This is my mother's story.
She is a remarkable woman who has led a remarkable life.
Her name is Shashikala Madhav Bhagwat. We call her Ai. Ai is now ninety seven years old. At seventy five pounds, she is small and frail, she depends on people to take care of her. Her mind is still very sharp, and her zest for life still in tact. When she is in India, she still enjoys a play, a movie, a lecture, a political talk show on TV. She savors a good meal with relish, which she critiques like a magazine foodie. She loves visits from friends and well wishers. She is curious about everything. She loves gossip. She is always ready to travel.
She does not have a sense of style, but loves to wear colorful sarees that were in fashion fifty years ago. Yes, I believe even now she is more interested in living a full life than many people much younger than her!
For sure, my mother is just a regular person. She not a poet nor an author, not a scientist nor an entrepreneur. At four foot ten, she never had an imposing physical presence. She has all the failings of a normal human being, she is loving yet sometimes unforgiving, demanding, critical and often stubborn. Her words sometimes have sharp edges, a trait that is particularly hard for her caregivers to cope with. I look at her frail frame now, mostly skin and bones, unable to use that strongest arrow in her quiver, her iron will, it is easy to forget what a force of personality she was in her time.
She has defied tradition, overcome difficulties, fought for her beliefs and, with her random acts of kindness, has touched so many lives that her story needs to be told. Not just to celebrate her life while she is still thriving, but to tell many people who may or may not know that their lives have been affected because of her actions, some of them would not even be on the face of this earth had it not been for her.