Monday, December 15, 2008

What I learnt from my parents - Lily Mathew

Let me start with Ammachi. The foremost impression about her would be that she had dedicated herself to the wellbeing of her children. Ammachi sacrificed her comforts and leisure for her seven children and cared for them equally. She knew our potential and short comings and ably guided them accordingly. She always had a good idea about our teachers, friends and class work. When we returned home after an examination, she could guess how many marks we would score from our body language. Ammachi was proud of her children. It was her firm belief that her children would not lie or do anything that was wrong. Her belief in us saved us from many a wrong deed in our life. I do not recall Ammachi ever punishing us, physically or otherwise. But her scolding was powerful enough. She wanted all of us to have a good education and for that our studies in the lower classes had to be good enough for us to build upon later so she focused her efforts to give us that strong base. As she put it in her colourful way, she had to do all this with one child inside her, one on her hips and one underfoot.

I always tried to limit my study period to a minimum, but stood little chance in avoiding her eagle eye or strong reaction to such tactics. The final university examination for languages was held immediately at the end of my 2nd year of B.Sc and so the usual annual examination for the subjects [Physics and Mathematics] was rescheduled after the long summer holidays. I was reluctant to study during the holidays but Ammachi thought otherwise so I ended up revising and getting a better grasp of the fundamentals during the holidays. This, I think, helped me to graduate with higher grades. If we did not do well in our studies, the feeling that we would be letting her down was always at the back of our mind. Her family always came first for Ammachi.

Achayan was different. It did seem that social commitment came first with him. He was always active in public affairs. Though he was very pleased when we excelled in something and was always willing to help out if approached, Ammachi was the one who put in the hard work and effort. Achayan liked people and cared for them. He was always prepared to help others. We never found him jealous of other’s successes and he was always glad when somebody did well. He refrained from smoking, drinking and most other bad habits except perhaps his love for food, especially well cooked food! He tended to trust everybody unlike Ammachi who had a knack for assessing people with a high degree of accuracy. He found great pleasure in company, inviting them home, serving them good food and talking to them. The difficulties at home hardly ever deterred him from this exercise.

Achayan and Ammachi did not see eye to eye on many things. But there was deep respect and affection between them. During our school days we had to return home before nightfall. The process of settling down for our evening studies usually started with arguments and quarrels and ended only when Ammachi entered the scene. Then it was time for bathing, study and dinner in that order. Achayan would return from the local club or other activity but by then all the hullabaloo was over and the scene was peaceful. The younger kids were asleep by that time. After Achayan’s bath and dinner we would assemble for evening family prayer. This was usually followed by a family chit chat session. Looking back, I feel that that was a very enjoyable part of the day.

Even in our college days, when we returned home for our holidays we tended to share our experience at college and hostel with Ammachi. She was always an interested listener. The usual venue for these conversations was the kitchen. So we were always aware of each other's college and hostel life, friends, teachers etc. Susy, the eldest of us, had a special talent for going into detail in such a way that made it very interesting to listen to. Achayan had no time to spare for such things and hardly ever participated. Later in life he used to say half jokingly that we were all more close to Ammachi. Still later, he often fondly reminded us of Ammachi’s role in our upbringing and achievements. Achayan and Ammachi were able to keep high moral and religious standards, took the effort to develop the same attitudes within us and taught us to be equitable in all our dealings.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

It's interesting how everyone mentions the order that things used to happen in the Munnar house - it's as if there was great comfort in the order of things.

I also really get that Appachan and Ammachi ruled by being who they were being rather than by constantly saying or doing. It is such an inspiration to read this and I really wish more and more than I could sit them down now and glean wisdom from them...