I anxiously picked up the call from back home in India. My mother was hospitalized on an emergency last week and had undergone a surgery with low survival rate. Several thousand miles away, we were worried waiting for updates and any phone call from India would make us more nervous. I was relieved to hear my mother’s voice, though quite frail and now, she is long way recuperating.
The article is a portrayal of my mother who has been a thought leader to us. This article is dedicated to all the mothers that are leaders in their own way to their children and to the society they associate with. (@Siliconeer, #Siliconeer, #MomsRule, #HappyMothersDay, #Mom, #Community)
After I spoke to her, I began pondering over my mom’s strong will. Her resilience has always been one of the pillars of strength to overcome many challenges she faced in her life. The more I reflected on her qualities, it began flashing in front of me – she has been one of the greatest thought leaders I have known.
How could I miss this all these years as I shopped around to enroll in world-class leadership academia?
Raised in a humble background as an eldest daughter, she became the caregiver early on to her siblings and did forego her formal education beyond 5th grade in her native tongue although she was bright. She pursued her passion in South Indian Classical music and learnt the expression of art through vocal music for many years until her marriage.
After my father moved to the quaint town of Trichy to pursue his career in one of the premier educational institutes in India, we grew up in the community that was attached to the college in a remote suburb. The nearest civilization was a small village that was quite far from where we lived. Our neighbors were all from different states that we got soaked in diversity without knowing their last names! Our groceries/vegetables shopping was once a week ordeal, when we would go to the “downtown” for a few hours of exploration organized as a meticulous mandatory bus tour on Saturday evenings. We all waited eagerly to our weekly window to the world trip!
In the absence of Facebook/Whatsapp/Twitter or any other social media tools, my mom realized networking and collaboration coupled with excellent people skills are necessary to lead us. She was the only extrovert then in our family and was innovative creating different opportunities of face time with others in the community. Adept at networking, with a beaming friendly smile she would welcome everyone home, even those from the near-by village to get to know each other. Her delicious Puliyodarai (Tamarind Rice), well-seasoned Thayir Sadam (Yogurt Rice) and “Malli Poo” Idlis (Idlis as soft as a jasmine flower) were an added advantage to network further, when we went on a day-trip picnic carved out methodically to escape from our silo, thanks to our transport administrator in the community.
We celebrated Navratri in a traditional South Indian way and that was yet another occasion for my mom to invite families across that large campus without discrimination. In the process, she ingrained in us the values of treating everyone with respect and embracing diversity. Everyone liked her that she emerged as a natural leader and became the first one to be fondly known as “Mami” in the community. If there was a question on caring for a newborn or elderly or how-to-do any recipe or to-dos for a celebration or wearing the nine-yards, Madisar – “Ask Mami,” it was my mom’s store house of knowledge that was referred to as a Google search! Even for the students that studied in the college, she was “The Mami.”
My father taught us further the values of charity beginning at home. He took upon himself as the sole breadwinner for our extended families. With her exuberating generosity, she supported him well in that arduous task. She mastered the art of doing more with very less and I have grown up observing her demonstrate Conserve, Contain, Collaborate (3Cs) effortlessly to meet different needs. For her, reduce and reuse (2Rs) were inherent mantras with nothing to recycle. Our garden served as the great compost if we had any to recycle. Her strategy was to invest in quality education towards her three girl children and her tactical ways were full-filling those various daily needs of us.
She became the well-sought “Inclusion and Diversity Officer” in our community by spearheading the women forum and promoting local talent. As the lead fund-raiser for the temple expansion and renovation, she teamed up with her friend and reached out to every single home in the community keeping an excellent ledger of accounts. When there was a shortage to achieve their lofty goal, undeterred, the duo strategized and negotiated with the near-by small and medium business owners. On several instances, she fell sick and had to be on glucose trips at the hospital to get her going but she was always available for us when we were home. Through these and many such occasions, she demonstrated how to influence without authority, drive towards win-win results with strong collaboration.
She was a mother not only for us but also for our friends, especially those that stayed at the hostel. She was a compassionate mother to the villagers nearby, to the birds that got the first-feed of her daily cooked meal, to the animals that she fostered including many cows. It was an interesting daily ritual to observe these cows come home, calling for her as “Maa” and refusing to leave our place until she offered them. She inconspicuously saved up food for all. How she managed under a tight budget remains a mystery!
She has always exhibited wisdom, level-headedness and resilience to take on any adversity at her stride with a curios smile on her face. I thank my mom for being a true leader and instilling many important values in me. Her most popular quote “The Ocean will never stop its waves” is something I hold-on tightly as I continue to overcome life’s many challenges and learn to live in the present further.