Saturday 27 May 2017 News Updated at 11:05 PM IST
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A mother remembered - Deccan Herald
A mother remembered
Vatsala Vedantam,
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I am writing this on Mothers' Day. Messages are flying across the world carrying inspirational quotations and expensive gifts to all the "super moms" by their loving children. This is the day when a mother is remembered with that "ultimate gift" of an exotic piece of jewellery. It's also a great day for card manufacturers, jewellery designers and florists, of course.

I think of my own mother who brought up seven children and saw two die in infancy. For her, every day was Mother's Day to cook, clean, wash and raise those seven children, see them through childhood diseases, schools and colleges to finally "settling" them with proper life partners. She herself lived through two world wars, famines and plagues that wiped out her childhood home and family, including her own mother. She lived through colonisation and slavery and watched her country celebrate its freedom. Months later, she mourned Gandhi's assassination for three days without lighting a kitchen fire. She was a remarkable woman, my mother.

Born in the year 1896, she studied in a Baptist mission school, where she completed the lower secondary examination - an extraordinary achievement for a small town girl in Hassan district. I am amazed to think she was familiar with writers from Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya to Leo Tolstoy whose books she read in translation. She was also passionate about womens issues and participated in state level and national level conferences by getting her Kannada speeches read out in English. She even started a small centre for socially and economically deprived women in our small mining town of Kolar Gold Fields.

Lack of funds did not deter her. She begged friends for space, collected paltry amounts of money to buy charkas for spinning thread and sewing machines for garment making. She hired a teacher to teach them tailoring and another for music.

As more and more women came to learn, she added literacy classes with music, dance and theatre programmes to show case their talent. Her activism was mind blowing.

Her dreams did not end there. Despite her own meagre education, she sought an interview with the first chief minister of the former princely state of Mysore to sanction a piece of land for her next project. She wanted a proper "mahila samaja" where women could be taught vocational education. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and KC Reddy readily allotted a large site near the gold fields in an open area called Robertsonpet. I cannot imagine how a woman with her limited education and little resources constructed a building through donations. It was inaugurated before she left the gold fields. A report with a photograph published in this newspaper is a treasured family possession today.

All this happened seven decades ago and the founder of the Mahila Samaja is forgotten. But I remember her on Mothers' Day. She got no cards or gifts. She did not need them anyway. Her life was a beautiful statement. And her work, its own reward.