My essay about Mom on Tehelka

Its been 10 years since my mother passed away. I was missing her so very much the other day. The end result of that hour was converted into this essay which I sent to Tehelka. They got back within days and used it in their 7th July 2007 issue.


Living without Amma

Everyone at home had opened the floodgates of their sorrow. Six years worth of pain and anguish was cascading out of their hearts. But I was numb. I kept pricking my mind willing it to let go, but couldn’t. When they bought Amma’s body home, I felt my heart scream while my mouth remained stubbornly silent. I hated myself for calling her a body. But the life had gone out of her.

I went to the balcony and pressed my hand on the metal grill’s pointed end. I couldn’t evoke pain; I couldn’t draw blood from my body. I looked at the sky remembering a saying that all good souls become stars. Strangely I could only see one star in the pollution-lit night sky. “Amma is that you?” I asked. She was there in the sky and I was alone here.

I yelled with my soul for her, I needed her so very much. God had to listen. But she was gone. Someone called me from inside. Appa was breaking down. It was time to take care of my family. I took a deep breath and stared hard at the star above. “Who will take care of me Amma, now that you are gone?”

I bumped into the bed. There was the blanket Amma had wrapped herself in, just a few hours ago. She was writhing in pain. The morphine was trying to dull her brain; the cancer was winning. I wrapped the blanket around me. I could smell her.


It is ten years since Amma died. Patti, Grandma was narrating tales about Amma a few months ago. “Do you remember?” she kept asking me after each story. She laughed recollecting our neighbour’s responses to my regular tantrums as Amma left for work. “Do you remember,” she asked again.

“No, I don’t.” I lashed out. “You have spent more years with her than me. You are lucky. But as my future approaches it throws away my past with great rapidity. I yearn to remember things about Amma.” I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.

The day she died, I got busy taking care of others. ‘You are the lady of the house,’ a relative told me, ‘you need to take care of everyone.’ Then after the thirteenth day function everyone found their hole to crawl into. Mine was escapism. I wouldn’t think of her, I wouldn’t let the memories come. It hurt too much. I blocked it all out. And then after two years, I tried to remember. But I had succeeded so well in avoiding the memories that they deserted me.

Meditation bought with them a few. Waiting for Amma to return from work while I clutched on tightly to one of her saris, playing hopscotch with her, her dressing me up in the traditional nine-yards for Navaratri, relishing her home-made pani puris, going for walks with her in the evening, and some more. Most are buried too deep inside. It might take a psychiatrist to get them out now.

Just a few weeks before she died, she said, “I wish I could see your wedding.” After a couple of years, I dreamt I was getting married. Amma looked so beautiful dressed in a cream sari with an orange border, her hair full of morga flowers. That image of her in the dream stays with me. Its how I pictured she looked up in the heavens, the day I got married.

Amma loved to keep flowers in her hair. I often buy some even now and drape it on her photo. Her birthday and anniversary were special occasions for me. Sometimes if I had saved enough pocket money, I would buy her a gift. Once I bought her a box to keep her sewing needles and threads in. I still have it with me.

Mostly I remember buying her flowers, she loved them so much. I loved writing her long letters if she was angry with me. Her punishment was silence. I just couldn’t bear it. But she would eventually melt down and laugh that toothy laughter of hers.

But my early childhood years were not picture perfect. I made it difficult for the family and especially for her. I would not stay away from her. I wouldn’t go to school. I wouldn’t go down to play. I was always afraid something would happen to her if I was away. Separation anxiety, the doctor told my parents. Amma left her job. She would come to the school and sit outside the principal’s office, so I could see her at the end of each period. My grandma thinks that it was all God’s doing. He knew my time with her was short and so infused all the love possible in my heart at that time.

Amma taught me to sing, nurtured my passion for dance and encouraged my love of reading. When she saw me express an interest in some such activity, she bore my grandma’s cynicism, and encouraged me to follow my heart. When I wanted to join the music classes my friends went to, she taught me in two months what they had learnt in two years. Amma had a beautiful voice. She had learnt singing for eight years but had given it up after marriage. I have her voice in a cassette; singing. She would sing when no one but me was at home. Music was so much a part of her that today carnatic music to me is like a memory of her. So I try and learn the songs she sung, to stay connected to her.

I really didn’t have a best friend till Amma was alive; never needed anyone else to talk to or confide in. I would talk to her, following her all around the house as she went about her chores. Whatever happened during the day at school, who said what to whom, and even the boy who had a crush on me; I could talk non-stop about everything to her. She would often ask how my mouth didn’t ache from talking as much.

I want to talk now too. My heart aches from holding back all I want to tell her. So much to learn, so much to share, so many choices, so many decisions. After losing her, I rebelled against family for a long time. It was about wanting my own identity. It was also the burden of expectations.

I was Chella’s daughter. She was the chord that kept the family together. She was everyone’s confidant and was the role model of a perfect daughter, wife, daughter-in-law and relative. It is hard for anyone to live up to expectations. And because Amma did it so splendidly, the same was expected of me. But I was so angry at her death, at what I construed as her leaving me, that other’s expectations matter naught.

Those tumultuous years passed and by the time I hit 20, life became all about what Amma was. After marriage, I realised that much of what I valued was the best of the all Amma was. She is a part of me and all I do. Every time I make a choice, I wonder if it is something she would have been ok with; a decision she would have been proud of.


