I suppose membership in one’s “family” depends on the degree of engagement, the intensity of interaction, the craving for long periods of each other’s company, the desire to see contentment in each other’s life exercise, the eternal, unspoken invite to share mental , verbal and physical spaces, the joy and pain experienced firsthand when another suffers those phenomena firsthand, the unreflecting satisfaction or the desperate frustration felt when certain people involve their good and their bad in your ideas of your good and your bad. There are other factors, blood included, that contribute; but they are only peripheral dots of light that enhance the tone, color, contrast and brightness of the central illumination of the preceding factors.
My mother Indrani was a giver, in every sense of the word. Much of that giving was done through her work as a teacher. Unlike many who come under that label these days, she harkened back to the teacher of yore, encompassing her young charges in a warmth and love driven solely by a desire to see them through. As I was easing my way through the lower grades at Royal Junior School, she taught English language and literature to the senior students.
She was also the teacher in charge of the college DramSoc and it was here that I saw for the first time, that core group of boys that would become family to her. Through successive productions, these soon-to-be young men became the fulcrum upon which her life revolved and by extension, they became a major part of the lives of her biological children, us.
As they teamed up to produce the dramatic, the drama of their engagement with their teacher was surreptitiously creating that critical quantum of fulfillment for her, and a clearer idea of their individuality for themselves.
Such was the extent to which they swirled and whirled around her and hers that we found it impossible to gather round the piano in our home and sing “Will the circle be unbroken” without at least a few of those young men there to complete it. If at least one of them was not at our place, or coming to our place, or going to some place with our parents, or crashing at our place because it was just too late to go some other place, if at least one of them did not sit down with us to at least one meal each day, that day seemed to be missing something basic to our idea of family. They were! Either gradually or suddenly or eventually, depending on the personality of each. That was all there was and all there needed to be.
Named, in honor, by this, her blood, in no particular order, since order does not fathom the reason why water is as thick or thicker than blood, come Mohamed Jilla, Sasi Sasidharan, Gafoor, Dion Schoorman, Arjuna Parakrama, Tony Martin, Dayan Gomes, Mohamed Haseeb, Ravi Algama, Gerard Raymond, Rizvi Zaheed, Lalanath De Silva, Nilar, Arjuna Mahendran, Firdhouse (Firdie) Mohamed, Chippie Ranjithan, Chris Parakrama, who lit up her life as I never could.
Over the years, as she grew old and they grew older, as she waned in her body and they waxed in their minds, they tuned into her life and kept her alive and not simply living and for this, I am eternally grateful to those extraordinary men. As moments spark their names or rumor speaks of them, washed by gratitude am I for I tie them, forever, to my mother for whatever she gave them, they gave back a thousand times over.
Gave back, for that is what sons do. As they wrote in the souvenir for her one but last production at Royal College “Madam, we are all your sons”. It was the souvenir for the play “All her sons” with Arthur Miller in a supporting role, and, with that statement, they defined their engagement with her over the rest of her life and how they would help in the lighting of her life’s stage and giving credence to her particularly unordinary drama.
(for a better version of some of these events, read by brother’s piece at http://archives.dailynews.lk/2010/11/18/fea04.asp)