My first memory of her was perhaps from the time I was three—a beauty mole over her lips, thick, short hair, a round bindi on her forehead and a smile. That’s Divya Dutta remembering her mother. Here’s an excerpt from her book Me & Ma

NALINI DUTTA.

My Ma . . .

My parents, Nalini and Surinder Dutta, were both doctors. Both were also ardent fans of Dilip Kumar. They had been college sweethearts. I was told that when Ma had first gone to meet Dad’s sisters in Delhi, they had said, ‘She’s lovely but a bit overweight!’

For her dear Surinder, Nalini lost about 15 kg before marriage and the sisters-in-law were pleased, of course, to have a pretty, thin bhabhi!

Fortunately, both of them got posted in the rural areas of Punjab after marriage. They took on their assignments with full enthusiasm. Though Ma and Dad were known to be the ideal couple, their personalities were poles apart.

Dad was a quiet, sober, idealistic man and Ma, well, er . . . not so quiet. She was full of life, super confident and practical. If Dad found it difficult to communicate with someone, which was most of the time as he was very shy, Ma, without mincing words, would do the needful. Sometimes, just sometimes, putting Dad in an awkward situation by communicating more than was necessary! She did it without realizing it though. Dad, being at a more senior position at the hospital, would often ask for a written explanation from Ma if she was late for duty by even five minutes. Ma wondered why she couldn’t get some leniency sometimes, especially when I came along. But Dad would have none of it and they would argue like little kids. But they loved each other very much.

Me and Ma by Divya Dutta
Me and Ma by Divya Dutta

If anyone else said anything to Ma, Dad was always by her side, protectively defending her. I am told that when I was born in Amritsar in my buanani’s (grandaunt’s) hospital it was as if Ma and Dad had got married again. There was a huge, wedding-like celebration. I was the firstborn in both sides of the family.

Ma had been praying a lot for a baby girl at the Darbar Saheb. She used to do a lot of sewa there—she would sweep the floor, make rotis, wash utensils. She had taken a mannat, to be blessed with a girl, at the Dukhbhanjan Beri. She had decided on my name beforehand—Divya, at that time a very exclusive name. Such was Ma. I was the apple of their eyes, of course, but also the reason for their arguments. They were a set of over-cautious parents who would get worried even if I cried for a bit. I just had to make a sound for Dad to get worried and scold Ma for not checking on me.

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Ma would tense up too, if I cried. Poor Ma. I would just cling on to her, literally. If she left me even for a second, I would start shrieking. And then both of them would start off all over again. One would wonder who, out of the three, was the baby. But I remember my growing up years with great fondness. Those days were simple and much of what we did circled around the hospital Ma and Dad worked in. We played in the hospital compound, we ate together, then we went for scooter rides.

My parents made sure that their bachcha was a happy child, and I was.

Feature Image Credit: DesiMartini

Me and Ma, Rs 399. Excerpt published with permission from Penguin Random House India.