“Have you seen my black top mum, the one with the short sleeves?” I scream across the corridor.
“Yes, top right of your cupboard, third one in the pile.”
That’s exactly where it was, but how did she know?!
“I’m going out with some friends this evening, can I have some money please?”
“Sure, when will you be back?”
“Oh, we’ll all come home for dinner, could you organize dinner for us?”
“OK. Many of your friends likel paneer.”
That’s a little bit of what our conversations with mum during our teenage years sounded like.
She rarely told us about herself. About her days selling clothes in the shop in Lusaka, how she took a 13 day ship journey at age two from Bombay to Dar es salaam with her mother, about her childhood in India living with her grandmother while her parents were working abroad in East Africa, about not really attending college, or about her mother’s passing.
Instead, she listened to us, she ran the household, and she kept her worries to herself.
However, she did once tell us how her mother had called her and her younger sister home to East Africa in the middle of a school year. Urgently.
They flew on an Air India flight from Bombay to Nairobi to meet their mum for the last time. They didn’t know that.
My mum has one beautiful black and white framed photo of her mother in her closet that she guards preciously.
I was always intrigued by this grandmother I had never met. She had deep, dark eyes and a loving expression on her face.
I sat down today, to write something about compassion. What came out at first was uninteresting. But then I started to write about my mother and her mother.
It makes sense. My mother goes with the flow of life, she doesn’t dwell, she cries freely while watching emotional movies or during goodbyes. As much as she is embedded in her close-knit Indian community she stands strongly and firmly for her family.
We challenge her. Sometimes she is a step behind, but she quickly catches up and soon learns the moves better than us.
I feel that I have hurt her numerous times, she forgives sincerely.
She is compassion.