Sometimes Amma comes in my dreams. Those dreams to me are precious because in them I can see her, talk to her, hold her, comfort her and love her. Her death has left such an abyss in my heart that it just seems to expand as I grow older. My heart aches when I remember all the ways I hurt her. It is tough to remind myself that all children hurt parents without meaning to. It is more difficult with her images deserting my mind. I feel guilty of forgetting though I know it is of no fault of mine.
But I can still feel her love. Her love for me which made her fight cancer the first time she got it. She told me that she had prayed to God as they wheeled her into the operation theatre that I was too young to lose her and needed her. She lived for five years after that, and then had a relapse. Those five years were the time we understood each other the most. We saw each others strengths and weaknesses. I realise now that I understand my mom as a woman and mother, due to those years we had. I don’t talk much about her to others. Except my husband. I keep telling him that the only thing lacking in this lifetime of his, is that he missed knowing Amma. There will always be a void for us all.
I often feel life is just not how it should be. It is difficult to deal with death and loss at a young age, but it has been more painful to grow up without a mother especially since I know what I am losing out on every single day.
Even today, though I am 27, the most unconnected of incidents or disappointments provoke strong emotions and they always end up with me crying for her. For her presence, for her love, for her touch, for her voice, for her advice. Amma is gone but I still love her so very much. I know deep inside that to feel her all I need to say is, Amma. And in my heart, I see her smile.


19 thoughts on “My essay about Mom on Tehelka

  1. Beautiful tribute to moms. What would life and tears be without them. For every tear shed in solitude, a voice inside cries out – “Mom, where are you?”. Absolutely moving.

  2. Lalita: Sorry for responding late. I have been away from writing for a bit. This piece seems to have connected so much with people. And though writing it has been tough, the responses from people have made me feel happy. Like everyone knows my mom now. Thanks for being part of that experience.

  3. This essay is the best essay I have read through out the whole year. Good job. I have some advice for you. You are strong and don’t worry God has gifted you with such treasure that you should not be sad be glad.

  4. Arbia: Thank you for your words. I shall keep them in mind.

  5. Very moving and touching, never felt that my little sister has grown so much. Remembered Chella a lot, god bless u Amita. Keep it up.

  6. Hi Anita . I just happened to visit your blog and I could not go away from the site without reading this essay. This is very heart touching and one of the best essays I have ever read. I am sure you are very strong and your memories about your Mom will increase your strength each day. After reading this essay even I started feeling that I know your mom.Mother is the greatest gift in life. You have a much greater gift with you – “her memories” all captured in your mind and heart.

    Great Work!

  7. Pavani: Thanks for your words. Its nice to hear from you. 🙂

  8. Anita,

    This is your first writing that I chose to read- Do you know why? A fear of losing my parents, who are quite old now, keeps haunting me. I am a thorough escapist and I keep telling myself -” I will never know how to deal with it when it comes”.
    I shudder to think of that one day—– how will I react? what will I do? say? what kind of tears?

    Your moving article gave me some courage – I can move out of this self-created mole hill too-

    Thanks buddy!

  9. Hi….I read this essay..rather your feelings long back in Tehelka..For the past couple of months,i have been wandering in your site..i liked your blog!!Each and every time,when i pass through this site,i cannot resist myself from reading this essay on your Amma….and i get emotional..and my eyes gets filled with tears..I can understand your pain,scars,ache….especially a teenage girl overcoming such a loss is not easy.No one can take over Amma’s place..isn’t it?you are known as chella’s daughter isn’t it?i’m known as sulo’s daughter..thats the only difference ..Rest are the same!I’m really happy that u have come up in your life..and is doing a wonderful job..Wish you goodluck for a bright future.


  10. Hi….I read this essay..rather your feelings long back in Tehelka..For the past couple of months,i have been wandering in your site..i liked your blog!!Each and every time,when i pass through this site,i cannot resist myself from reading this essay on your Amma….and i get emotional..and my eyes gets filled with tears..I can understand your pain,scars,ache….especially a teenage girl overcoming such a loss is not easy.No one can take over Amma’s place..isn’t it?you are known as chella’s daughter isn’t it?i’m known as sulo’s daughter..thats the only difference ..Rest are the same!I’m really happy that u have come up in your life..and is doing a wonderful job..Wish you good luck for a bright future.Sorry for mistyping my own blog address in the PREVIOUS COMMENT.thats the way i’m..when i gets emotional everything goes wrong.Sorry..


  11. Moni : I am glad my words helped you in some way. Living the fear of loss of loved ones is something that still hangs over my head too everyday. My grandparents whom I am so close to..

    Durga: Thanks for your words. You sound as emotional as me. Wishing you loads of peace

  12. Hi Anita,

    I could feel the pain and the heart aching emotion which drove you towards writing this up. Thanks for making us part of this!
    My eyes were moist by the time I reached the end of the essay! Nothing I can say could lessen your pain but remember that you are blessed to have experienced the love and emotion with your mother. Often times over the years when we live together with our near and dear ones, we lead our lives taking things for granted until one day the inevitable shows face and shatters life to pieces! Your essay is one such rare essay which underscores the need to be grateful to life for everything it had offered us so far !

    Thanks Rajib

  13. Anita,

    I just posted a tribute to my mom who passed away last Sunday. Your blog got linked to mine via wordpress.

    I am so sorry to hear that you lost your mother when you were young. I hope you will like my tribute and will find ways to imagine what your mom would have done for you if she lived long.


  14. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  15. wishing you the best of everything……..
    take care

  16. dear anita ,
    how lucky one could be to have found this beautyful story … i’ve just lost my mom and this is exactly my story ..never felt so connected to any thing ever the way i feel to u right now ….
    my mom too was fond of flowers too and use to wear one to her enormous juda most of the times .

    alas words are few to express my sorrow

    all i can say …
    mom every time u will look at me … a part of u u’ll always see
    rest in peace … i love u .


    1. Hi Anshu. Thank you for writing to me. I am glad my words were of some help to you. Take care and do keep visiting:)

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