Life back a full circle

Gurpreet Dullat

THE word ‘mother’ denotes love, emotion, care, compassion and sacrifice. My mother too has been an epitome of these virtues.

Born in 1928, to a farming family and a teacher-mother, she was the only child of her parents. She studied to be a teacher at Dev Samaj School as a boarder, where she also took khanadari (cooking) classes. Once when she fell sick, she had to travel all the way to Lahore for an X-ray and was taken to pahars (hills) to recover and recoup after a severe chest infection.

Married at 18, she experienced motherhood the following year and devoted her life to caring for her four children. As she came to our village (Khara, Faridkot district), the village elders went to the Maharaja of Faridkot with a request to allot a school to the village, now that they had a teacher of their own. Their request was granted and a dharmshala in the centre of the village was converted into a makeshift girls’ school. The enthusiasm was such that even girls her age thronged the school. Urbane in her right, she preferred to don a salwar-kameez instead of a ghaghra, as was the order of the day. She clad herself fully in two layers of dupattas. Her mother-in-law would proudly escort her to school and bring her back.

Her first pay was Rs 19 a month. The students would come home to help her in her daily chores so that she could teach them knitting and crochet in lieu.

Later, a high school came up in the village and her school was merged with it. She joined it along with her students. She taught for a good 40 years in the same school, and thus touched the lives of every household, and in some cases, even taught three generations of a family.

She retired in 1987, without ever being posted once out of the village. Earlier, the panchayat would rush to the authorities to urge them not to post her out for the greater good of the village. Later, the DEO’s office relented and stopped making efforts to transfer her elsewhere. An article came in a Punjabi daily lauding her achievements when she retired.

As a self-styled philanthropist, my teacher-father would crowd up the house with students from far and near. It meant my mother had more mouths to feed than just us. This kept her on her toes all day, and at night, when we sat to study, we could see her repairing our clothes with hand and making pillow cases out of wornout clothes.

Her hardworking nature and never-say-die spirit took a toll following the young and untimely deaths in the family. Life becomes unbearable when one loses one’s child and a young grandchild. Just shy of stepping into her 90th year of life, she was bed-ridden and an invalid. She hated being helpless and depending on us to feed and bathe her on the wheelchair. It was an opportunity that God provided us to complete the cycle: she praying for our wellbeing and we praying for her painless and peaceful adieu. She is missed; she died recently.

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