True Memoirs of my Mother: As endorsed by Oprah Winfrey
By Kavita Chhibber
There are mothers and then there is mine..
My mother was born in a very loving family, the youngest of six children. I can’t tell you the year- the vain creature will ground me-(yeah she thinks she can do that even now!). In fact she has a very funny reason for the way she tells her age, when asked. Once as a kid I overheard her say-I’m 25. She clamped her hand on my mouth as a precautionary measure, lest the truth be blurted out by her always precocious offspring. You see I had started talking very clearly since the age of 2, and spilled a few beans before, much to her chagrin! After her friends left I said “but Mommy you are 29.” She looked at me despairingly-Oh great! I have to be reminded of the fact that my child can do math, at 5. Why do I have to have a smart aleck kid with a motor mouth? My grandmother walked in and wagging her finger at her said-are you being mean to my grandchild? Mom said uh no no-then pulling me close said..Kavita-every one lies about their age..so if I tell them I’m 25, they will talk among themselves and say-hah she says she is 25, but I bet she lowered her age by a couple of years so actually she is 27..and I still stay ahead by 2 years! So that is how I learnt to add and subtract -thanks to her million little lies!
When she met my father for the first time, she was 19. He was sent to her house on the pretext of delivering a letter from his boss to her dad. No body was home except my mom. She being the youngest of six with three older brothers was so spoilt that she had never ventured into the kitchen. Dad says the cook was out running errands and there were no cell phones then- Alladin’s magic lamp too was not at her disposal, so mom bravely ventured into the kitchen. Dad adds "She made me the classic omelet, burnt on one side and raw on the other, and tea that tasted like something you would not want to be a patented brand name, but at least she tried."
The second time he was told officially that this was indeed a matrimonial alliance. He went to meet her but this time she was missing. He was told by her older sister that mom was a movie nut and there was a special show going on- 2 movies for the price of one. Even an army soldier like my dad paled when he heard the names of the movies “ Genghis Khan and The woman with the whip.” Which genteel woman would go for movies with those names? His first question to my mom when they met again was "Do you beat your nephews and nieces up?" He told her later he was a bit concerned if her celluloid tastes would affect her child rearing style... the thoughts of impending whip lashes on the wee rear ends of his future progeny and a Genghis Khanian demeanor when she addressed him were enough to make this future military general balk a bit.
She said she NEVER spanked kids.. now he apologizes to my sister and me and says he missed the fact that she didn’t look at him in the eye when she said that!
So they got married. As mom was departing everyone was crying..their little girl, the baby of the family was leaving. My mom was being hugged by her oldest brother- sobbing tragically she looked at her brother and whispered brokenly –not that she will miss them or when will she see them again, but..… “I just wanted to ask you if you told my in laws I don’t drink tea and can’t do without my 4 glasses of fresh milk every day.”
Mom and dad lived happily ever after..until I was born. The first child according to a friend is the pilot project. Except that very soon mom’s project of raising me turned into a hair raising experience, and she wasn’t sure who was piloting whom as she stumbled after me while I, a supposedly cute cherub, would ensnare every unsuspecting adult with a sweet come hither smile and then bite them very hard, and did the opposite of whatever she wanted. I never slept, and talked too soon, and as I grew up questioning everything she began to evolve from a honey voiced vocalist to someone I could only describe as a shrieking banshee.. and yeah she did evolve her style for spanking too. She would yell at us kids every week, and say, "I’m giving you one month’s grace..if you don’t behave then at the end of the month, I’ll spank you so hard, you will remember it for the rest of your life."
Alas her attempts at conjuring up images of some kind of secret training in Mohammed Ali’s boot camp that would enhance her spanking strength were in vain. The end of the month would come, my sister and I would continue to test her patience..finally she’d announce..okay this IS the end of the month (at times it would be the middle of next month) then give us two weak wallops and order us to go to the ‘dark room’ and stand in two separate corners for THIRTY MINUTES, while she would sit in another room and bawl her eyes out for spanking us. The dark room was actually a pretty sunny room –it was devoid of furnishing and only housed the refrigerator. While mom was thinking we were being punished we were having a ball gobbling stuff from the frig and throwing banana peels at each other across the room. She caught on much later, but before she could devise any other punishment my grandmother decided to come stay with us for a year and all mom’s disciplining rights were callously and condescendingly taken away by grandma Hitler.” You say a word to my grandkids and you’ll be in big trouble.." It sure is good to have a grandma who could give an impromptu performance of “Mother of the woman with a whip and Mother of Genghis khan", as and when needed!
