Josna Rege

498. Remembering Mum on Mother’s Day

In Stories, Work, Family, women & gender, parenting, reflections, Aging on May 9, 2021 at 1:05 pm

                Mum’s bleeding hearts

On this glorious early-May Mother’s Day, I sit in bed with my second cup of tea, thinking of my mother, who passed away three years ago. Though she is still very much with me, I so miss the quality of her active presence in the world—my world. As I contemplate retirement and feel overwhelmed at the very thought of all that must be done to prepare for it, I think of Mum, who plunged into every task and saw it through with determination. She worked so hard to make life for our family easier than it had been for her and her brothers and sisters when they were growing up, and even when she could have sat back and rested on her laurels she couldn’t let go of the lifelong habit of hard work. The house my parents bought at retirement was the biggest one they had ever owned, but Mum never even considered hiring anyone to clean it. She did it all herself until Alzheimer’s Disease prevented her from doing it any longer.

Dad told me a story about Mum from the time when they were first courting. Visiting the flat that he shared with another bachelor, she was shocked at the state of it. She entreated Dad to let her clean it for him, and he eventually acquiesced, although he had some qualms about allowing his girlfriend to do such dirty work. But for Mum, work was never dirty, and cleanliness was next to godliness. Dad told me that when she was done he could hardly recognize the flat, sparkling clean; and his roommate was absolutely blown away when he returned.

Mum didn’t limit her cleaning to her boyfriend’s digs, but also took on his washing and ironing. Again, Dad said he made an effort to deter her, but I suspect it was a rather feeble effort, because he loved dressing well, and must have found it hard to maintain his own high standards in that tiny apartment in cold, damp, sunless London. He said that Mum took his shirts away with her and returned them to him spotlessly clean—washed, dried, aired, and ironed.

All this Dad told me in wistful tones, as if he hadn’t fully appreciated all Mum’s hard work through the years. Even as the Alzheimer’s took hold, she continued to try to clean the kitchen, tearing off strip after strip of paper towels and wiping down the countertops with an energy born of the frustration that she was unable to do more. At first Dad, thrifty as both our parents were, was annoyed by the number of paper towels Mum was wasting, until I pointed out to him that she was only trying to hold on to some remaining control in her own kitchen, most of which had been taken away from her. As was his way, Dad was instantly penitent, and never complained about the waste again.

Sadly, it wasn’t long before Mum couldn’t even wipe down the surfaces anymore, turning instead to untangling and smoothing down the fringes on the woven placemats as she sat at the dining-room table. For my part I remembered wistfully how, before Alzheimer’s, she would race to wash all the pots and pans before sitting down to dinner while we entreated her to join us so that we could begin our meal without guilt. She did this because she knew that after the evening meal was over and it was time to relax in the living room, she would instantly fall fast asleep, exhausted, even while her tea was still hot. For Mum was a lifelong early riser, who was up for hours before the rest of us even stirred in our beds. The only exception was Baby Nikhil, also an early riser in those days. Whenever we were staying over at our parents’ house, Grandma Gladys–or GG–would play with him energetically while I, never a morning person, took my own sweet time to get myself in gear.

Mum, detail from one of Dad’s paintings

So here I am, on yet another Mother’s Day, looking out at the garden and contemplating my To Do list. Thanks to dear Andrew I have now breakfasted and had both my morning cups of tea. The bird feeder and bird bath are full, freshly-potted marigolds glowing orange in the courtyard, and sunlight streaming in through all the new Spring greenery. Mum would have loved to sit out on the terrace with me underneath the umbrella, bird-watching or doing the Times crossword. To be honest, though, with the exception of her first cup of coffee at the crack of dawn when her mind was the sharpest and she would whizz through even the hardest crossword in record time, she never sat still until, perhaps, late afternoons in retirement. Then she would join Dad under the umbrella in the back garden, her flower garden in full bloom, enjoying a cold glass of her favorite Miller Lite and, finally, allowing herself to look upon her handiwork and see that it was good.

Here’s to you, Mum!

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297. Metamorphosis?

In Stories on April 16, 2021 at 2:45 pm

I have owned a so-called smartphone—or, perhaps more accurately, it has owned me—for more than six years now. I wrote this piece soon afterwards.

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(from (from

The other morning I woke up from a vivid but fragmentary nightmare which faded out of reach almost immediately, as dreams are wont to do. I tried to recover it so that I could set it down in words, but in vain, and so gave up on the effort; until now, when its implications have returned to me with renewed force.

In the dream I had awakened, like Gregor in Kafka’s haunting story, The Metamorphosis, to find my human body hardened into, or possibly, cocooned in, a non-human shell. But exactly a century after the publication of Kafka’s story, the horror was taking a new form. My non-human carapace was not the exoskeleton of an insect, but the casing of a so-called smartphone.

It had only been a month since my simple cell (mobile) phone had finally conked out and, after years of resistance, I had finally capitulated and joined…

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In Notes on April 11, 2021 at 11:14 am

I’m throwing in the towel, folks: no more anachronidioms. F is for Finished; or as my father used to say, “bas enough ho gaya!” Sorry for bailing out on you, fellow-bloggers. April is the cruellest month for academics and this one is shaping up to be a doozy. I’ve enjoyed the five entries I’ve written and, as usual, the exchanges with participants old and new, but have already fallen several entries behind and can’t see my way clear to catching up. Furthermore, at my age, burning the midnight oil too often is not advisable, and it’s starting to take its toll. So I’m drawing a line under this year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, with thanks to the tireless organizers.

All the best to everyone participating in the Challenge. As time permits, I will continue to visit the bloggers I’ve been following so far, including The Curry Apple Orchard, Time and Tide, Teerthadanam, Doses of Wild Yam, galeriaredelius, The Multicolored Diary, Panorama of the Mountains, and How Would You Know.

Just as a teaser, here are the topics I’d more-or-less projected for the rest of the month: Food and Drink, Greek (to me), Hierarchies, Indian English, Jargon, Kindling (and other fossil fuels), Love, My Generation, Numbers, Onomatopoeia, Peace, Quarantine, Reading, Shakespeare, Travel, Undercover, Violence, Work, Xerxes (and other kings), Yore (days of), and Zoos.

Signing off, but not altogether signing out.

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