How to be affectionate – From a shining example of one

My mom passed away last Friday. She was 65. She suffered from a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage caused by the rupture of an aneurysm in her brain. She was an amazing woman – and I am not just saying that because she was my mom. From reading the many messages that were sent to me and my sister over the weekend the one word that comes to mind about my mom consistently is, affection. She was the most affectionate person I have ever known – and to everyone she met, interacted with or had a chance to talk to.

She was born in a small town near Srirangam, and was one of 5 siblings. The only daughter to my grandparents, she was a twin. She has a younger brother as well, and the older brothers doted on her. There was nothing my mom wanted that she did not get from her family. Her dad was a functionary executive at a local temple, a very well read, endearing and disciplined man. My granddad would claim that my mom was the most-loved person in all of Trichy.

Most people make fun of me when they mention someone by name and I immediately find a connection with them – they are a friend of a friend, or a distant relative, or a college buddy or another remote connection – that’s my mom in me. She’d always have a connection.

Even if you have not heard of the term “people person”, before – close your eyes for a few minutes and think about what images come to mind, when you hear that word. You may have never met my mom, but most of the qualities & images that you associate with that word when your eyes were closed, would define mom. She was the original “people person”.

My parents were married in Trichy in the early 70’s. Dad was an urban city “Bombay” type and mom was from a traditional village. They moved to Bombay soon after the wedding and it took my mom several years to adjust to the hectic pace of the large city. She craved always to know everyone and took great pains to connect with as many people as she could even in the large city of Bombay.

There are 3 things that defined my mom – her immense belief in god and the power of prayer, her generosity and her love for music.

She would manifest her affection towards all people she met by one or all of these ways.

It would never take her too long to make you feel comfortable – many of my friends know her as a very welcoming, always supportive and easy to humor mom. I know many a time when we’d come home late at night after pretending to be “studying” together, when she’d wake up and make a full 3-5 course meal for all of us – from scratch – in less than the time it took us to wash ourselves!

One day a friend had come over to study with me at home. His parents were going through a rough patch and we had our exams in a few days. He went to to same school and grade as I did though, my mom had never met him or his parents. That did not matter though. The next few days he was told to concentrate on studying, while he was clothed, fed and sheltered from goings-on at his home, by my mom. She did not judge him or his parents, nor did she question. She just helped him get on his feet.

Prayer was one of the other ways that she showed you that she loved you and cared for you. I know a few of my cousins who believed her prayer was more powerful than any of the people they knew. I know of many other folks have mentioned that if she prayed, god would make it happen. After all, she prayed so much and so often and asked so little for herself, that god would keep all his reserve credits towards anything she asked for. I remember she would even pray for people she never knew. Simply because she that felt good things happened when you prayed.

Her generosity was another thing she was known for. Her generosity was selfless, all-encompassing and action-oriented. One of her core tenets was “paying it forward”. This was even before paying it forward was a meme.

I remember in 1987 a relative was suffering from immense pain, and mom traveled 8-9 hours by bus to take us to go and see them. All through the journey or the next few days, mom never mentioned to us that she was in severe pain her self, suffering through a very bad back. The only way we got to know about it was her favorite pain-killer – a heat rub, called Tiger balm, was finished by the time we got to the relative’s home. She’d  always think of you and do good for you. That, she herself, was in pain or need was largely ignored. The next 2 days she spent, in the kitchen, at our relatives home, cooking for her family, cleaning and helping out in many ways to ensure that she was able to rest through her pain, while my mom silently suffered through hers. She claimed that she was not in any pain, since she was serving others and their thanks were helping alleviate her pain.

She had no limits or bounds to her generosity either. From our help at home, to her relatives, to my own friends, my sisters or my dad’s friends, her generosity was all-encompassing. My dad would travel quite a bit during the 80’s and largely to Europe or the US. When he’d return, he would bring back loads of chocolates, clothes and stationary that in the 80’s, was largely not available in India very easily. My mom would first take about 40% – 50% of the stuff away and keep it aside for our help at home, relatives, her friends, friends-of-friends, an old lady, who lived next door to the neighbor of a friend, who she met 2 days ago. Then she would advice us to share the rest with our friends and folks that came home.

