It’s my Mum’s birthday today! I’ve been racking my brains for the past two weeks trying to come up with some sort of surprise for her, something that she would like, some kind of special gift to thank her for all that she’s done for me! The problem is that there’s no gift in this world that can truly equal the gift she has given me – pure love! The least I can do is try and put into words everything I’ve left unsaid for all these years. So here goes…

Dearest Mum,

Many Many … Many Happy Returns of the Day!!!

I’ve addressed you as Mum simply because it’s the convention. Basically, you’re my first and most loyal best friend! I can’t remember even one single moment when we’ve been anything else! You and I have always been the same age, no matter whether I was a toddler, an infant, or a teenager!

I still remember how you used to read out stories to me when I myself hadn’t learned to read. “The Blue Handkerchief”, the story with that line, “green apples never turn red!”, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves… All these stories came alive for me and drew me into their own world when you read them aloud! Even more memorable are the times we both enjoyed reading stories you yourself used to enjoy reading as a child, the books you’ve treasured for all these years and kept with so much love and care! I am, indeed, talking about the story of Petunia Pig baking a carrot cake and the book of tales by Lucy Atwell – how many times we must’ve read the stories about the pixie who got stuck in the glue he stole, the piglets who ran away from home and were tracked down by an owl (always enjoying the “Too-whit-too” part!), the lady-frog who used to apply powder to her face (“Is her powder water-proof?”, I would ask!) and wore a huge hair-pin and how they used a bucket as a sort of elevator; the one about Nobbety the elf who got chilblains and the spider who wove a beautiful winter cap for him; the one about the girl who goes skating on a tea-tray and the one about the children who have a dream in which they get music lessons from a nightingale (especially the part about the owlets who are told that they ought to be attending “hooting lessons”!). Your eyes used to sparkle just as much as mine would when we plunged into these fantasies! We used to extend the stories sometimes, make up our own sub-plots and sometimes our own endings! My imagination developed to a great extent due to this!

When I got a little older you introduced me to all the Enid Blyton books. The St. Clare’s series, the Malory Towers series, the Famous Five series, the Five Find Outers series, the Secret Seven series… I devoured them all because you described them to me so enthusiastically and infused in me a love for such beautiful books! You became a young girl with me as I read and excitedly recounted to you the tales of midnight feasts and tricks played on poor Mam’zelle and picnics on moors when people drank lemonade and ate scones and shortbread! You introduced me to Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and later on to all the books by Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer. And when I discovered the treasure trove of Jacqueline Wilson’s writing and the Harry Potter series, you were an eager sharer of the bounty! The very fact that you love Nick Sharratt’s illustrations just as much as I do shows how you’ve always kept the child in you alive, and indirectly encouraged everyone in the family to do the same! Even now, we are book-buddies, always introducing each other to new works of literature we come across!

Books definitely have been a major constituent of the bond between us. But just as much special to me is the way you developed in me a love for studying! The way you used to teach me English, Marathi and Hindi, showing me how to appreciate good prose and poetry, guiding me in developing my vocabulary, gently correcting my spelling mistakes and making grammar fun by setting me quizzes and giving me huge stars when I got the answers right! You showed me how interesting and fun Science is through easy and small-scale exposure to practical aspects of whatever I’d learned. You even made boring subjects like History and Geography fun by developing games which helped me to memorize all the dates and the data! Your creativity and your talent for finding unique and interesting solutions to problems inspire me and always will! Also, your ability to remember so many things, store so many memories, right down to the trivial details which we’ve long since forgotten! I like the way you try to preserve the good moments we share in your ‘mind palace’! You developed a taste for dance in me. Most importantly, you taught me to enjoy and appreciate the small, insignificant things in life which can bring a smile to your face if only one bothers to look at them; things like a cat sleeping snugly on the parking wall, a frog swimming in a puddle, a perfectly round, O-shaped rubber band, cute erasers shaped like slippers, a tiny, well-formed button-rose… These things thrill you and in turn thrill me!

What I love the most about you, though, is your caring nature! 24×7, 365 days a year, your only thought is that your family members should lead a healthy and happy life! You’re always on the lookout for ways to enhance our life! You sometimes nag at us, shout, scold and stop talking to us if we don’t listen to you, everything with just one thing at heart – our well-being! So strong is your will-power regarding your family’s happiness! You sometimes ignore your own health and happiness when you’re pursuing novel ways to bring us joy and comfort! I wish you wouldn’t do that! Your happiness is our happiness, dearest Mum! Your smiling face brightens our darkest, dullest days! I know that current circumstances make you feel unhappy, frustrated and depressed. This is a tough time for you. However, there’s a beautiful line, “This too shall pass!” which I really feel you should tell yourself everyday! Trust me, we will find a way out of this miserable phase! You’re the rock we all lean on and we won’t let our precious rock disintegrate, no matter what!

I love you Mum, not just because you’re my mother but because you’re a wonderful person, a wonderful human-being! No matter which role – mother, daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law – you’re the best version of that relation! I hope I can be the same sort of lady as you are!

Once again, wishing you a Happy Birthday my friend, my teacher, my guide and my inspiration!

Your loving daughter,

Aarti

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