I can’t believe that it’s been over a decade that I lost my mom. Her memories continue to pop-up every so often. As Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world, her thoughts have taken a strong hold. There’s pain, a sense of emptiness, guilt, anger,… and love and immense gratitude too.
I’ve not experienced the kind of unconditional love that she showered on me from anyone else. And I know that my love for her wasn’t unconditional, not until I realized what I had lost. I can now appreciate and have started embracing what a gift she has been to me and to the people whose lives she touched.
So I’d like to share a little of her with you, today and the legacy she’s left for me to learn from, draw inspiration from, grow into, and to make them my own.Forward Looking My mom, Shakuntala Rai Joshi was always a beacon of hope and of the good times ahead. Even as a major part of her later life got dominated by prescription medications, hospital and doctor visits, and dietary restrictions—she accepted what came to her and she saw and tried to show us how it’d be once the dosages and hospital visits were no longer dictating her her life. She had big dreams and her eyes sparkled at every little adventure she could get away with.
Trying New Things She was a learner through and through. She loved to read and write and took classes from journalism to sewing and fabric painting. Her constant thirst for learning and trying something new fuels me even today.Caring I remember our fights when some of my clothes would go missing. She saw the need of others on a much deeper level than I could. She was very generous in giving her time, money, and energy. I really couldn’t understand most of it then. I even resented her for some of her actions.
As I went back home the last time, it was the people I met in my little shopping trips around my parents house was when I realized how her generosity had impacted people I hardly knew. A neighbor and a seamstress told me how my mom had practically forced her and some other women who were busy working day in and day out to take a day off for themselves and go on a picnic. Then there was a shopkeeper who told me how my mom used to come visit his shop to buy something and would end up asking about his day and his life. Waiting around for customers and to find someone who would be interested in having a conversation was what the person remembered of my mom.
I realized how important it was for me to hear about my mom in these little moments of her life that I was not privy to. I also see her thirst for connection in those interactions, one I can relate to on such a deeper level now. Her generosity to others humbles me more and more.
Reaching Out I often wondered if my mom had any ego in her. She was always the first one to reach out and patch things up after a disagreement or a fight. She also bought gifts as a gesture of respect and connection to all the women in her extended family, even at the oddest and toughest of times. I really didn’t understand and valued those gestures then but as I understand them more, I’ve realize how freeing it’s been to let go of my own ego and reach out. I’ve realized how big a gift letting go of grievances is to reevaluate a situation impartially, to work towards a solution, and to moving forward.
Unapologetic She lived an unapologetic life. From choosing to marry my dad who hailed from a different cast to allowing her children their freedom of thought and action. She lived her life on her own terms. She was the one who taught me how to ride my bicycle, play table tennis, and badminton, and took me to my first swimming lesson where she was my instructor. She was my first employer too. She contracted out grading the fill in the blank and true and false questions of the hundreds of student papers that she had to grade.
I now realize and have tremendous gratitude for her choices and she courage to choose to live unapologetically—even when that life came with added objections and struggles. Her choices allowed us a look at life through a wider lens, a richer set of experiences, and a greater space to spread our wings.
And these words are specifically for you Mom.
I still struggle to come to terms with the fact that you’ve been gone for so long. I am so sad that you and my daughter have missed out on getting to know each other. I am filled with gratitude to have had the privilege of being your daughter and for having felt how being loved unconditionally feels.