My mother turns 80 today.
One of the blessings of this pandemic is that it has brought us closer to what really matters in life. For most of the last decade, I have been living away from my parents – with someone or by myself. Work initiated the move. And then, independence necessitated it further. But since March, I have spent more time with my parents in their home, and that has revealed not just frustrations and irritations, but also the beauty of knowing the people we know all over again.
I don’t think I had really known my mother until this year. These long, extended months have shown me facets to her beautiful personality that I had previously been unaware of. It has left me with the breathless quality of knowing that I took my life and hers for granted. I wasn’t careful or nourishing enough. Now, when I look at the long, winding hands of time, I want to go back and start all over again. Be a child. Be a teenager. Be anything but this adult who wasted so much time in life.
But. I don’t want to make regrets my melancholic poetry with trite words that hang no meaning on the loose corners of my life. Let me live while I can. Because that’s what my Mom teaches me.
Here’s what my Mom might tell you, if you chat with her:
1. Don’t live in the past
I brood. I obsess over things in the past. My Mom treats the past the way it should – like the past. She has a remarkable ability to not obsess over what’s long gone. Live in the present might be a Headspace cliche. But it’s reality with my Mom.
2. Be endlessly curious
Whenever I go down to have breakfast or lunch, my Mom has a repository of stories to entertain me with. They are news stories she gathers from TV news channels, the newspaper, or what the local vegetable seller told her. The stories make me laugh. But it always makes me realize the childlike wonder my Mom has for the world. Do you know about the leaning pillar in Tumkur? Or that an American has set up a pole to catch alien conversations? Or that her relative once gave birth to a snake? (I kid you not).
3. Be honest
My Mom doesn’t know the art of faking. Polite conversations that carry fluff are not her. Her honesty can be scathing for those of us who are used to not saying what we want. My Mom has no such compulsions – be truthful and honest. That’s what you get from her. And you know what? I will take that anyday than fake politeness.
4. Stand by your values. Always.
5. Observe nature
Observe the birds, plants, animals, and bees around. Delight in everything Nature offers.
6. Read. A lot.
We get great delight in ticking off books on Goodreads. My Mom has no such site. But even now she reads 5 books in a week. Can you imagine how many books she might have ticked off on Goodreads? But she doesn’t read for vanity. She reads because she loves reading.
7. If you travel, stay a while.
Enjoy the place instead of rushing around.
8. Be independent. Financially. Emotionally.
My Mom never gave up her surname when she got married – radical for her times.
9. Don’t brood.
My Mom does get upset as we all do. But she always bounces back. Not for her the melancholy of sitting around moping.
10. Be kind and generous.
I know I am on a mission to change myself and others with kindness. Guess where I got it from? My Mom does it naturally – being kind is the way to be, she says. I can’t agree more.
11. Always bargain when shopping.
She knows how to strike a deal. I run away from bargaining. I think I would get better deals from clients if my Mom was on our company’s Board.
12. Don’t fake your emotions.
If you are happy, you show it. If you are irritated, you show it. And then, let it go.
13. Keep your friendships. Cherish them.
My Mom has friends. Everywhere. She can strike up a friendship with a worm crawling on the ground. Friends are not flimsy – she adores her friendships and have always been an integral part of her life.
14. Get some plants.
If nothing, dress up your house with some plants! I kill all plants, sadly.
15. Buy lots of vegetables and fruits.
You need them. Traveling somewhere? Make sure you try out the local fruits there! It’s very very important!
16. Laugh often.
Have that childlike enthusiasm for life. In the evenings, when I put aside some time, I usually play a game of chowkabara with my Mom. This is a game played with cowrie shells, and my Mom absolutely delights in this. She laughs, rubs the shells in glee, praying for the right number to fall, and chuckles with single-minded determination when she sends my pawn packing home. These are the most beautiful moments of my day.
Now, that’s what I would love to be if I turn 80. I can’t help but cry when I write this. Because there’s so much beauty in us. In those around us. When I look at my Mom, I am aware of how short life is. How fragile. How beautiful. I wish I could gather up everyone I love and hold them close to my heart. Then I realize that’s what I am doing – there are pieces of everyone I love plastering all the places in my heart that I am scared to look at.
Take today to follow one of my Mom’s principles of life. Perhaps, notice a bird. Check the news for funny stories. Read. Smile because it’s a beautiful life.