I remember distinctly a time when my dad bought her a very nice sari, which he wanted her to have. A relative came home that afternoon and loved that particular sari a lot. My mom gave it to her without any hesitation. When my dad came home that evening and asked her why she did that, she said, “I think she would look nicer in that sari”. Yes, she was that selfless.

Most every time she asked us for any money, it was because she wanted to give it to someone else. Another of her core tenets was “The more you give, the more you will get”. I dont think any of us comprehended it at that time, but looking back, we have been immensely blessed with simply because my mom gave away a lot.

Her generosity was also very action-oriented – not in words alone. She would do things – cook and feed you, pray for you or give you stuff to ameliorate your suffering. When she used her words, you would recognize her sincerity and motherly instinct immediately. Her way to show that she cared was to remove one of the things that was bothering you and do it herself, without either your help or direction.

Besides prayer and cooking, one of her life’s biggest passions was music. I remember my aunts and uncles telling me that she was a very accomplished singer and a person with a very sweet voice.  You did not need to ask her twice to sing – another thing I got from her (minus the sweet voice). She tried her best to get my sister and I into Carnatic classical music, but I guess that gene we picked up from my dad. Were were interested and eager, but were not blessed with the same innate music sense my mom was. She would travel wide and far to hear young artists, encourage them, buy season passes to their concerts, attend a few and then give the rest away.

You may have never met my mom, but in many ways you know her, because I suspect everything I have told you about my mom is like your mother as well. She was the most amazing living embodiment of mom that god ever created. I suspect your mom is the same. So, talk to her. That was the only thing she’d ask me for. “Call me”, she’d say. This text message, facebook stuff is not enough. I have to hear your voice. I can tell if you are in pain or you are happy just by listening to your voice over the phone she’d say.

So, to honor my mom I thought I’d help you – over the next couple of days I am going to write a blog post on a list of 101 things to talk to your mom about. Just stuff that I wished I talked to her more about. If you have a suggestion or two, drop me a note. More than anything, talk to your mom. Your mom would be happy you called (regardless of time or day) and so would my mom.

P.S. I know many of you tried calling me, emailing me or text messaging me. I thank you for it. I dont know how to deal with losing my mom – so I dont want to talk to you over the phone. I dont feel it is cathartic. That’ my way of dealing with it. So, if you want to know what happened, please read my blog post. If there’s a story of my mom you remember, please drop me a note. I may not reply, because I’d probably cry some more when I read it.

25 thoughts on “How to be affectionate – From a shining example of one”

  1. My Heartfelt condolences and one of the greatest tribute that one can pay his/her mother. Was really moving and am sure this post of yours will encourage each one of us to talk more to our parents.

  2. I am sorry and heart felt condolences. Prayers and strength to you and your immediate family and friends.

    thanks sudhi

  3. Mukund: – Truly sorry for your Mom’s untimely departure! Nothing in this world can really replace a Mom and we hope you and your family get all the strength to overcome this irreplaceable loss.

    While, I din’t know your Mom in-person, but based on your description I can see a huge part of her in you. Whether it’s being people’s person, connecting with them, making them feel comfortable, selflessly nurturing and guiding them, feeding them in the middle of the night, hearing their sob stories, or celebrating their small achievements. We have personally seen you do all of that and much more. So while your Mom is not with us, but she continues to be among us through you and all the other people who’s life she has selflessly touched.
    Take Care

  4. Heartfelt condolences Mukund. Although you never overcome losing a parent. Hopefully time will allow healing. This is was the most beautiful writeup as it connected to the human piece which we all are part of. It in essence conveyed once you are trusted you carry lot of people’s worries/burdens without expecting anything in return. Very selfless.

