This is a GUEST POST from Lata Rele.
10th of March is my mother’s 99th birthday & I’d like to eulogise her on the International Women’s Day. I can credit her for doing various things which were so uncommon in her days.
My mother, Leela Chandorkar, born in 1920, lost her father when she was only 8. Then her mother moved to Pune to live with her mother & brother’s family in Pune, taking along her 8 year old daughter & 8 month old baby boy. My mother could never forget some difficult experiences they went through during this period. Living under Mama’s obligations was not easy. However, she did manage to complete her college education at Ferguson College in Pune in 1940.
Got married to my father when she was 20 years old. As a Textile Engineer, my father found a job at Delhi Cloth Mills (DCM) in Delhi. When Lala Shriram who owned DCM, visited the DCM Colony, all the ladies residing in the Colony were invited & introduced to him. When he found out that my mother was a graduate, he asked her if she could work at the DCM Welfare Centre right in the Colony. That started her working career in 1945! My eldest sister was only 4 years old.
Then my parents, went to England, leaving my two sisters, one 4 year old & the other 11/2 year old, with my Kaka in Satara, as my father got a scholarship to do MTech at Manchester Institute of Technology. This was very very uncommon too. While in England, my mother managed to do a Diploma in Personnel Mgt at the British Institute of Personnel Mgt. Though very short, the stay in England left a big mark on her mind.
That helped her to get a job with Bombay Port Trust as a Labour Welfare officer on her return from England & after my birth in 1947! She stated working when I was three years old!
We lived in Chembur those days & there were no direct local trains to go to VT. She had to change train at Kurla to go to VT & then walk to Ballard Pier where BPT head office was. She could manage to do it because of a very loving Bai we had to look after me & at that time my father had lot of flexibility in his work as he was teaching at VJTI in their Textile Engineering dept. She worked at BPT for 29 years. Finally she took voluntary retirement when her health issues started surfacing. When we three sisters would take our own squabbles to her after she got home, she used to joke that she was always solving disputes – of BPT workers in the office, then her daughters’ & our servants’ at home!
Towards the end of her career, she used to get a lot tired after work at the office. She underwent hysterectomy as she was bleeding a lot during her menopause. But that didn’t deter her from taking keen interest in our activities & discussing variety of issues with us. After dinner she would take a “Chotasa Break” (nap) & then come to our room to talk to us, to serve us milk, coffee, snacks while we were studying for exams. Those were the most fruitful times.
She gave confidence to my eldest sister to pull through her part exams, card exams, dissections & final exams all through her medical college. She provided support to my middle sister to cope with studies as she was not very studious but encouraged her to do “Home Making” course after her BSc at Nirmala Niketan as she had all those talents & loved cooking, stitching, embroidery etc. She helped me in my first year in college as we had studied in a Marathi medium school. My sisters who took Science, did not have much of a problem but as an Art student, I did. She pulled me through my days of inferiority complex that I wasn’t as fair & good looking as my sisters. But she taught me the value of being a good, honest, sensitive human being & made me believe that you are valued for what you are & not how you look. It was so true! I have never been short of good friends who cared for me & with whom I could share my hopes & fears, joys & tears.
Even after we all sisters got married, she helped us through all our real or imaginary problems. She always looked at every issue as a third person & then advise. Never favoured us as daughters. If we were wrong, we were wrong. But the emphasis was always finding an amicable solution. May be part of her Personnel Management training! She (and my father too) stood like a rock behind one of my sisters who had to struggle through her divorce & looked after her daughters.
Not only me but my sisters & our daughters miss my parents to this day. We remember them not only on their birthdays & death anniversaries but every time we take a decision in life. We try to think how they would have approached the problem & the answer comes easily! Such is the power of thoughts. They never leave you.
When my mother died, my Atya’s (my father’s sister’s) daughter who was old enough to have seen my mother from the time she got married into the family till she died, said this which is very eloquent – “When BA passed Leelamami came into the family, we all were watching her to see how she fared as a wife. When she started working, we all watched to see how she looked after the family. When the daughters grew up we watched to see how she brought up her girls. Looking back, Leelamami passed all the exams with flying colours”.
Do I need to say more?