The electric coffee percolator had just made an appearance in the Indian markets and I was yet to lay my eyes on one. My mom was waxing eloquent about it. "The coffee decoction comes down in a jiffy. It switches off automatically by itself. And, if you try to get more coffee out of it, it cleverly gives only plain water." The way she was describing it, it appeared as though there was a pixie sitting in it, monitoring the coffee-making and switching it off when done. If you tried to deceive it into giving more coffee, the pixie would thumb its nose at you, wag an admonishing finger and pour out straight water. Things always appeared more interesting than they really were when my mom described them.
She never lost the curiosity and enthusiasm that only children are reputed to possess. (In those days, children did possess curiosity and enthusiasm for other things than hand-held devices.) The world was always so much more fun when you saw it from her eyes. That, probably, is why she got along with children so well. She did not have to 'descend' to their level - she was always there.
Watching movies on TV - especially tragic movies - was great fun as a family. Any time a tearjerker scene appeared, all our heads would swivel to her as though they were marionettes operated by one string. She never disappointed - her eyes would shed copious tears, more than any heroine ever managed, without the benefit of any glycerin. Both when watching reel life or in real life, her tears were like summer showers - there for a moment and then cleared away by the blinding sun of her smile. In that as well she was more like a child - negative emotions were merely passing clouds and not an indelible stain in her mind.
When she first shifted to Delhi and stayed with me, her command over Hindi was shaky. One day, she came back, to take some money, proudly announcing how well she had bargained for something from a door-to-door salesman who had come next-door. "He was asking for 'Pacchees'. I stuck to 'Pachas' and got it for my price". When she went back to pay him, she realized that she had successfully bargained UP the price from twenty-five to fifty, while she thought she had done it the other way around. The ease with which she laughed at herself and retailed the story to everyone was a lesson to me.
I would have probably gone all red and would have glowered at anyone who dared mention the incident to anyone else, then or later. Hindu philosophy says that life is a process of ridding yourself of your ego AND psychology says that you start developing a sense of "I' some time after you are born. It always seemed to me like my mom did not see the point in first developing an ego and, then, spending a lifetime trying to rid yourself of it. So, she dispensed with the entire process by not developing one in the first place. If I find myself at all capable of laughing at my own follies - at least in retrospect and after a looong interval - it is probably thanks to her.
A lack of ego also meant that she could never maintain any anger or dislike for long. That, though, is a problem since most people do not bother to ensure that they do not hurt a person if they feel that there will be no consequences to it OR bother to do anything to please a person if they feel that they will have the goodwill of that person regardless. A problem for someone like me, maybe, but not for my mom. She liked people and gave little thought to what they thought of her. (An attitude that I have never been successful in fully imbibing, though I, too, am incapable of carrying grudges. Any negative emotion gives me a real headache and, till I shed it, I do not feel normal.)
When she was at the Adyar Cancer Institute being treated for Breast cancer in 1992-93, I could hardly expect to see her in her bed when I went there - except on the days she had chemotherapy. The doctors, there, could have been irregular in their rounds but my mom was regular as clockwork. She probably visited every patient there and tried to boost their spirits, so much so that most of them thought that she was a volunteer from some cancer support group and not a co-patient. Except on the days when the pain of the treatment got too much for her - when she merely remained silent - she still had as much zest for life and squeezed joy out of every moment. Courage, I then realized, did not lie in throwing out your chest and bellowing, "I will drink your blood" but in taking everything life can throw at you and still not lose your compassion, your affection for people and your zest for life.
It was only at the last in 1997, when the cancer had attacked her spine and left her paralyzed and bed-ridden, she started feeling like she was a burden on others and lost her zest for life. With that, she lost her will to live.
She left behind one ideal for me to strive to achieve. To live life as a child would live - with enthusiasm, curiosity, without letting the ego get in the way of relationships and taking joy in the moment.