All of us in the family are great devotees of Hanuman, the monkey God. Mom says he listens... Whether he does or not, we are all tied to the monkey god and He to us. He is reputed to have super powers, he can yank a mountain and carry it in the palm of his hand, and single handedly burn an entire kingdom of a demon king by the swish of his fiery tail so obviously mom takes full advantage of the God’s powers.. and strangely he answers. She claims she passed all her exams with flying colors because she would do a special prayer attributed to pleasing him called the Hanuman chalisa.. then close her eyes and place her finger on questions and only memorize answers to those questions that her fingers touched: strangely those same questions showed up in the exam.
Once she was broke and said sulkily - "Can’t you even provide for your children, God? I need a hundred bucks" and she steps on - you guessed it - a hundred buck bill. I spent the next week walking all over town, head bowed devoutly, eyes piercing the ground but couldn’t find even a penny. Now why she didn’t ever use that connection to win the lottery I wonder.. obviously she is either a very content person, happy with little, or she doesn’t know how to do business with God! She retorts that I should be the last one talking, because I employ the Lord mostly to find my keys and sandals. When we want something badly, and need the Lord to help us cut through the queue, she says the best thing to do is to put tons of burning incense around God.. "he answers prayers faster then” she says smugly... of course he does... either that or he is doomed to suffer from chronic respiratory problems what with that huge fog of asthma inducing smoke swirling around, threatening to choke him.
Now mothers are role models especially when it comes to showing kids how to be honorable and valorous. Mom was excellent in imbibing those values in us theoretically..at each annual physical however, all her theories of valor would desert her and I, her six year old would be the first to bare my arm for our shots while mom would be cringing behind my baby sister, saying "Ow!" and showing all the signs of keeling over, even before the needle pierced my skin! I would be saying -see mommy it didn’t hurt, while she’d be shoving my four year old sibling forward to be the next in line. She was always the last one to get her shots.
So Mom comes to America for the first time... she and her friend guzzle all the Coca-Cola they can guzzle, eat all the food they’re served aboard, even when they are stuffed, and justify it with...we have to get our money’s worth..the tickets are so expensive.. Initially she is dazzled by the affluence of America and the food..she excitedly calls my aunt and squeals… “they have running hot water 24 hours and electricity too! And my god the chicken legs are the size of your little daughter’s thighs.” She multiplies the cost of everything with Indian currency and complains- "It’s sooo expensive this America." For a prayer garland she threads in 200 leaves and three flowers - the cost of each flower being equal to half a chicken, the leaves are free….the deity the garland was put on looked rather green in the gills.
This time it had been a few years since she had visited me-September 11 had happened and things were not the same. When she decided to come here she went on a crazy shopping spree getting tons of things for me, announcing to the whole world she was going to the US and then started getting ready to go to New Delhi to apply for her visa at the US consulate.. Dad said to me- things are different now-she should have first gotten her visa then shopped then told people. I think only the Prime Minister of India doesn’t know she is going to the US... everone else does. As luck would have it her visa was refused. My Dad said.."Oops we forgot to inform President Bush while you were on the ’tell all-to all’ spree." Anyway strings were pulled and she arrived here a month later than scheduled.
And so when she was not being dined by my friends or taken to events I cover on the weekends, she yearned for people as I worked long hours.. One evening she peers out, and sees the man with the dog.. "lord bless me!- a human..and a bonus..a dog! How cute!" This must be a desperate woman - she hates dogs..another day she looks across the trees from her bedroom window and says that is cute monkey up the tree... I said we don’t have stray monkeys in America... that’s a squirrel. She says "Good God! Everything is super sized here - squirrels look like monkeys, cats look like dogs, a green bell pepper is the size of an eggplant, the vegetables and the fruits have no flavor... and yeah where are the people?" We go to see an Indian dance ballet and we see these girls dressed like deer... Mom points to a particularly plump one spilling out of her deer costume and says with utmost seriousness...THAT one is an American deer... supersized!" I am choking with laughter and she gives me a weird look - "What’s so funny?"
There is so much more but I’ll leave that for the sequel..
P.S. I’m headed to Larry King to confess that the above memoirs are true as I see them. And Oprah is stuck with Frey whether she likes it or not... look at her name... Oprah Win-frey! Also - well, Oprah hasn’t endorsed the memoirs. Not yet, but that little lie should make me eligible for it!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.
All Material © Copyright Kavita Chhibber and respective authors.
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