“Everyone who enters our house must be offered water, a cup of tea, and snacks. If it is lunch or dinner time, offer meals. Never differentiate, be it poor or rich, friend or enemy, someone you like or dislike, offer them the best fresh food you have. You will always be happy when you feed someone. Also, never even tell a beggar that you don’t have food, it is already humiliating for them to have to beg for food”, she taught us. She scrupulously followed it herself.
My mother, Dr. Usha Kalidas Deshpande, insisted that no one should ever be hungry.
In spite of herself being a fulltime professor who was much involved in teaching, whenever I returned from school, she was usually available to make hot fresh poli / chapattis and my favourite curries. Dinner, as a rule, was almost always made by her. She remembered the food choices of my father’s friends, their students, my friends etc., and often cooked something quickly for them to eat whenever they visited.
“A man who does not sometimes cook for his family cannot fully understand his woman”, she often said. My father fully supported her views and sincerely attempted to cook till we all told him that he can instead take us to a hotel. He was happy, and so were we! (Although he made delicious omelettes!)
Mom taught me to cook too, right from making chapattis (of course the first few I made were disco chapattis). This immensely helped me in later life as a single parent, as I could often cook things that my kids liked (at least the poor boys said so then). Needless to say, we follow the food / host rules set by mom at our home even today. I loved the “Poli / Chapatti / Paratha” made by her so much, that when she passed away, gave up eating these.
Today is her birth anniversary.
Every year that she was alive, I had asked her “What would you like for a birthday gift?”. From the time that my salary was 1250 INR per month as an intern till two years ago when I could get her anything she could wish, her answer never changed: “I have everything, what else can I want?” with a smile! She was never fond of any jewellery, luxury or show off, so we always wondered what to gift her. Now after she has left us, we have finally found the right gift for her.
We (my sister and myself) have decided to start a new tradition in our mother’s memory: annadaan / food donation, whereby at least one hundred people will be served complete meals on this date at a center near Pune.. My children have gladly agreed to continue this tradition after me. Anyone from any religion / caste / age will be served, the only preference will be for the really poor and sick.
It is said that one should never speak about anything that one does for anyone else. I am guilty of that crime here, but the only reason to write all this is: most of the mothers feed their children along with their friends too with this same love. If this motherly bliss is passed on, also including those who really need to eat well, those who do not get to taste a complete meal every day, it will be a real tribute to one’s mother and a tiny return of what we received from her. One can of course always choose the form in which to remember one’s mother, I have chosen this, and felt like sharing it for my close ones as well as for those who knew my “Annapoorna” mother, Dr. Usha Kalidas Deshpande.
Dr. Rajas Deshpande
16th May 2017