My father's pre-occupation with two jobs, one as teacher of English literature and the other as Chief Representative of the Oxford University Press, plus his love for books, left him little time to be with the family. My mother took it graciously and not only never complained about it, but did her best to compensate for father's non-availability by devoting all her time to running the house and raising her children, the way no other mother in the world would do better. Indeed, she was a perfect partner for my father by being opposite of him in many ways. As much my father liked to be left alone with his books, my mother loved to be in the midst of family members and her friends, both big in numbers. Her circle of friends spread from the elite of the society to its weakest sections, the later being her weakness. She not only liked their company better, but also felt happy caring for them. Her greatest happiness was hosting guests, friends and relatives, some coming from other cities and overstaying for weeks to enjoy her hospitality. It was God's grace, or my father's own way of expressing love for her and the family, that my mother was never ever short of money, whatever our extravagant needs be. She was spendthrift on herself too, but only to the extent that she would overspend on buying saris, so that she had plenty in surplus to give away to the needy friends from the neighborhood. Her only other expense on herself was going to movies, a must every Wednesday when it was 'Ladies Only' matinee in all theaters at half the normal rates. All her friends had open invitation to watch the latest movie, where she would not only buy them tickets but also treat them to sodas and snacks, which were sold by hawkers inside the hall during interval. Mother was a big movie buff and made me one too, as I was her constant companion till I was twelve years old: the age limit for allowing boys in the “Ladies Only” shows, if accompanied by a lady. She enjoyed all movies, musicals and mythological, comedies and tearjerker tragedies, with no exceptions. She had a few favorite stars whose movies she would never want to miss. She had even become a big fan of one particular star after seeing his super hit mythological, and must have seen that movie several times, taking a different friend on each repeat viewing. She could never have imagined then, even in her wildest imagination, that with a twist of fate, that very star would one day become her son-in-law.
Jeet, my wife, became my mother's best friend after our marriage, and a true follower of the traditions my mother believed in. Between the two of them, they had made the house look like a marriage home, where festivities and feeding never ended. During her last days when doctors had given up on her cancer, mother continued to have her high spirits intact. She asked me to bring packets of the finest sweets, and gave them to doctors, nurses and the hospital staff, as a parting gift from a grateful patient, whom they had taken care of so well. They had tears in their eyes, but smiled all the same, as they had never seen anyone celebrating life so beautifully till the end. Before she breathed her last, she kept holding Jeet's hand and spoke the last words, “Continue to keep the house always open for everyone to enjoy its hospitality, and always remember that God visited us disguised as a guest.”