Mothers – Then and Now

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I still remember the day when my mother, who gave birth to eight children in all, brought one of my younger siblings into this world.

As usual, in the windy morning, she was sweeping the courtyard after preparing and serving breakfast to father and to her five children. Heaping the withered leaves and twigs she had swept off the courtyard under the huge tamarind tree, she panted for a while. As if suddenly remembering an important appointment she hastily gathered the litter in a wicker tray and emptied it into the waste pit before swinging into action.

Hastily she changed into an old sari, settled dispute between two of her children and my elder siblings before seeing them off to school and waited for the mid-wife, who delivered most of the children of the locality, including two of her own children, myself included, earlier. This was how most of the mothers delivered their babies even in town suburbs those days -without any hullabaloo and attention-gathering.

A week or so after delivering a child mother would be back to her normal self. Sometimes grandmother would be around offering her a helping hand and telling us bedtime stories. In due course, the new member of the family would become the hub of everyone’s attention and thus we all shared mother’s obligation of taking care of the baby.

Mother might be a great inspiration to modern day designers of domestic robots. I have never seen mother lying on bed asleep or sick those days. Her typical day would start with caring the fowls, cackling in the wooden cage, in the early morning. She would have completed a variety of chores before a second one from the house, father included, ever got up from bed that would be a nightmare to most of the domestic helps of modern day. Setting free the birds from the stinking cage and feeding them, she would clean the cowshed, fill the manger with paddy straw and milk the animal before sizing the fire wood logs and lighting up the hearth for preparing breakfast.

Her morning routine in the kitchen, like grating coconut or grinding coconut with green chilli on the stone pestle for making delicious chutney for the breakfast, would waken up the children one by one. Sometime later, amid helping the tiny ones to bathe and dress, she would serve breakfast to everyone and in a while the children would join the neighbourhood children for a walk to the nearby school.

After exchanging morning pleasantries with neighbours while cleaning utensils and washing clothes by the well side she would start pr

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