Two ladies come to mind from my childhood when I think about enterprising and hard-working single moms who just kept at it and made their lives better, especially for their children.
I was about six or seven years old when my mom, a superb cook and multi-tasker, told us that Saraswathi maami* would come in every evening, make chapathis and dal and such for us, and watch me for a bit till my mom can come home. Now, I did not like this arrangement much. I was not happy about somebody else in my mom's kitchen. However, with gentle demeanor and lots of Rosemilk, Saraswathi maami patiently won my trust so much so that I would long for her relaxing ritual of oiling my long hair and braiding it every evening while she told me stories from mythology. I would venture by her side and watch closely as she puffed up the chapathis over kerosine stove flame. I would get cross with her when she admonished me for not behaving ladylike at times. I didn't know much about her, except that she was widowed, with a few kids of various school-going ages. Not old enough to fathom her tragedy or her struggle, I went about my young life, slightly mad at my mother. Little did I know that she welcomed the income from making us chapathis to help raise her family. One fine day she stopped making chapathis for us, we moved, and that was that.
During my high school years, my mom introduced Jayanthi* into our kitchen and lives. Jayanthi had a tiny toddler and her husband was diagnosed with a rare heart condition that left him almost bed-ridden at that time. She had joined as a new lab assistant in the school that my mom was teaching at that time. She didn't get a chance to finish college but was quite good with assembling chemicals and preparing the lab for the children's guided experiments. To be honest, Jayanthi was an awful cook. But, she was very sincere about her tasks. Over time, I began to respect her simplicity and guilelessness. She kept at it, quietly working away at school, and our house on and off. Meanwhile, I went away to pursue my own stuff and years rolled by with my mom filling me in about the little toddler getting to be in middle school and finally in high school. And, the last time I visited India, this very same shy young lad was eager to befriend little baby Ana. He is now in college, with help from a lot of people who probably never met him on a daily basis but took that extra effort to find Jayanthi odd-jobs to do so she can raise her child with dignity and strength.
This Mother's Day, I wanted to dedicate a post to these two ordinary moms, who have shown extraordinary strength and courage to get out of the little holes that Life dumped them in and managed to keep their chin up and their spirits high while giving their children all they can, no fuss, no muss. I am glad to have known them.
*Names have been modified, respecting their privacy.