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A mothers love, p.1
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       A Mother's Love, p.1

           Sudha Murty
A Mother's Love


  The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk

  Life Stories from Here and There



  About the Author



  A Mother’s Love

  Copyright Page



  Sudha Murty was born in 1950 in Shiggaon in north Karnataka. She did her MTech in computer science, and is now the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. A prolific writer in English and Kannada, she has written novels, technical books, travelogues, collections of short stories and non-fiction pieces and four books for children.

  Her books have been translated into all major Indian languages and have sold over four lakh copies around the country. She was the recipient of the R.K. Narayan Award for Literature and the Padma Shri in 2006 and the Attimabbe Award from the government of Karnataka for excellence in Kannada literature in 2011.

  Also by the same author


  Dollar Bahu


  Gently Falls the Bakula


  Wise & Otherwise

  The Old Man and His God


  How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories

  The Magic Drum and Other Favourite Stories

  The Bird with Golden Wings: Stories of Wit and Magic

  Grandma’s Bag of Stories

  To Lakshmi, my new daughter

  and Rishi, my new son


  One may wonder why I am writing about the personal lives of many people who have confided in me about their problems. Isn’t it unethical to do so? However, most of the people I have written about requested me to change their names and use their problems as case studies. Some like Vishnu and Portado encouraged me to tell their stories so that others should not become like them. I thank all these people wholeheartedly and am grateful for their strength and kindness that has allowed me to share their stories with you.

  This is my fourth book of recollections of my experiences as a teacher, a writer and a social worker. I want to thank my new editor, Shrutkeerti Khurana, whose hard work has made an immense difference to this book. Her constant interaction with me made me think of some stories in a different way and also helped me look at things from a youngster’s point of view.

  I would also like to thank Udayan Mitra of Penguin Books for convincing me to bring out a new volume of my stories and thoughts.


  A Mother’s Love

  Mahanadi is a big river in Odisha and it is breathtaking to see the river in December. But if you want to see her anger, you should take an appointment with her in June, during the rainy season. Her colour is reddish-brown then and the river overflows every year. The poor people who live on the banks have to vacate their homes. The Mahanadi floods have become so common that rehabilitation is a mandatory agenda in Odisha’s budget.

  We were working in one of these flood-relief areas near Paradweep. The Infosys Foundation supports an orphanage meant for mentally and physically challenged children there.

  When I arrived in Bhubaneswar, our Foundation team leader said, ‘Let’s leave immediately for the spot.’

  I said, ‘Don’t be in a hurry. On the first day of such a disaster, more than victims, there are people such as newspaper reporters, TV crew, social workers and government officers hanging about. In the middle of this chaos, the progress of the relief work is very slow. There are already people there who are being rescued. We will go tomorrow. By that time, we will know what they have already received and what they really need. We should be prepared to look after ourselves with water and basic amenities and we must also carry vaccinations.’

  When we started the next day, I said, ‘Let’s take a jeep or minivan so that we can bring the children back. Please keep some quilts, biscuits and water bottles ready.’

  My new assistant, Varun, asked, ‘What do you mean?’

  I replied, ‘If we find some children, we have to bring them back and put them in the special needs children’s school.’

  ‘How do you know that you will get such children?’

  ‘From my experience.’

  He was genuinely puzzled. I explained, ‘During floods, poor people have to run away in minimum time with the maximum goods that are an asset to them. They take their clothes and money along with their healthy children. If they have challenged children, they leave them behind. So, in the course of relief work, we find such children and put them in the special needs residential school nearby. Sometimes, parents come back and take their children home. But sometimes, they don’t.’

  ‘How can you talk like this, madam?’ asked Varun, visibly shocked.

  ‘Try to understand the situation, Varun. If they don’t have any vehicle and they have to wait for these challenged children to come with them, they will lose everything including their own lives. It is not that they don’t love their children, but the extreme economic situation forces them to leave them behind. Be sympathetic to them.’

  ‘I don’t agree with you, madam. A mother’s love is the highest and most unconditional love in the world. She will sacrifice everything for her children.’

  ‘That may be true often, Varun, but don’t generalize about it,’ I said.

