Albert Einstein summed up the human experience of being alive in these words: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Few miracles though surpass the miracle of a mother's love. Motherhood has been celebrated by artists, poets, writers but nothing can quite sum up the stir of emotion experienced by a mother when she holds her baby in her arms for the first time.
Even if the baby is not hers biologically but hers in every other sense. The challenge for her is never just to carry and deliver a child but to extend every cell in her being towards the care of this little person through good phases and bad, through exhaustion and ill-health, through stress, suffering and loss. Because motherhood is a commitment of a lifetime. No matter how hard things get, the mother doesn't bail out, never ever gives up on the child and herself.
We bring you first-person accounts of children with heroic mothers who triumphed over challenges, and of mothers whose choice to adopt redefined the meaning of motherhood.
She exemplifies a woman of substance
I lost my father at the age of 13 and my mom became the family’s backbone. One morning, we woke up to the news of my dad suffering from two consecutive heart attacks. My younger brothers, at the age of 12 and five, didn't even know what was happening. It was my mother who stood strong and faced the news. She was just 36 years old. We stayed in a joint family back then, which helped. They supported us, but my mother refused to take help from anyone. She was determined to support her own family. She knew that she had to fund the education of three children and take care of all the daily needs. I was in Class 8 and started doing a part time job. My brother too, who was in Class 6, took up early responsibilities. All of us, together, made sure that the education and upbringing of my youngest brother who was just five, didn’t get hampered. My mother took up petty jobs. My dad’s business had been taken over by his partner and didn’t fetch us any good income. I passed out of school and did a full time job along with managing my further studies. My brother, Sanjay, quit his studies and also took by a job. My youngest brother, Jayesh, continued his studies along with a part time job. For us, the journey hasn’t been easy. It was my mother who took utmost care of us. She’s an ideal example of a woman of substance.
Jayshree Mehta on her mother Chandrika Soni
She held herself together for me
As a young woman of 24 years, with a 10-month-old baby, my mother Nisha left her home to settle in an unknown city after her love marriage came to an end. She got married at the age of 20. By 23, she was a mother. My parents were really happy together. No one knows what really went wrong when one fine day, my father walked out on us. The only memory I have of those days is of him kissing me goodbye. He wanted a divorce. My mom didn’t know what was happening. No one in the family knew how to handle this. Then societal pressures came into picture as divorce was looked down upon in those days. While all of this was going on, my mother had to look after me as well. Taking care of me wasn’t easy. But, she didn’t want to give me up or compromise my upbringing so she held herself together. She then decided to leave the city. My mom’s younger brother, all of 20 volunteered to come along. When we came to Bangalore, we just knew one family of distant relatives. Mom and uncle used to go work while I was left behind with them. My mom worked hard till our life became stable and peaceful. She sent me to a good school and gave me the best possible upbringing. She always had my back. Throughout these years, she has played the dual role of a mother and a father. She has never let me feel my dad’s absence. Today, everyone respects her for what she is.
Shraddha on her mother Nisha Tolia
Ankita was born for us
My husband Sriram Lakshmanan and I have lots of relatives in Bangalore and keep visiting the city no matter where work takes us. We have been married for nine years and one of the foundations of our marriage was that we wanted to adopt a child. We firmly believe that a child is a child whether biological or adopted. So two years into our marriage, we decided to adopt a child and contacted multiple agencies but we were turned down because we were considered too young. Some thought we had not been married long enough and also since we had no biological reason to adopt, we could not be trusted with a child. This went on for months and finally the Missionaries of Charity agreed to register our names. We call Ankita, our miracle baby, because, we registered our request for a baby on December 12, 2007 at about 11 am in and she was born the same day at 3.30 pm. She was meant for us. I still remember the first time I saw her. She was this kutti raisin in this white frock and the moment Sriram held her, she smiled and we were hers. There were fears that she may never walk but it didn't matter. Ankita is a healthy and happy six-and-a-half-year-old now and takes pride in the fact that she was not born from my womb but my heart. All I want for her is to feel secure enough to fly but to know that we are here if she wants an anchor. Nurturing is more important that just bringing a child into the world. It is necessary to learn that children are born to be our teachers. Ankita teaches wonder to my jaded eyes. She refreshes my world-view every moment of the day.
Uma Iyer on the joys of adopting a child
Silent tears began to stream down her face
My mom has been both a mother and father to me. My parents separated when I was very young and I cannot imagine how she had the strength to bring me up single-handedly. She worked as a Kannada teacher in the school where I studied and in the evenings, she would teach kids at home. Later, when she left the school due to some issues, she worked through long night shifts at a call centre and continued to tutor kids during the day. In spite of all this, my mother never showed any signs of her fatigue and mental stress by being irritable or rude to me or anyone around her.
I will never forget one incident when I was in Class 3. My mom had forgotten to pack sauce to accompany my lunch of chappatis. Although I could have quickly run to the staff room to ask her to buy me a packet of sauce, I did not wish to trouble her so I resorted to dipping my chappatis in water. Somehow, she had realised what had happened and came running to where I usually sat to eat. When I looked up and smiled at her, knowing exactly why she had come, she took one look at me and silent tears began to stream down her face. She took off again without saying a word and after two minutes, she was back with her hand full of jam packets. She sat with me through lunch that day, ruffling my hair and watching me eat. I had never had a better meal in my life.
Monica on her mother Jayanthi Chandra
From the first moment I first laid eyes on him, he was mine
My husband Krishnan Kasturirangan and I spent many years in the US, working and travelling and at that time, parenthood was not a priority but fate brought us to India and it is here that the longing for a complete family took us to Missionaries of Charity. We never gave them any specifications about what we wanted in a baby. We just wanted a baby to love unconditionally. It was a stress free process and we got our son Arjun home, three weeks ago. He is a little over four months and has changed our life. I don't understand the struggle people go through to have biological children when there are so many babies in the world, waiting to be loved. I didn't know what it would be like to be a mother but from the first moment I first laid eyes on him, he was mine. He smiled and we melted. It was unbelievable. When I was waiting for him, I had a picture of him in my head just like any other expecting mother and raising him is fulfilling though to my chagrin, I discovered that adoptive mothers are not given maternity leave by workplaces. For now, am enjoying raising him. No one should be forced into adoption because only when your heart is ready, a connection will be formed. Those who want to adopt, should not let the paper work daunt them. It is completely worth it.
Suman Ramasundaram on adopting a son
She continues to be our rock
Varsha, my mother, is a woman of sheer courage. Her love towards her children will always be an inspiration. My dad passed away when I was 19 and my brother was just 16. Just three hours after we last saw him, we heard of his car being in an accident. He didn’t survive it. Four days after his death, my mom took over his business. She knew that she had to manage the family now. Not having any one by her side, she went on with just the memories of my father to support her. She worked hard and took tough decisions to take care of us. She had to play a dual role of being soft and strict at the same time.
When as a young woman, I wanted to get married to a South-Indian, she was a bit unsure but finally came around.
After the biggest tragedy of her life, she was there for us financially and also as an ethical reference point. And she continues to be our rock.
Neeti on her mother Varsha Mehta
(Inputs from Natasha Doshi and Suzanne Sangi)