The message

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Friends and family had gathered for the funeral of Sarita. A reasonably healthy 56 year old Sarita had passed away from a sudden cardiac arrest. She was survived by her son Adish, and her daughter Ahilya and 9 year old granddaughter, Meethi.

Ahilya, suddenly found herself in the midst of unimaginable grief. Everything had been paused. There was so much that she wanted to tell her mother, so many anecdotes seemed unshared, so many apologies not yet made, and so many trivial arguments and harsh words that she wished were unspoken. At times she blamed her mother, so ruthlessly. At times she just used her, the way all children take their parents for granted. She did not know if her mother felt proud of her or not. She did not get to thank her enough. She wanted to meet her mother one last time and this is what she wanted to say:

I idolized you for as long as I can remember you, clutching to your sari everywhere you went, Maa. I was an obedient child, and abided by all acceptable standards of our family or society as we call it — whether it was being an A student in school, or taking care of my younger brother, or getting into the right college, or marrying at the right time. At every milestone, I conformed to being the ideal daughter.

You had felt that the best thing for me to do would be to get married soon after I completed my Bachelors degree in Economics. You thought preparing and completing an MBA would cause undue delay in my entry into the very volatile Indian marriage market.

You had thought that Samir was an eligible prospective groom for me — with a Masters degree from US and an attractive salary. You thought his family was a good match for ours — appropriately wealthy with an enviable lifestyle.

You had said that my mother-in-law’s greed and my sister-in-law’s interfering temperament would fade in time. You felt that my love and commitment would win over Samir’s ego someday. You believed that the unrealistic expectations, the unwarranted taunts, and the unfair restrictions imposed on me by husband and in-laws were only customary in our society.

You had envisioned that life as a single mother for me living in India would be more arduous than my miserable marriage with Samir. You anticipated that I would never be able to raise Meethi all by myself, and that she would not be able to imbibe anything close to a family if she had to live without her father.

But you were wrong Maa….

I am sorry that you felt that I had defied tradition that one time, Maa. But getting out of a marriage that trampled my self-respect and individuality every single day is the best thing that I could have ever done. Instead of suffocating myself to comply with societal norms, I chose to live. It was a tough path, but a correct one.

I want to tell you Maa that no mother can write her child’s destiny. She may have a vision, with all her wisdom and experience. But life happens, despite all our plans. My life may be unconventional, but it is good. I thrived and I am happy. And that was the magic of your upbringing. You made me strong enough to sail through life’s storms and to maneuver my way through all the turbulence, even while navigating in the lesser traveled directions, and I love you and thank you for that, Maa.

Meethi came running and grabbed Ahilya’s hand, interrupting her trance. “Mom, I wanted to tell you something Nani had told me last to last week, just the day before you had returned from your meeting in Delhi.”

“What Meethi?”

“She said that when you were in the eighth grade, you had started taking swimming lessons at Nidhi Aunty’s apartment club, much to Nani’s dismay. You did not want her to come along and embarrass her, as all the other kids came without their parents. She used to hide and watch you all the time. And you never came to know, till date!!”

Ahilya smiled. “Yes baby, Nani would always continue to be our guardian angel. We just may not be able to see her…”

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