By Rohini Sunderam
It’s been many years since my mother left for that final home we all dream of returning to. A strict disciplinarian, with a tremendous sense of humour, she’s the reason I’m a writer today. She taught me to enjoy stories, the beauty of imagery, and poetry. Of all the memories I have of her today I remember one to do with reading.A memory that I haven’t shared with anyone, not because it was a secret or life-changing, just a little one, but it still makes me smile.
It was a hot summer afternoon circa 1962-63, we were all avoiding the afternoon heat and trying to sleep in the living room – the only one with a desert cooler in those days. I was trying to read in the crack of light that came through one slightly pulled apart heavy drape, otherwise drawn in an attempt to keep the heat out. Usually Ma slept, but this afternoon I didn’t realise that she was also reading. Suddenly she got up, her shoulders heaving and ran out of the living room into her dressing room (we had those back in the day – attached to the master bedroom).
I was alarmed as I thought she was crying and like all children, the thought of that was most unsettling. I tiptoed after her and when I peeped into the dressing room she was laughing fit to scream. The tears were rolling down her cheeks from trying to suppress her giggles. “What’s happened mummy?” I asked. Wordlessly and still convulsed with laughter she handed me the page she was reading from a book called Around the World with Aunty Mame by (I just looked it up!) Patrick Dennis. I don’t recall what the page was about and yes I guess it was funny.
I laughed. She laughed some more. Before I knew it we were both in hysterics, holding on to each other, reading fragments and choking over them until the rest of the family was roused.That day I realised that someday Ma and I could actually be friends.It took us a few years, but eventually we got there. Sharing books. Sharing ideas. Arguing about a lot of things. Laughing over others. And somehow through it all she taught me about Life.