My mother is a serial entrepreneur

The maternal relative never ceases to amaze me. Not a week goes by when she has not come up with a bright new idea that sets her buzzing with adrenaline and leaves me quavering in a corner, from simply listening to her grand new plans.

“Do you know of any builder,” she asked me rather casually the other day. She might not know I know this, but the moment she goes all casual on me I know she is up to some mischief and my antenna goes up, dreading that which lies the corner.

“No. Why?” I said, equally casual, refusing to make eye contact.

She is quiet a moment, obviously taken aback at my monosyllabic answer; I could almost hear her brain scrambling to find another way to ambush me.

“Oh! You usually know everyone because of your media job. I’m sure you can find somebody for me.” She was standing with her back to me, dishing up one of her divine meals at the kitchen platform, but I knew she is laughing to herself for having caught me by the seat of my pants here. No use pretending to be reading the paper. I better bell this cat now, I thought to myself.

“Why do you need a builder? Are you planning to buy a house?”

“No. I want an apartment for myself. I am hoping that the builder you find will be able to use my plot of land to construct a building and give me a nice apartment in return.”

If I could fall off the sofa, I would have. This is the fruitiest idea I had heard from her in the recent times. Just for some perspective, she turned seventy this month and has been living with my younger sibling since we lost our father last year. The plot under discussion is somewhere in the middle of nowhere between Mumbai and Lonavala and there is no way she can go live there by herself, builder or no builder.

I think I went slack -jawed a bit at her googly and she was not amused. “Why, don’t you think that plot of land is nice? Don’t even think of dissuading me from staying on my own there. I am only70, not 100. If you don’t find me a builder, don’t think it will dissuade me from getting one on my own. In fact, if you can find someone who will build us a house on this plot, we can all live there happily. Each one of you will have a separate unit and we all get together for fun in the common areas,” she says.

I goggle at the prospect of living in close proximity with the rest of the clan. We are not easy people to live with. In fact, I am convinced we are a crazy lot of women in the family, each with determination enough to drive anyone round the bend, thanks to our endless need to do things. The male members of the family-our brother, our 3 husbands, and 2 sons, will probably need therapy in a few years because of having to deal with progesterone enough to light up a village.

But that is another story. I needed to nip this in the bud. Enough of this living alone or community living ideas.

“Amma, you know better than to say you will live alone in the middle of nowhere. And no, I don’t think any of us can leave our careers and community live in the wild. So please stop this topic right now.”

If there is one thing Mama bear won’t take lightly,it is being talked down to. “It is a pity you did not learn some manners. In our childhood we did not talk to our parents in this manner. Besides, you are the one who is constantly writing about the journeys of women and telling other women to follow their dreams. This is my dream. I want a house of my own. I want to set up a meals-from-home business and be able to fend for myself. You are the one who is forever saying that it is never too late to follow your dream.”

I began to protest but knew that what she said is valid. Everyone has the right to have a dream. Dreams are what make our lives liveable. To be able to wake up every day and look forward to doing that one thing that lights your fire is a great life. She never got the chance, our amma, because she spent her entire life raising her four kids and setting them off on their individual journeys.

But there is no way you can keep a strong woman from following her heart. Amma is only just beginning to follow her dreams. A few years ago, armed with just a few dozen lemons from her backyard, a kilo of sugar, a few plastic bottles and oodles of passion, she set up her homemade lemonade business. We watched in amazement as the plastic bottles flew off her kitchen counter faster than she could replenish them. Amma chuckled when we showed her text messages from our friends who had relished her nimbu pani and wanted more.

“Now I want to sell some pickle,” she said, rubbing her hands in anticipation, even as we rolled our collective eyes. We knew the drill: Someone is bullied to clamber up into the attic to pull out the earthen ware bharnis, she goes to the market to pick up 3 kgs of baby raw mangoes for the pickle and returns with 15kgs , someone  else is  then despatched to get a few bharnis more and by the time that someone is back, the kitchen looks like a tsunami has hit it but hey presto, the pickles are ready and amma is fast asleep on the living room sofa.

She is away in Kerala just now, enjoying her ancestral home but while there, she is busy preparing for another fledgling enterprise: a couple of years ago she decided that the family needed to consume pure coconut oil and not the one that comes out of plastic bottles that superstar heroines promote. Amma uses the coconuts grown in our farm to get virgin coconut oil pressed from the neighbourhood oil mill. She packs them with care and despatches it to her children. “There is nothing that coconut and coconut oil cannot cure,” she tells me emphatically when I protest that coconut oil is too fatty to be consumed regularly.

She called last night and something in her voice told me enterprise number N was on the anvil. “What is this home stay thing? Someone said you can convert your home into a home stay… I was thinking we could turn this house into one… please find out how to do it.”

I collapse on the sofa, tearing my hair.

On second thoughts, I know from where her three daughters get all their determination and passion.

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