  We all went to work. When we came back that day, we had found four such children.

  That night, when we assembled, Varun asked me, ‘Madam, I am still confused about a mother’s love for her children. You must have worked in many places. Tell me your thoughts about this topic.’

  I said, ‘Come, sit next to me. I will share a few stories with you.’

  I began, ‘One day, I read a very funny report about how a mother chimpanzee behaves in adversity. This experiment was conducted a few years ago. A mother and a baby chimpanzee were kept in a big, empty and transparent glass tank with a closed glass ceiling. They were playing happily. After some time, the researchers started filling the tank with water. As the water level started increasing, the mother chimpanzee became alert, held the baby to her heart and started standing up and howling. She was upset and wanted to break the glass ceiling. Still, the water level continued to rise. She changed her position and kept the baby on one of her shoulders. Then, she kept moving the baby from one shoulder to another. But when the water level came up to her nose, she put the baby below her feet and tried to climb on the baby so that she could breathe. At this point, the researchers drained the water out. This experiment clearly shows that everyone loves his or her life more than anyone else’s. I was surprised by how any mother could do this. I reasoned that this may be true only for chimpanzees and may not be true for humans because, after all, we are more social animals and more culturally aware, or at least I hope so.’

  Varun said, ‘That is so interesting, madam. Tell me more.’

  I continued, ‘This next story is about Chatrapati Shivaji’s era. He was a great warrior, had extraordinary abilities and was a true patriot.

  ‘There was a young married woman called Hirakani who lived in a village near Raigarh, one of Shivaji’s forts. She was a milkmaid and supplied milk and milk products to the fort every day. The main door of the fort was known as Simha Dwaram and it was open from sunrise to sunset.

  ‘After some time, Hirakani gave birth to a baby. Every day, she continued to go to Shivaji’s fort and supply milk. She returned home before sunset because the gates of the fort closed at sunset and nobody was allowed to enter or leave the fort unless they took permission from the king himself.

  ‘One day, a soldier’s wife was in labour inside the fort and Hirakani went to help her. By the time the baby was born, it wa
s night and the doors had been closed. She begged the security guards at the fort gates to open a small slit so that she could go home and take care of her baby who had to be breastfed. There was nobody in the house to take care of the baby. She cried and cried but, even though they felt bad, the guards were afraid to open the doors because it was against the king’s orders.

  ‘Then Hirakani thought of an alternative way to reach her baby. The only other way to go home was to climb the hill and jump from there. She knew that she might survive because there was a meadow below with a stream. But she might also die or break her legs. But her motherly instincts did not allow her to sit quietly and do nothing.

  ‘Hirakani prayed to God and, gathering all her courage, she jumped. Luckily, she fell on a treetop and was able to climb down. Then, she went home, bruised but not badly injured.

  ‘The next morning, she carried milk and curd and entered the fort as usual. The guards were surprised to see her. They thought that she was already inside. They asked Hirakani, “How did you reach home safe and sound?”

  ‘She told them the whole episode. Then, she said, “The need of my child is more important than my life. After all, I am a mother. For a mother, the child is an extension of her body. No mother can live in peace when she knows that her child is in danger.”

  ‘She walked away as if nothing had happened.

  ‘Soon, news spread that there was a way to escape from the formidable fort, which worried Shivaji. But he knew that even the greatest warrior would think twice before jumping from the hilltop.

  ‘He called Hirakani and honoured her. He told her, “You have a great matra hridaya.” In her honour, one of the burjs of the fort was named Hirakani and it lasts even today.’

  I stopped and looked at Varun. ‘So, Varun, don’t generalize about anything,’ I said. ‘Decisions are taken depending on the circumstances, but still, I believe that a mother’s love is the most unconditional in the world.’


  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi 110 017, India

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

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  Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, Block D, Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North, Johannesburg 2193, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published in 'The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk' by Penguin Books India 2012

  Copyright © Sudha Murty 2012

  All rights reserved

  This digital edition of this story/essay published in 2013.

  e-ISBN: 978-93-5118-072-2



  Sudha Murty, A Mother's Love

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