A memoir -an encomium to my parents -I
We are sailing in the vast ocean with a clapped-out ship. With each sail we made, an inch of water is seeping in, and threatening as there is the certainty that it could bring the whole vessel down into the fathomless sea along with the lives in it. Yet, we never stop sailing until we reach the shore. While the lives in it are filled with awe and panic wondering whether they would be able see the land again or not. Despite precautionary measures being taken up and mammoth efforts made to get out of the risky water, the doom and disaster are still looming large in the mind of every soul in the ill-fated vessel.
Then, there is the doubt in that grave situation of who will lead the vessel to the shore and assure the occupants of all emotional security and spiritual stability. No doubt, it is through the reliability of the sailor and the captain with their strong will, determination and expertise that can bring the vessel to the shore. And I should say in this respect my mother is the sailor, who has carried out her task undauntedly, while my father has played the part of the captain very efficiently. They are aware of the circumstances and working hands in hands, unsparingly to turn the nightmarish days to a happy ending.
In our case, I proudly claim that my mother is the sailor and my father, the captain, since it is through their never-say- die hard spirit and credibility that we, four of the children; two brothers and two sisters, are brought to the port safely. They are really our true masters. To tell you of her birth and parentage, my mother was born on Wednesday, 29 September,1948 to Shri Huirem Kala Singh and Smt. Rajkumari Sanatombi Devi of the Nar Singh's lineage, in a big family of Huirem Angom clan at Takyel Khongbal Moirang Thong, Imphal West, just by the Nambul river, about 4 km. away from my present site. She is the second of five siblings. Little did I have assembled the details about her childhood , yet she often sang of her glorious days that she was inherently a bit machoist who did not spare anyone who brought down her parents low or caused any hurt to her siblings. She used to defend them and helped her family in the fields, collecting fuel sticks from the nearby Langol Hills. She was very athletic in games and sports and her certificates of merit spoke of that. Besides, she was very helpful in the family and so loved by my maternal grandmother very weirdly. I still remember the days when the old granny frequently visited my house to meet and chat with my mother and sometimes stayed for two or three days at our house. We could also recall that the old granny was a staunch Hindu, always clad religiously in clean clothes and put "chandan" on her streak nose and the wrinkle forehead, and was very much interested in all religious celebrations held at Shree Shree Bijoygovindaji temple, which is near our present residence.
We are told that at the age of 26 my mother chose my father as her life partner. At the time, he was eight years senior to her. Their matrimony was purely a love one, which was actually against the family engagement. And in the true essence of a woman, my mother doesn't possess any single feminine quality. She is short tempered, briskly and artless.
She is severe in all her moves. She is not a “Putlibai”, but just a simple mother of four who has been consistently giving us all her unselfish attention and care. Her devotion and sacrifice, I estimate, is more than what most others feel towards their parents.
During our childhood, we have seen her work capacity that a woman of her folk around our locality would have never done so like her, I can proudly claim; she worked as a seller, a governess, a maid, a greengrocer, which I could recall, she took up such odd jobs to make the four lives secure and reach their goals. It is a hard battle in the journey. Many a times, I still remember, she wept bitterly at the inclemency of fate, yet she was not deterred as she is neither stoic nor fatalist, but a practicable type of woman. She courageously challenged any eventuality. And being an able sailor, she has never shown her sorrows and miseries on her tender face, but only a cool and firmed look.
How hard our lives were in those days; it was unimaginably horrible; no secure house, no nice food, not enough clothes to cover our soft skin in the cold wintry days. However, we did not know much at that time and not mind that we were sailing in the midst of clouds and storms in the sea of life. On one hand my mother and father were subtly, tirelessly heading to the far distant shore, facing the calamities in the sea.
Unlike the ordinary sailors who care for suits, this sailor, I mean my mother did not adorn any pretty wardrobes, jewelleries on her body. Instead she puts on bright dress of virtue and purity. She is deeply religious and has a strong moral integrity. To describe about her womanhood it is astounding. In those days women were highly idealised of their piousness, virtuousness, spiritedness, etc. And my mother has all the qualities. Though those qualities were greatly praised, yet none came to help her physically or financially in her terrible circumstances. Yet she did not give up hope. And it has been her bounden duty to wake up early in the morning and we were compelled to get up along with her. She tried to finish all the domestic chores before the sun ascended, and often asked us to walk bare feet on the dewy grasses as a part of our morning physical exercise. She reminded this to us as a mantra that we should keep in touch with green grass, so that we can keep our mind and body agile and vigorous like nature. As a routine we used to get up early in the morning and helped in digging the earth for growing vegetables as we had a large acre of land where gardening could be done. We grew all kinds of seasonal plants and the products were sometimes sold when we surplus amount was cropped. This imparted us the work culture and also enjoyed the true meaning of the fruit of our labour. And I think it is a part of work experience, which can be synonymous with socially useful productive work (SUPW), which is the Gandhian thought of education. It could help the family as well as the society and at the same time it teaches us the value of work besides keeping us healthy.
And talking about her austerity, every dawn and dusk in summer or winter she never gives up from taking bath twice. And with her holy mantle she would offer prayer at the altar of god for the safety of her vessel. In those days the conservatism of the Vaishnava cult was rigid. There were restrictions, barriers and issues of religiously clean and unclean in the society. But ours was the most, as I could remember, strict, since my paternal grandmother, Rajkumari Sanaojaobi Devi who was from the Mantri Mayum's lineage, had a deep faith in the Vaishnavite culture. And even our dietary habits were limited to vegetarian cuisine and some fish culinary items. We were forbidden to eat some species of fishes too. Egg was religiously taken as unclean and we could not make them as kitchen menu. If we wanted to have it, we were to go away among the bamboo grove, and prepared it, that too, not in the common pans or dishes but on a fragment of clay pot lying over there. After having it, we were to take bath to cleanse and you cannot touch, hold any kitchen appliances or join in any kitchen work unless you cleansed your body with water. This has firmly been instilled in our young minds, and we were deeply conscious of the culture, religion and spirituality.
And we were asked by both our parents to pray to God as we were often reminded that everything in the world is under His control and mercy. My mother made us believe that as long as we have faith in Him, there is nothing to worry in our life - He will please us one day. She consoled us that sorrow and suffering are nothing but just a test of His in man's life to find out how much we love Him. And her influence had made my father to put in to action. In the course of it, certain dissension and squabble took place between them. The young children were acutely disturbed at the disorientation. But my mother brought back into reconciliation with her wits and experience, thinking for all of us. Later, in my maturity days I realise all those brawling are but a nature of every family.
To praise her courage and stamina, she went on to hills and down to fields, far off and near to search for our living. My father always backed her, both physical and morally. Had not an efficient captain like my father, in the ship, the sailor all alone could not have steered it to the right direction. Therefore, the reliability of both the parents in a family is a must.