My mother G.Aravindakumari

“Thayaru'' was how my father addressed my mother. Amma ( Mother ) was born on the Bharani Deepam of 1947 ( 26/11/1947 ) as the first daughter of Kota C Sampathkumar and Chandra Bai of Salem. My grandmother had delivered her healthy and rose complexioned child at the residence of her parents N.V.Venkataswamy and Namagiri Thayar at Namakkal. Amma's maternal grandfather was a textile merchant and was popularly known as Kolar Abboy Chettiar those days. The quiet child was named ' Aravindavalli Thayar '. She was named after the consort of Lord Badrinarayana. This deity is visited and held sacred by the followers of Saint Ramanuja. Amma's paternal grandmother Swarnambal Chinnikrishna Chetty was an ardent Vaishnavaite and she had chosen this name for Amma.

The quiet child was easy to look after. She never broke things at home. Amma did not quarrel with anyone. Her hair tonsuring and ear piercing was done at the Kottai Perumal Temple at Salem. The schooling was at St.Mary's and the PUC was from Sharadha College. Aravindavalli Thayar became Aravindakumari at school. Amma's good nature and looks began to draw the attention of many. Finally my aunt Suguna and uncle Gopalakrishnan opined that she would be suitable for my engineer father.

The wedding interview was at ' Jamakkalam family ' residence at Kanakkar Street in Salem. My great grandmother Rajalakshmi and my father liked her very much. She got engaged to my father K.Govindarajulu. A huge crowd from Coimbatore finished off all the potato bondas and finally the cooks made bondas with upma as the stuffing. The huge crowd caused anxiety to my grandfather K.C.Sampathkumar and he requested my great grandfather P.A.Raju Chettiar ( paternal ) to conduct the wedding at Coimbatore. It was to be a memorable occasion. The wedding took place at our residence ' Raju Bhavan ' on Vysial Street in Coimbatore. Amma visited the guardian deity Koniamman before attending the festivities connected with her marriage.

Subburama Iyer conducted the wedding and a grand reception was held at the family owned Raja Theatre. Udaya Chandrika gave a fabulous dance performance and it was appreciated by all. My quiet mother entered the large household. It consisted of about 20 plus people. Her quiet nature won her the affection of my great grandmother Rajalakshmi and grandmother Lalitha Bai Krishnan. Mother and father lived on the first floor of the house that was located next door ( it was interconnected ). My gym trained musician father and mother got along very well. I was born the very next year and my brother Suresh followed the very next year.

Grandmother Lalitha helped my mother out by appointing Giriammal and Mariammal for both of us. Mother took very good care of us. She used to teach us , make us eat and would never beat us. Amma was very much attached to father and he reciprocated. The tall dark complexioned sturdy young man found his companion in the slightly plump not so tall, quiet woman. Their matrimony lasted their lifetime and the affection between them grew day by day. They would go to watch movies in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. We would accompany them often.

Amma learnt Hindi from Pandit Susheela and she cleared a number of exams. This encouraged her to let us choose Hindi as our second language. This was a time when the anti Hindi agitations had just peaked. Mother was meticulous. I had to repeat each and every answer properly. Otherwise, I would have to repeat it. Mother abhorred anger and this trait of hers maintained some sanity in our noisy household.

Great grandmother Rajalakshmi was very affectionate to my mother. She used to look after me. My breakfast was by her and the Saturday oil baths were also by her. The passing away of my great grandmother just before the birth of my brother was a big loss for my mother. Her support and patronage had made life easy for her. My grandmother Lalitha was no less. She looked after the domestic affairs very well and my mother never had to enter the kitchen for the first 10 years of her marriage. Mother had to frequently shift places. Her second bedroom was right behind our shop. She took it sportively.

