She has always lived her life on her terms.

Smilingly sailed through adverse conditions.

Accepted challenges head-on.

Never let tears defeat her cheerful disposition.

She has witnessed eighty-four springs in her life.

And desires to see many more seasons.

I am talking about my mother, Mrs. Kalpana Rani Verma, who was born to Sh. Sohan Lal and Smt. Vidyawati Rajput on April 4, 1939, in Kapurthala, Punjab, as their second eldest child among eight siblings. Her father served in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Government of India. As a result, her early childhood was spent in Shimla and Kolkata. Her memories of childhood include breathtaking views of unexploited Shimla hills, the Kali puja, and bombings over Kolkata city by the Japanese forces during World War II. She still remembers surviving on boiled potatoes for days during those times. After the family shifted to Delhi in 1946, she grew up being a part of children's rallies during the Quit India Movement and Mahatma Gandhi’s prayer meetings along with her siblings, watching Indira Gandhi grow up along with them and Jawaharlal Nehru and others discussing strategies to free India from the clutches of the British government. Her innocent eyes witnessed the partition riots too. My heart shudders when she talks about those ghastly scenes of people being burned alive and scattered corpses. Theirs was a big family with limited income, so her mother too worked very hard to look after their needs.

She got her early education in a school in present-day Karol Bagh, Delhi, and was pursuing graduation, when she got married to my father Sh. Mohan Lal Verma, in 1962, who was working with the Indian Railways and posted in a small town in Gujarat. Despite being brought up in a big city, she tried adjusting to an altogether different lifestyle there, and from a big joint family, she happily amalgamated into a family of just three members, herself, her husband, and her mother-in-law.

She was very happy. What more could she desire after being bestowed with a loving husband and a caring mother-in-law? She practically didn't have much to do and hence utilized her time learning crochet and other handicrafts from local ladies. She enjoyed a beautiful relationship with her MIL until her MIL developed post-traumatic stress disorder during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, lost her senses, and became completely dependent on her.

As time elapsed, her happiness turned into depression, as she couldn't conceive even after going through various medical procedures, before being blessed with happiness again in the form of a daughter, that is, me, in 1978, after which she led a wonderful life until 1989, when twin tragedies struck us head-on. My grandmother expired on January 18, 1989, and exactly ten months later, on November 18, my father too left for his heavenly abode, reducing our happy family of four to just two.

She was shattered. She stayed at his place of posting till the formalities were completed before shifting to Delhi. Though she hesitated at first, after being persuaded by her brothers and well-wishers, she accepted the job offered by the railways on compassionate grounds. After staying for about two years with them, she purchased her house with whatever savings she had to provide me with an independent life. Her elder sister passed away some six months later. Her mother couldn’t bear this double trauma, was paralyzed, and remained bedridden till she passed away in 1992. We had just settled in when her health started deteriorating. We consulted many doctors, but her situation kept worsening. After various visits to the best experts, she was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis in her spine and was almost bedridden by then. No analgesic would heal her pain. She would cry inconsolably, but never before the world.

I was in the tenth grade at the time and was probably her biggest help and only concern. For about a year, she remained bedridden, but her undying spirit helped her get up once again, stronger than before. She resumed her job and worked until she finally retired in 1999. She always heartily became a part of society, on her terms, without ever caring about what people said about her.

Though she was a strict mother to me, I was always her prime focus. After my marriage in 2005, I initially visited her often, but as I got tangled in my own set of problems and responsibilities, the visits became less frequent. In her seventies by then, she thought about restarting afresh. She started pursuing her hobbies, with gardening being her favorite. On her small balcony, she grew different varieties of plants and nurtured them with love. She did all her chores herself, went for morning walks, and followed a strict healthy regime with a determination to stay healthy and independent until she could.

She had perhaps made up her mind not to let depression set in and to live her life her way. She learned share trading too at that age, bit by bit, which then became her favorite pastime. After finishing her work, she used to sit glued to the TV, watching CNBC 18 and other news channels and knowledgeable programs, her favorite being Indian politics. She energetically participated in all family functions, maintained cordial relations with both her in-laws and her maternal family, and successfully retained the status of a beloved Bahu even so many years after my father's demise. She supported me mentally and physically when I was facing recurrent pregnancy-related issues throughout my treatment period.

But we had never imagined that life was preparing to throw another challenge at us. She fell while alighting a train for Delhi from my place in January 2020. I immediately took her to the hospital. The X-rays confirmed a badly broken femur, and immediate surgery was advised. She stayed in the hospital for about a month until I could arrange an independent flat, as she couldn’t be shifted to my house due to movement and space restrictions.

There was more to it. She had just been discharged when the lockdown happened. Considering the complications an infection could result in, a physiotherapist couldn't be appointed to aid her, but that didn’t dampen her spirits.

Everything changed except her winning attitude. She tried hard all by herself, with some external help, of course, and started anew before shifting to Mumbai due to my husband's transfer and staying there for another six months, where she was a constant source of courage and inspiration to me when our whole family was battling the deadly delta variant of COVID and my husband was fighting COVID pneumonia in the hospital.

Fortunately, she stayed with a negative report all through, maybe due to her survival instincts and intention not to create further trouble.

She then planned to go back home to Delhi. Considering her age and the physical restrictions imposed due to the accident, everybody in our family was worried about how she would manage alone, but she was confident. She took it in stride and didn't let difficulties obstruct her independent life.

Slowly, she pulled her life back on track once again.

Though she is now in her eighties and her weak legs ask her to get some help, she still loves to be independent. She has once again started nurturing her plants and goes for her morning walks, though not regularly. She has started trading and happily calculates whatever small profits she earns as a byproduct of her favorite hobby and happily shares the details with me.

Whether it’s going to the bank, the market, or her hospital visits for regular checkups, she manages everything without fear. Her part-time maid accompanies her during these visits, but nothing more than that. Staying alone makes one upset. She too must have gotten upset many times in life, but she never let this emotion dominate her. She always smiles when asked about her well-being. She never bends her terms to gain relationships. Society sometimes calls her rigid, but she has her own thought process and style of living, and perhaps that is what keeps her going.

All that she desires is a regular phone call from me. She still has a spirit to live, to smile, and to inspire others with her words and support, at least mentally if not physically, in times of everyone's needs.

I pray to the Almighty to keep this spirit alive within her.


In your warm embrace, I grew up strong

Your angelic teachings

Made me a virtuous human

I can't return these debts ever

But will remain thankful forever

Dear Mom!