launching, etc. will be motherless. I cannot show to any woman, the same degree of irritation and demands that many Indian women friends show their mothers. I cannot whine or be that little girl that says "enna amma...." with a mixture of love, affection, demand, freedom and uninhibited annoyance. There is no woman I shall call, with every breath of connection, "Amma".

I am, sometimes, envious and very shocked at the exploitation of mothers and mothers-in-law by some Indian families abroad. Some women call their mothers for weddings and child-births to help around like servants. They use them to take care of their kids while yuppie women and men go to work to make their material American dream come true. They take these older woman for granted and exploit them for their selfish reasons. To you, guys and gals, who do this, remember women like me, motherless, who have had to do it all alone with no one's help and count your blessings. Don't take such service and help for granted and don't abuse it. When such help and service is gone it is gone forever and you will have one major regret - that you never said with love and sincere gratitude "Thank you amma!"

For many young women, motherless like me and my sister, pat yourself in the back and give yourself credit for having learnt it the hard way. Hope you will find men and in-laws that will nurture you. Hope you will have a daughter with whom you can complete the mothering process that was incomplete for you or you never had. More than anything else, in your moments of depression and deep aching, take time to remember the numerous orphan children who have no-one. Adopt them or send them money so they know someone cares and someone can nurture - even if only from a distance. For god/goddess knows that this world needs a mother and lots of mothering (from men too)! Take care.

Meera Srinivasan