Monday, December 5, 2011

Mother's SEVEN Golden Rules

Last week I met an elderly friend and well-wisher, after a gap of five years.   We talked about many thing and many other common friends.   He is a man who achieved many distinctions in his professional career amidst adverse and critical conditions.  Among his many achievements was a successful fight for getting a degree of respectability for people working with him and recognition from a tough management.  What struck me most was his eagerly looking forward to an urgent trip next month to his native place.   The journey would be quite long with more than twenty hours flying and ten hours thereafter by road, but he was looking forward to it with a great deal of enthusiasm.  "My Mother is there in my native town.  I have to touch her feet and seek her blessings",  he said with a boyish smile.  He is himself 75 years old and grandfather to three or four grandchildren.  How lucky a man, I wondered.  

Most people agree that to have parents with them for a long time is a big boon.  Very few may have some reservations on this.    Some unfortunate ones do not even remember the faces of their father or mother due to losing them at a tender age.  Some are fortunate to live with them during early years.  Very few have their parents alive till their own advanced age, like this lucky friend.   This incident brought up memories of my own mother.   I was also lucky enough to have our mother with us till I was forty years old.   Half of this period was spent in her direct care.  She herself lost her father when she was only seven years old.  Her two elder sisters were already married by that time and she was brought up by her widowed mother, along with her two younger brothers, during the difficult days of recession and drought.  Being from a village she could study only up to fourth standard and could read and write our mother tongue, Kannada.  She was initiated into taking care of young kids when she was herself a child, by being motherly to her two younger brothers.  Married very early, she took care of eight of us and led us along our lives in a way we cherish the upbringing.

Among the many lessons we learnt  from her was that formal education and knowledge were two different things.   She studied only up to fourth standard but was no less knowledgeable than people with college degrees.  She was well versed with our culture and had a through knowledge of our epics and stories.  She had a very rich voice and could sing for hours together.  She had a song to sing on every occasion, be it marriage or housewarming or naming ceremony or some other function.  Her singing would start with sunrise and continue with her daily chores side by side.  She had a different set of songs for each day of the week and song from any set was not repeated till the next week day.  Afternoons were reserved for reading from some books or singing from some epics.  She did not need a book or a pen but when she wrote letters, it was with a legible and neat handwriting.   She was available to her neighbors with a helping hand at all times of need.  Like most mothers, she had abundant patience but could be stern and tough when the the need arose.   She ran the family admirably during the critical years during World War II when my father was with the army and away in Burma.  

She had a set of rules to be followed at home.  They were golden rules. The rules were based on sound economic and moral principles.   No pressure or force was required to enforce them; they were automatically complied since they were fair and square.  First rule was that the use of bathroom and facilities at home should be regulated in accordance with the timings of persons going out for office or school.  Early goers get to use them first.  This way every one would have enough time to get ready and be on their way.  If some one still wanted early use, he should get up early and finish his requirements before others.  There could be exceptions but the general rule should be followed.  With a dozen persons at home, this was the easiest way to avoid friction and ensure fair treatment to all. 

Second rule was about serving food and drinks.  Food should be consumed when it is prepared and ready.   If anybody wants to take bath and say prayers before breakfast, it should be done before being called upon to take breakfast.  Kitchen head had to serve many persons and statements like "I have not yet taken bath or I will have it later" were not acceptable.

Third rule was about complaint about items prepared.  When there are so many people around and many items prepared, one may like some and may not like some others.  "Eat two spoons more of what you like and two spoons less of what you do not like", she would say.  It is difficult for a kitchen head to procure various items required, prepare the items and serve so many people.  Availability of items depends on seasonality also.  The difficult task of the person running the kitchen should not be rendered even more difficult by wild behavior and complaints.  Of course, with the variety of items she would provide there could be no complaints about quality or quantity.   Never.

Fourth rule was about the order of consumption.   Those were the days of  "No electricity and no refrigerators".  Monsoon months would be difficult as supply of items were disrupted for days together.  Items like Pickles and pappad were generally reserved for the tough monsoon months.   On regular days they should be resorted to only when other items were not available.  There was no point in wasting pickles or pappad when three or four other items are available.  "What will you do when it is raining continuously and vegetables and curds are not available?", she would ask.  If some one asked for them on a regular day, he or she would still get it.  But the rule will be reminded gently.

Fifth rule was about having breakfast, lunch or supper together.  As far as possible, all persons present at home should have food together.   This would render kitchen management easier and provide some rest for the kitchen incharge.  If the item being served is like Dosa or Rotti, made one at a time, the youngest will eat first followed by others in that order.  Exchange of order of serving by mutual consent was permitted, but the preparation should go uninterrupted.  There were no "switch on - switch off" stoves in those days and cooking was on firewood ovens.

Sixth rule was to be followed when visiting a relative or friend.  The items served there may not be to our liking.  But complaints should not be made.   "We do not know what constraints they had.  We should not embarrass them.   If you do not like something, eat it like medicine and manage",  she would say.

Seventh rule was about appropriation of resources in the family to match the needs of all family members.   Resources will be applied to meet the needs of the person whose need is the most and urgent.  Others will follow in the order of urgency of needs.  Or resources will be shared if all the needs are equal.  Needs of the younger and sick would override those of other members in the family.   She did not have any needs for herself.

Then there was a philosophy of life, which was somewhat universal.  "We should not trouble others.  We should not be troubled by others.  We should not be troubled by ourselves as well!"

All mothers may have had similar rules.   That is how they were able to manage large families over the years with limited resources and saw us through difficult times.   


  1. This was a very nice piece mava, I remember hearing something similar from appa about how his grandmother managed the house in their town

  2. Wow. Wonderful writing. I have grown-up listening to my mother and grand-mother iterating some of these rules very often. Simple and yet powerful.

    I am slowly getting addicted to your writing :). They are reeally refreshing. Please continue to write.

  3. Ajji was special, indeed. The sixth rule is a golden one and I live by it! Nice post.

  4. Dear Sirji,
    this story has reminded me of our house, wherein we were 12 children at our home,( 6 brothers and 6 sisters) alongwith our two uncles, two grandmothers in our childhood days, these types of rules were framed by my grandmother to run the family. kudos to you. all your writings with sanskrit slokas / Geetha anecdotes are very interesting and how much effort you have put in to remember those things. thanks for opening our eyes & ears to keep up values, cultures etc., which is slowly dying.

  5. Great! I think you have imbibed the art of telling stories from your mother.



  6. Great story.I can now see how, you are bestowed with such great skills and goodness of heart.It has come from your mother.My Salute to the soul and congratulations to you for being such a wonderful writer.

  7. Really Golden Rules.....

    R Jagannathan

  8. Our grandmothers were excellent managers even without the fabled management degrees from premier institutions. The present day MBA degree holder could take a leaf or two out of their books. Running a kitchen or a household on a shoestring budget without ever complaining of lack of resources, is a lesson we would do well to learn from them

  9. Yes sir definitely. Many houses were run and still running in the same fashion even today. But the other side of the story is nuclear families. Huge family incomes. Limited time away from job. Have changed these equations. Rules like those are still required, but with changed context of today's times.

  10. Be it old or of new generation...mothers will remain the same..of the same philosophy☺

  11. It was very interesting and also I could imagine your mother, they deserved management degrees how they could successfully manage big family with small income. Great mothers.