Mother did not fight with anyone at home. Ours was a big family and there were issues everyday. However she kept herself away from all that nonsense. She kept herself busy by reading magazines and Tamil novels. Amma used to devour multi volume novels by Sandilyan in a jiffy. She would be reading even while feeding us ! Initially she sported a thin kumkumam tilak on her forehead. Allergies made her shift to Shringar. Her voile and nylex sarees were from Fashions Silk House, Mahaveers and Venoo & Co. Conjeevarams were reserved for Diwali and it used to be from Tharakaram Silk House or Gopala Padma Vilas of Salem.

Spicy food was preferred by her. She would mix mango pickle with rice and enjoy it. Father used to take us to Alankar, Annapoorna, Gazebo, Prestige Corner etc., for dinners. Mother took a lot of rest during her sojourn at Salem while visiting her parents. She was very affectionate towards her sisters and brother. Vijaya aunty was very close to her. Her cousin Parimala was quite close to her. She would get gifts for her sisters year on year. Our visit to Salem used to be a celebration those days. Her siblings were Jaisree, Prabulla, Mythily and Sumathi ( she had passed away as a toddler ) and Srinath.

My wife Sujatha kept company with my mother for many years. Mother was keen to share her techniques with her. She ensured that, ‘technology transfer took place'. 

Mother learnt stitching along with my aunt Nirmala. My child-like uncle Shankar was very fond of my mother. She used to feed him and look after him during the early years of her marriage. Long letters were the order of the day and mother was good at it. She would regularly write to her mother and write to her mother in law while spending time at Salem. Mother was a pillar of support to her parents and siblings. Father and mother did their best for them. She was very cooperative with the activities connected with my father. My father had to sort out numerous legal issues those days. Karma made us inherit wealth that was ridden with litigation. Father sorted all the cases. There were more than 20 cases. The socialist system had made people able to take over the wealth of others. Mother understood that everything was in the interest of the family. In fact it was for a joint family and she never objected to my father helping others.

Father was a social leader and worker. Time was a major constraint for him. Mother understood his predicament and never said a word. She took care of all the requirements of my father to the detail. I still remember my parents spending their tenth wedding anniversary by visiting Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru for a week. It was a big thing those days. My parents went to Asiad Village in 1982 and she came back with stories connected with her experiences. Father took a lot of pictures of all of us. We went on a number of family holidays and pilgrimages.

Amma ( Mother ) was very accommodative. She never threw her weight around. Her approach was simple. She did not seek preference in spite of being the senior daughter in law. In fact she would adjust and play a secondary role. She did not let stupid politics disturb her peace of mind. Mother did not carry stories to anyone and that included my father. Her life was free of gossip. She learnt driving, got a driving license but she never drove thereafter.

Cooking came in after ten years of matrimony but mother picked it up very well. She could make sweets , savories and pickles by the drop of a hat. Continental and other varieties of food were from the ' Pleasures of Vegetarian Cooking ' by Tarla Dalal. She was eager to pick up recipes from everyone. The pithagu pappu pulusu made by her would be fabulous. She would ensure that my brother Suresh and myself ate well. Food was mixed and served for us. She had mastered the art of feeding kids. All the kids at home would somehow be made to eat by her. They would be cajoled or pampered by her. Mother got along well with the cooks and servants. The age old Sampoornam was her able assistant. So was Kaliamma.

Grandmother would often fall sick and mother was therefore given the job of managing the petty cash. She discharged her duty with aplomb. I was of the opinion that my mother was a better store manager than my father. She would be very careful with money and people. There was a day when my school going brother and I had to look after the family run jewelry shop. Mother helped us to manage the day. This made me see her potential. Unfortunately, she never got a chance to run the show.

Teaching Tamil was her forte. Cousins Yamuna, Vijayalakshmi, Gayathri and Rajalakshmi took turns to seek inputs from her. They continue to remember her methods even today. Mother observed all the poojas and vratas properly. She was passionate about it. Reading the Thiruppavai was among her favorite things. She had learnt the Abirami Andhadhi and other stotras along with my other aunts. Mother never fell sick. She had been operated on for tonsillitis during her childhood. Diabetes followed her when she was about 45 years old. Dr.S.S.Narasimhan was her physician. She had worn glasses for some years because of a migraine. Life was smooth for her until she was about 55 years of age.

