The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
With a heart like an ocean of love
- The author fondly remembers the matriarch

The writer describes how her mother Ambika Devi nurtured their large family of cousins and siblings

My mother Ambika Devi was an exceptional woman. Father was a busy man. So we practically grew up in the constant company of Mother.

As a child, I was very fond of playing with other children. And, like any other child, I never made a distinction while making friends.

My aunts were cautious about letting me make friends when I used to visit my village in south Kamrup. The fact that I belonged to a satradhikar family was important in their consideration.

But my mother never said a word about such things, never stopped me from making any friends as long as they were good friends. Our house in those days used to be filled with many people, mostly cousins and relatives who generally lived with us. It was a most unique character trait of our mother that she would take care of this huge household untiringly and ensured that each and every member of the house was properly taken care of. Never had I seen her making any distinction between her and othersí children. Some of my cousins lived and studied from our house. They all became successful later in life. Once Father brought a Bengal boy from Sylhet, Abinash Daitary, with him, and he began living with us, too. Soon, he became like our brother and an integral part of the family. He, too, grew up to be a successful man in life.

All of us used to sit and eat together and lived like a single family. Mother had a great role in creating this big family out of all us children and youths.

I feel only someone whose heart is an ocean of love can be so considerate and impartial in loving people. My mother was born in Sibsagar, the great capital of the Ahoms, who ruled Assam for 600 years from 1224. The Ahoms will originally a clan from upper Burma who crossed the Irrawady river and Patkai ranges and conquered vast parts of the Brahmaputra Valley and built up their vast Ahom empire. They sacrificed their own Tai language and accepted the Assamese language.

Mother used to take great pride in her distant lineage from Kashinath Phukan Bortamuli, a great historian and a very important minister in the court of the Ahom rulers.

I used to meet my maternal grandfather as a child whenever I visited Dibrugarh. The town was the centre of industry those days. Our grandfather was an epitome of courage and scholarship.

But I used to mostly find him working in his vegetable garden! Most of the time he was drunk! He ran a business in salt and shipping at Calcutta, but wasnít successful in his business. A handsome, alert man, he was known for his fearlessness even in front of the British sahibs. There were times when he openly displayed this attitude of his, not bothered whether it was an Indian or European he was talking to.

Email This Page