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This Tribute to a Teacher surrounded by Lawyers is written by AOR Jasmeet Singh and is an ode to his reverend mother, Late Mrs Jagjeet Kaur (27/05/1957 – 13/10/2021).
Tribute to a Teacher surrounded by Lawyers
“Rani”, is the Hindi translation of the word “queen”, and is also the name with which my mother, late Mrs Jagjeet Kaur Hura was fondly and popularly known as. I must confess, my heart just skipped a beat when I prefixed her name with “late”. Although she was born as the eldest child to a middle-class family in Siliguri, West Bengal, she was raised mostly at Jodhpur, Rajasthan, as the family shifted in search of better living.
Though the resources in the family were very limited, still she’d always proudly (sometimes arrogantly) flaunt the pampering with which she was raised. Two narrations, which I’ve heard at least a zillion times, that primarily define her childhood are:- firstly, my Nana Ji would start panicking at 3:31 pm if she was to return home at 3:30, and secondly, my Nani Ji (Of course, in her absence sometimes) would request neighbours to serve her cooked food, as she wouldn’t ever make her own plate. Millennial upbringing, I must say!!
As is the popular belief, a girl has two births (I feel a man too), her natural birth and her marriage. She got married to the eldest son (amongst 8 siblings) of a joint family at Beawar, Dist. Ajmer, Rajasthan, in the year 1984. Obviously, those weren’t the days when enquiries (a better word is investigation) qua arrange marriages were made through Facebook posts (sometimes hacks), Insta profiles or through common friends.
Those were the days when one was given about one hour of public meeting and 4-5 minutes of private chat, backed by inputs from a middleman, to choose your life companion. Just to put things straight, she married to a substantially varied family environment, in a smaller city, with the sky change in roles and responsibilities and after 37 years of marriage, she’d proudly say that she’d want the same husband and the same in-laws in her next births too.
Whilst my father was still struggling to find his feet professionally after marriage, as he tried his hands in working as a salesman, then a teacher, then opening a Kirana shop (Jimmy Fancy store), then tuitions and finally joining a chamber to practice law, our family expenses were increasing with every passing day, especially after my birth in 1985. So, my very own iron lady, my “mother India” decided to work and applied as a primary teacher with the Rajasthan State Government. Her first appointment was in a school situated in the village Jawaja, which is about 30 km from my hometown.
I’d request the readers to please visualise a life wherein your schedule is:- (a) getting up at 4 am after a multiple interrupted sleep to feed her son; (b) To do morning household chores, making breakfast, packing bags; (c) leaving home at 6 am, to catch a chockablock public bus to report duty at 7:30 am; (d) returning home at 2:30 pm and then ensuring that the household work is not affected by her job.
Let me write this again, a joint family size of more than a dozen, with she being the eldest (for a few years “only”) daughter in law. I am not trying to glorify or exaggerate her hard work at all here, in fact, I have only written a glimpse of what she actually did. It’s not just a saying that, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, it is, in fact, the mantra with which maa lived her life.
I and Maa had a common belief, and a very strong one too. A child is born with two bags, a bag full of happiness and a bag full of hardships. Generally, it’s your karma that decides the sequence of exhausting these bags. Some people finish off the happiness bag first and face their share of hardships later, and some people do it the other way round. Our family was no exception.
With our share of hardships, God also blessed us with our shares of smiles too. After almost a constant schedule for about 28 years, my mother took voluntary retirement in 2012, to “enjoy remaining years of her life” (as she would fondly say). It’s heartbreaking for us to accept that she took VRS from the world too, on the 13th of October, 2021, after losing to Interstitial lung disease.
My father is a lawyer, so am I, my wife, my sister and my brother in law. In fact, to not feel the odd one out, she enrolled herself for LLB at Bikaner University, in the year 2016, took a P.G. accommodation there, studied (made handwritten notes) and made friends, and had made plans to first become an Advocate and then an Advocate on Record. However, unfortunately, she had cold feet in the examination hall, her sugar levels dipped, and her blood pressure shot.
She dropped out after her first semester and I would keep making fun of this to say “law itni bhi asaan nahin hai”. In response, she used to say this quite often that, “main tum sab vakeelon ki judge hoon”.
Unfortunately, her courtroom has now moved to somewhere in heaven.
She left for her heavenly adobe with infinite teachings, memories, inspirations and experiences with us. A close friend (who also lost his mother, only physically, a few years ago) called me to say that he saw a dream where his mother was showing around places to my mom and that my mom looked content and happy.
I wish and pray that that’s how it is and that God gives her space in his feet. This tribute of my maa will be incomplete if I don’t write a few very personal anecdotes (and the lessons) for you all to know about my maa better:-
- Travel: Other than spending time with family, the next most satisfying thing for Maa was to travel. She travelled extensively post 50, and she travelled with a lot of enthusiasm. Even sitting on the ICU bed, she would fondly remember the funny incidents of travel like getting lost in Rohtang pass, a wave taking away her purse and mobile at Goa, celebrating birthdays at Leh etc. etc. She shared a few of these stories with the duty doctor too.
- Do the hard work, earn well and then do not hesitate to fulfil your desires:- She loved shopping, eating out and buying new furniture/curtains/artefacts, as well as phone/tablets. My father would sometimes find these to be unnecessary expenses, but she wouldn’t buzz and will definitely buy what she’d like. My father would generally tease her to say that she’d go to a shop twice (at least) to make any purchase, once to purchase, come home, have second thoughts, go back and then to do the exchange.
- When in Rome, be Romans:- She’d accompany me to watch Supreme Court proceedings, go shopping with my sister/wife, make new friends in new places, including some half her age, dance for my daughter and also attend the occasional “necessary and proper party” too. For a lady who without exception sleeps by 9:30 pm and gets up at 4 am, it must have been quite an effort to stay awake way past midnight for the family drives to India Gate, Gur wali chai at Chayos, and for late-night movie shows. She did it all, as she wanted to chill like the young generation.
- It’s your life, live it your way:- My maa had a beautiful trait. She would do what she wanted to do. She was inspired by Sadhguru and would get up before sunrise every day. She was fascinated by the likes, comments on Facebook and WhatsApp, and would circulate things in a “fastest finger first” manner. We would try and explain to her that “this is not cool”, but she would anyways do it. She agreed to not remove her oxygen mask for a second, provided she’s given access to home-cooked food (menu of her choice too), uninterrupted access to her visitors and of course, permission to use her tablet and phone. May be doctors allowed all of that knowing that the worst is around the corner, but still, she left a very strong story of inspiration even for them.
- Fight all struggles with a smile:- Life will always bring new challenges to you and she was definitely the one to fight it out with a smile. We used to feel, that with age, probably she has lost the vigour of taking problems heads-on. However, we were miserably wrong. On her last day, a few hours before leaving us, her saturation levels dipped to 40. There was a state of panic, I held her hand and asked her “Maa, ladd legi naa tu is se” and she replied with confidence, conviction and smile, “Haan.. Haan”. These words will give all of us immense strength and confidence all our life.
We feel you around us all the time Maa. Rock it up, over there too!!