Yet, she realized that fulfilling this future role required some skills, and she didn’t want the in-laws’ to find fault with her daughters. So, she made sure that we picked up the basics.
During holidays, the four eldest girls were made into “Jodi” (couple) of 2 each. Maithili and Bhargavi were one Jodi; Vijaya and Vatsala were the second one. Each Jodi took turns sweeping and mopping certain areas of the house. They were to discuss and decide amongst themselves who would do what, and when to rotate the tasks. If one member of the Jodi was unwell or not able to do her part, the other one had to manage by herself. By this arrangement, Amma taught the girls not only how to clean, but also about team-work, loyalty, and adjustment.
Amma also taught the kids how to read and write Kannada. Vijaya remembers her telling them, “You should learn to read and write Kannada so that after you get married and go to your homes, you can write letters to me and I can read and reply.” This too was typical Amma – accepting the inevitable reality, and just getting on with the task of how best to prepare to deal with it.
(She didn’t teach Komala and me Kannada – maybe because by then she had learned to read and write Marathi and a little of English too!)
Another skill Amma taught all of us was basic stitching – hemming, cross-stitch, a few embroidery stitches, and how to sew on buttons and hooks and make the buttonholes. She was very happy when, after my 10th standard exams, during the holidays, I went to the local tailor to learn machine embroidery.
And of course, she taught us to cook. Although we were in faraway Goa, Amma still stuck to our traditions and customs and so, during ‘those’ days of the month, she’d keep away from the kitchen and pooja room, and sit aside, not touching anything or anyone. That was the time when we practiced cooking under her instructions. In fact, Maithili was cooking rice on a mud stove when she was merely 5 years old!
Then in early 1984, it was the time for that which Amma had prepped for.
A groom living in Bangalore was found for the eldest girl Maithili. I still remember going with Appa and Amma to invite our family friends to the wedding. Appa had this cool idea of taking along our cassette player. As soon as we entered their gate, I would press the ‘play’ button and the cassette would start playing nadaswaram. Once we entered the house, I would push the ‘stop’ button and Appa Amma would begin the inviting formalities – giving the card with akshata (consecrated turmeric-coated rice), offering haldi kumkum to the lady of the house and verbally insisting the family must come for all the 3 days of the wedding which was to be held at Bangalore.
Then off we went to the next house, and I’d begin my routine again. To the 8-year old me, it felt like fun – all the excitement, and running around, and the wedding festivities. Only after we returned home without Maithili was I struck by how it feels to live without your eldest sister around.
|Amma Appa giving away their daughter|
|Amma became a mother-in-law at 42|
|All of us with the newly-wed couple. From your left - Vijaya, Amma, Bhargavi, friends from Goa, including bhajan group members, the kid in one chap's arms is Komala, Vatsala and Appa. The little girl next to the groom is your's truly...|