My mother was a very thin and frail women. But she was very hard working. I have hardly seen her resting but for a half an hour nap in the afternoon and about five hours sleep in the night. She was an epitome of selfless service.... Service to the family. When I go to bed, she would be cleaning the vessels in the kitchen.
Before I got up in the morning, she would have finished her bath and finished half of the cooking for the morning chores. But she would never forget to hand over a glass of hot milk the moment I enter the kitchen after morning rituals.
She won't ever forget giving a second and sometimes a third " dose " of coffee for my Dad in the morning hours. She ate after every other member finished eating.....that too squatting on the floor. Sometimes I waited near her impatiently looking at her platter when she mixed the hot rice, dhal and a few spoons of ghee. She always gave me a couple of morsels of the warm tasty rice. Being the youngest child in the family I did have that privilege for more than couple of years when compared to the elder ones.
My mother was a poor eater. She used to say that if she ate to her stomach full she won't be able to work again. Over and above that she made sure that all the other members of the family and sometimes guests ate to their fullest satisfaction. She was always happy to eat the leftovers.
She was very eager to see that we children eat the right quantity at the right time. She always kept a track on the items we consumed. Though it was difficult to fool her , I used to play some tricks with her. Especially when I liked certain type dosa she made, I made it a point to ask for chutney powder. The next step would be to keep a balance of chutney and ask for an extra dosa.....and then vice versa and so on. She generally relented but not beyond a point.....!
If she felt rather tired in the night, she would declare that she would serve the dinner on our palms. ( Not on plates). The rice mixed with vegetable curries and pickles with broken pieces of Pappadam always tasted heavenly.....she used to make balls of mixed rice according to our capacity to bite into it. The next course of curd rice used to be given smaller portions. Let me confess that the eating enjoyment and experience of that kind direct from my mother's hand has never ever again happened in my life. Even after eating in five/seven star hotels and attended " n " course ceremonial dinners , I really long for the repeat of tasty " dinner on palms " my Mom gave making all brothers sit around her in the kitchen decades back.....
My mother found time to go to the temple nearby and pray for her family . She also observed upvas or vrat on certain days like ekadasi, new moon days etc. Those days she didn't eat rice. Instead she made some gruel with broken wheat or arrowroot powder and took it with some milk. Our attraction on such days was the steamed banana pieces fried with sugar and ghee which she made in large numbers but consumed only one or two. The rest was given to us in addition to the normal food.....! My dad made fun of her on observing the fast/upvas falsely claiming that she ate all calorie rich food in large quantities on that day.....! Sometimes we also joined in teasing her.
The greatness of her preparations was again realised by me when I went out on employment after studies. More than the taste of the preparations, I missed the love, care, persuasive approach my mother showered on us in feeding us. On many a nights, I had really wished she could come over and give the balls of curry mixed rice on my palm........!
During my first posting in North india, I realised that keeping upvas/vrat was not only among housewives but also very common among men. Some of my seniors also explained the stories behind such vrats and their benefits. During one of the resident training programs, I could observe that right from the breakfast, the "upvasis " had separate menu. But there was no restriction on the number of helpings one could take.
I did observe that their preparations for the upvas started the previous day itself. I realized it when my friend P ordered for two slices of cassata ice cream after dinner as he would be on upvas the next day......!
During the lunchtime on the third day, M ordered for two leg pieces of chicken and gave an explanation that he was on upvas the previous day.....
That night I dreamt of my mother. I explained her the way in which upvas was being observed by many. When I woke up in the morning and I really felt very sorry for teasing her during my younger days..........and coming to think of it she was on upvas almost on all days......!