  5. Please accept my heartfelt condolences! May God give you and your family strength at this juncture.
    And thanks for this post. Reminded me of my father, and that I should be more like him.

  6. Mukund you have written such a nice note on Akka. We always felt connected with her. She had a way of reaching out which was so soothing. We had a long chat with her when we met this May.

  7. Dear Mukund,
    As I read your blog, I could feel the ache in my heart..and called my mother.for the 2nd time today .they are truly special in more ways than we can imagine. I speak to my mother every day cause she tells me ..I want to hear your voice and be reassured that alls well..when I called her a second time today she asked all well??..Such are mothers ..Your mother seemed truly special sincere condolences with your family and you..
    Take care..

  8. Mukund; my condolences to you and your family. it’s vacuum no nobody can replace and only time can heal this loss. May god give you enough strength to deal with this emotionally tough times.

    – Ram

  9. Mukund,

    It is never easy to lose a parent no matter how old we are. I didn’t know your mom well, but I know you. Her lovely qualities are very much a part of you. It is not fair that you lost her so suddenly and so soon and I share your grief. My thoughts are with you, your family, your dad and your sister.


  10. My sincere condolences. I lost my Mom just under 3 weeks ago, so I very much feel your pain.

    To add to your list, one thing I had always meant to do, but never got around to, was to sit with her and ask her about the family tree.

  11. Dear Mukund, So sorry for your loss! I do not have enough words to describe Atthai. For as long I have known her, she personified kindness, generosity and love. Even though she not be present physically, I know she will live on through all the lives she has touched in numerous ways. My deepest sympathies to you, Dingle, Atimber and the rest of the family as you get through these tough times. Take care- Ravi

  12. Sorry to hear about your mom, heartfelt condolences. Not had the opportunity to have met her, but after reading about her, I think she is going to be alright, as she has THE person taking care of her….

  13. Mukund, our deepest condolences. I always remember your mom for being so kind and loving. Even after all these years, she always had a kind word and something nice to say whenever I met her after many years. She will always be in our hearts.

  14. Anna,
    Thanks for writing about her, I feel this is the best way to help you and us with this terrible loss. You had mentioned some of the things to write about :
    1/ Her love for our family and how she ensured that she made everyone feel welcome at her home.
    2/ Her cooking, I would any day have her home-cooked food to anything else. Irrespective of the number of people at dinner table at Benson town house I have always seen that there was more than enough for everyone.
    3/ How she maintained a group of friends of her own also, her sloka group, bhajan group etc.
    4/ Her love for educating all of us, and ensuring that we all learnt right from the wrong. During my college days I have had so many conversations with her and in her gentle way she has always tried to make me see the consequences of my actions. She has taught me how to be a better daughter to my parents. Even when I met her last year she has taught me so much about being a mom.


  15. Hi Mukund, though you dont know me, heard a lot about you thru your parents and relatives. Totally agreed on what you wrote about your mom. Having recently lost my mom, I can understand how painful your mother’s loss would have been for you. I had a chat with your dad a couple of days ago.

  16. Mukund

    Sorry to hear this. Thank you for the detailed post. Be strong we are praying for you.


  17. Mukund, you spoke a lot about your mom at Kyron accelerator program and I was then surprised to hear some one talk so much about their mom. You obviously have a lot of your mom in you, especially the people person part of it . I have always been impressed about how you connect so well with people even at a large public gathering. Somewhere she must be very proud of you.
    This blog is an amazing tribute to your mom, and how people who have not met her can so well imagine how she would have been.

  18. Sir, Sorry to hear about your MOTHER. God will give you the strength to overcome the loss. Your post taught me the importance to acknowledge and love the selfless character known as MOTHER. Now I know from whom you inherited the simplicity and kindness that you demonstrated at startup village, Cochin. I believe one never dies, but transforms. You are the transformation of your MOTHER.

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