My father met with a terrible accident when he was about 60 years old and he had to undergo 4 surgeries on his head as a consequence of the same. This shattered my mother. Financial issues came up too and she sacrificed a lot to ensure that all of us were happy. We were alone in this. My parents took it as their karma. Mother got thyroid cancer when she was 60 years of age. Repeated surgeries did not cure her and she passed away when was just 67 years of age in 2015. She did not suffer in this regard. My maternal grandmother has outlived her.

My father was shattered after the passing away of my mother. They had been a ' Made for Each Other ' couple. She had taken too much care of him. Even the consistency of the coconut chutney was as per his taste. He passed away after 2 years. He was about 72 years of age. I am sure that they must be happy in the company of each other.

I must say that I was lucky to be with my parents all the time. Personally I had never been away from my mother for more than two weeks. I remember her interest in being content. She was a good cook, avid reader and was quick to understand things. Mother was a person of few words and would hardly converse. She loved chat, movie songs, tele serials, cakes, ice creams, northern and continental food. She ensured that all we studied well and importantly that we were free from controversies.

Mother had blemish less skin and was endowed with a rosy complexion. She was pretty and her nice collection of embroidered sarees would draw undue attention. Mother was keen to get us the best of clothes. She would get us clothes from Toddlers ( Bengaluru ) and stores which were located far and wide. Our collection of stamps, first day covers, coins, match box cars, binaca dolls, sharpeners , erasers , building sets and games were because of her efforts and interest. She would painstakingly collect and preserve things.

Amma made sure that we never fought over our collections. All the comics and books would carry her name. My brother Suresh could hardly read and yet the books were carried by mother's name. She would attend to the medical requirements of my paternal grandmother with utmost care and love. Grandmother was on a number of medicines and would have doubts often. She would keep nudging my mother often. But mother would take care of the situation in a calm and composed manner. Mother would also take care of all my stupid medical doubts. She would advise me to stay calm at all times.

My son Madhav Balaji was an apple in her eye. She looked after him for the first few months by keeping him with her. He would visit the Cosmopolitan Club regularly with my parents. She was the first guest for all her relatives. Mother attended all the weddings and occasions amongst our circle of relatives. She used to enjoy the visits. Eating out and watching movies was her favorite pastime. My father was her best team mate in this regard. Be it Chole Batura, fried rice, pulav, Bombay toast, cutlet, French onion soup or chocolates or cakes, mother simply loved them. She was ever keen to eat and cook new items.

Mother learnt Janur Art quite well and her work was part of the CCTN book ( Crafts Council of Tamilnadu ). She learnt rangoli, embroidery, knitting, crochet, Tanjore paintings, paper flower making among numerous other things. But her first attention was towards my father. I still remember my mother changing the turmeric dipped twin threads that held her Thirumangalyam. She would build a new set through the Thirumangalyam and tie them up. Mother would then unknot the old set and remove it carefully and place it along with the old pooja flowers. She would apply kumkumam, turmeric on them and then apply it on her forehead. Thereafter she would seek the blessings of my grandmother. This will be followed by a visit to the temple. Mother would help my paternal grandmother to undertake the same exercise in her old age. She wanted to pass away while my father was healthy and this happened as per her wish.

Friends and relatives remember my mother and her calm nature. Her interest in a number of things made me multifaceted. She did not force me to choose careers. We were free to travel in our own paths. Contentment and peace of mind accompanied with devotion to God, moral values and love for the family were her strengths. Experience and exposure has taught me that this is easier said than done.

The life of Bharatiya women like my mother G.Aravindakumari will continue to guide us for eternity. They are the foundations of our great country. Long live their tribe.

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of The Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, entrepreneur, and a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.

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