When my mother (Annam) passed away prematurely succumbing to leukemia,
I was barely 24 years old. I had just finished college and taken my first job.
Understandably, I was grief stricken for years.
I adored my mother. She was a graceful and elegant lady with a lot of compassion.
She molded me into a young man.
She taught me manners, discipline, and good working habits.
She instilled in me the dream of going abroad for further studies.
She was impatient with laziness, under performance and overindulgence on trivial things.
Being the first son, I was recipient of her hope and investment for my bright future.
She taught me not to be satisfied with mediocrity and always aim for excellence.
She was gone too soon before I could repay her with my service.
Until my mother's early demise, my life was confined to receiving.
I had not even contemplated in paying back.
God must have noticed this void in my life.
Little more eleven years after my mother's demise, God granted me another opportunity.
My wife Revathy's mother, Mrs Rugminy Gopal (popularly known as Rugminy Mami) joined us in the U.S. to help us raise our newly born son, Anish, and to take care of our household. She stayed with us for a good part of the past 50 years until her death on April 28, 2022,
at the age of 96.
From the beginning, my mother-in-law and I had a mutual respect for each other.
In bringing up Anish, I tried not to interfere with her way of doing things.
In all the arguments between my wife and her mother, I was always the neutral party.
During the past 50 years, little by little, I got to know Rugminy Mami.
She was an engaging person. She warmed up immediately to the people, and they responded to her. There was something unique in her personality that made her easy to connect with. She could make people of all ages be comfortable talking, working and just being with her.
When our children were young, Rugminy Mami was deeply involved in bringing up our children. She nurtured their bodies and their minds.
She also ran our household.
She, with the help of some her friends, started "Bala Vikhas"- spiritual classes for the youth. Many children in the community benefited from this service.
Later, she taught at different Montessori schools in the Silver Spring and Bethesda area of Washington.
After development of the Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple (SSVT), Rugminy Mami fully dedicated herself to all aspects of Temple services. She practically spent her full time volunteering at the Temple.
Rugminy Mami held no official position at the Temple.
Yet her influence was more than any other office holder's.
Office bearers came and went. Rugminy Mami stayed on.
Her secret was that she was utterly unselfish.
While many approached the Temple with specific personal agendas,
Rugminy Mami's mission was "Pure Seva".
The Temple, the congregation and the priestly community benefited from this selfless service.
Her calm demeanor and bright smile hid her many hurts of the past.
Like, her broken hip in an accident in India, which left her permanently disabled for life.
And in the greatest tragedy of all, she lost her husband at the age of 33.
That left her with a teenage daughter and a 7 year old boy to bring up.
Having been brought up in a traditional Brahman joint family, she could have settled to a comfortable but externally controlled life.
Rugminy Mami's fierce independent spirit would not allow such dependence.
She moved away from joint family to settle in New Delhi. There, as a single women, she educated her children, one in Medical College and the other in Masters of Science.
During that time, she educated herself as a Teacher.
Rugminy Mami showed me the meaning of courage, determination and resilience.
So, on this 13th day of Rugminy Mami's death, I pay homage to my two mothers.
To my biological mother Annam, for teaching me to never give up.
To Rugminy Mami (my other mother), for showing me ways to always give back.