“Did Paati* have any other name in mind when she named you “Vidya”?”
(Paati = Grandmother in Tamil)
“Yep. I think she also had “Poornima” in mind”
“Because she thought I was as pretty as the full moon” (Grinning)
(Poornima = full moon)
“Mummy, you are!”
Some good natured nudging and punching later….a thought occurs to Vidur.
“So, then if your name was Poornima, how would Poornima aunty* call you?”
(Poornima aunty = my colleague at the Ethics committee I work with)
“I guess she’d call me Poornima”
“And how would you call Poornima aunty”
Elementary, my dear Watson. There’s more, though.
“Mummy, did Paati have any more choices in mind, other than “Vidya” and “Poornima””
“Dunno, Vidur. Maybe. Didn’t ask her”
“Why did she name you “Vidya”?”
“Because there was a movie called Dr.Vidya in 1962 and I think she fantasized about me becoming a doctor, too”
Some silence. Deep thought. Hoping to provide a satisfactory answer, I say,
“Another reason why I was named Vidya was because I was born on the day of the Saraswati Pooja during Navaratri – so they christened me Vidya Saraswati for the goddess of learning”
(Vidya means “knowledge”)
“I knew that, Mi. But why didn’t you become a doctor?”
“Because I didn’t want to.”
“Why?!? Didn’t you qualify in the entrance exams?”
“I did, Vidur. But I didn’t want to pay Rs.60,000/- in spite of qualifying and being entitled for a seat. We couldn’t afford it”
“Oh! Rs.60,000/- is a lot of money!”
“Yes. Back in the early ’80s, Rs.60,000 was equal to five years’ salary for Paati and I refused to let her spend it. It would mean we had to take a loan and continue to pay that off for the next God-knows-how-many years.”
“Mummy, didn’t you feel bad after that?”
“Yes, I did – but only because Paati felt bad. Seriously, I didn’t want to become a doc”
Some hugs. Some cuddling…and some calculations later…
“Mummy, that means Paati only earned Rs.1000/- a month!?!”
“Yes. And that came from three jobs. Rs.500 from the school she worked in from 7 am to 1 pm. Rs.300 from the afternoon shift at another school. And Rs.200/- from tutoring three students at their home.”
Vidur’s eyes fill with tears at this point. He’s silent.
More hugs and some quiet contemplation later…
“Mummy, Paati was great, no?”
“Indeed she was, Vidur. She suffered a lot, yet was very sweet and generous to everyone”
“Mummy, I will study very hard and do very well in school and college. I’ll always be a good person! I’ll take care of you like a queen!”
“I’ll also think twice before spending on anything. I’ll make sure I really need it, and not just want it!”
“Mummy, I’ll also try not to get bugged over little things”
My turn to cry now. Those were the very same words I told my Mom all the time. While I am not sure if I took care of Mom like a Queen – I had the joy of never being separated from her from the day I was born, until the day she died. We shared a lot of laughter and laughed through all the times we were broke. We were best friends. As I’ve said many times before, my Mom taught me many valuable lessons. And I am truly lucky that Sury and my mother also got along very well.
I remember making a vow to myself that I would never make my Mom spend on my education. I was lucky to get a “poor student” scholarship in college, which was converted into a “Merit scholarship” the next year. This paid me the princely sum of Rs.2000/- a year, which I saved in a bank account. I also taught French, Science and Math to a high school kid which earned me a whopping Rs. 500 a month.
Soon after I graduated in 1983 with a B.Sc. degree (majoring in Zoology, Botany and Chemistry), I enrolled for a Personal Secretaryship course. I was dumb enough to think Secretaries led a glamorous life. Got a job in 1984 and had the privilege of contributing to our family’s expenses. A few years later, I studied for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources and Marketing, followed by a Diploma in Training and Development from the Indian Society for Training and Development. I was keen on transitioning from sales and marketing into training as a career.
Life had other plans, though 🙂 because of my personal circumstances and priorities. Now, I earn my calories as a Freelance Writer and Blogger and love it.
I am grateful to life.
By the way, by today’s conversion, 1 USD = Indian Rupees.52.00.