Ms. Shobhana A. Sirur passed away 2 days ago. I don’t know how old she was, in her 70’s maybe? leaving behind Anand bappa and kids and grand kids and tons and tons of friends and relatives and acquaintances. I met her When I moved to Bangalore for my first job. I was in a working women’s hostel, Hating the curfew and time restrictions, suspicions and general nonsense that goes on in those places in the name of protecting grown adult women. I was actively looking to move out, rent a room and all I wanted was a place to sleep and a key of my own and no one to question me. Towards that end I answered newspaper ads and contacted anyone who could even remotely help me. My dad’s friend A Aunty got wind of this and one day out of the blue told me there was this couple in Malleshwaram who were willing to let out a room in their house and I should meet them. Initially I Balked, an older couple? they raised 3 daughters and they were all married? retired couple? eh didn’t exactly look like what I was searching, but A Aunty is my dad’s good friend and these were her relatives and I really really didn’t want word to reach Dad that I was rude to her. so I agreed to go and meet them.
That visit I entered to a full house. Bappa and amma were there with their oldest daughter, SIL and grandson and another friend I don’t remember, generally a melee with a table groaning with food and loud laughter. Sita Amma was the smiling little motherly figure who put me at ease, bappa was jovial and once he knew I was Tamil , decided to put his knowledge of Tamil to good use on me. Room was fine, has its own bath and best of all amma said she’s give me a door key. and then I saw a cockroach and I screamed, climbed the bed and shrieked , till amma came sprayed it and simply smiled.
That’s the image I have of her always – Acceptance and a smile. I don’t know why I stayed, but it was the best 3 years of my life. I also don’t know how she was to others this is just how she was to me.
I slowly learnt about them , their open mind, Hospitality , welcoming attitude and joy for life. Sita amma was active and enthusiastic and tolerated all my faults and my idiosyncrasies and without fail came knocking at my door at 8am every day trying to wake me, Every day I was late, rushing to work and every day she insisted I eat breakfast. With a smile. She was the one person I could never argue or be rude too, I could argue with Anand bappa ferociously but never her, simply because she nodded and listened and smiled .
One day she asked me if I wanted to go to Kanara club to play TT with her, me being the cocky 21-year-old looked at her and said with you, sure 🙂 and we went and I warmed up and couldn’t even connect with the ball, she thrashed me. All with a smile and words of encouragement, boy could she play, she took part in tournaments , this older lady with grey streaks smiling and decimating the youngsters. She was a joy to watch. She ran a Chaat shop and worked hard at it. Those 3 years passed in a blur, If I was sad she fed me ice creams, If I came home late she prodded me into letting her know and slowly I was telling her everything. We watched sa re ga ma together, commenting on the singers , I told her about the love letters I got. worries at work and nasty bosses. She teased me about R and asked me if I knew what I was doing 🙂
I had intended this to be just a room to rent and here I was a full integrated member of their family 🙂 shopped and went to exhibitions and the club with her and when I had a close accident they dragged me to the temple to give thanks 🙂 Chided me for my unhealthy eating habits and spent many a fine evening on the terrace with her. Telling her that the land they bought was mine, my future farmhouse 🙂
I got married and she came to the wedding and when I saw her leave I felt like sobbing , It was a chapter in my life that was over. She told me after the wedding while I was packing , worried and frantically searching for a night-gown – ‘ Why bother – A nightgown is to be kept nearby and used only in case of a fire ‘ 🙂 .
I met her a couple of times on my trips back home and last time I saw her in 2013 I took the brood along, We were visiting Bangalore for an evening , yes 1 evening at my BIL’s to see his new house and I insisted if we could meet just 1 person , it has to be them. They had never met my kids and I wanted them to. She greeted us with Idlis 🙂 and we chatted amidst jet lag and generally yawning , She showed me all her Tanjore paintings that she was learning, yep age never mattered I guess. When she was getting stuff out for dinner I went in with her to the kitchen and was complaining about how hard it was with Ms.A and asked her If she had so much trouble raising daughters . She smiled at me and said ‘ NO Not till you showed up ‘ and laughed. — That was Sita Amma, and I was her daughter , A daughter who is so far away and who mourns her unable to do anything from here and wishing I was with Anand bappa and everyone else. Talking about her and reminiscing but since I cannot, this is what I can do. A tribute to a beautiful woman, A lively human being, friend, wife, mom, artist, sportswomen and hostess who has left a void that can never be filled.
Rest in Peace Sita Amma and I know you are having a ball up there.