There is something very special about a mother-child relationship. To me, ‘ammi’ meant the world. She nurtured me in her own unique way. We still share a special bond which only I could feel and understand. Although she breathed her last more than a decade ago and sadly on my birthday, she has continued to be my north star. Over these years that she has not been around in person, our relationship has only grown stronger in my memories, values and actions.

She rightly fitted the description of a simple, humbly educated, middle-class homemaker who would not catch your attention at first glance. But beneath her unassuming appearance, thrived her genius. Her effortless ability to laugh heartily and cry empathetically always moved me. She was unaltered and unaffected by the “do’s and don’ts” of so-called social adeptness. She put up a resolute fight with her lifelong ailment and continued to smile through her pains. Her incorrigible optimism and ability to find opportunity in every adversity was infectiously reassuring. She grew up in a very traditional and conservative environment and yet possessed extraordinary wisdom and progressive vision.

She is the biggest human influence on me. We share a special relationship no different from any other mother and child but what makes it unique is the versatility of our relationship. There has been nothing out of bounds between the two of us. I could discuss, debate or confide anything in her. I also grew up in a traditional, religious Muslim family where offering prayers, keeping fasts, reciting Quran were all given. She wouldn’t cook during Ramadan and I had no choice but to fast. She’d say “what needs to be done, has to be done, no debates. Period.” In spite of such an unquestioning belief towards our religion, I once in my adolescence asked her the most blasphemous question “Ammi, does Allah really exist?” She reacted in the most unthinkable way with her gracious smile and told me “Go find out and if you do, please let me know too.” She just made religion and faith so uncomplicated for me. My faith has since then stayed with me without any conflicts, never with a sense of obligation but as a sense of being. Some years ago, when I was fasting for Ramadan which is mostly during summers, a friend enquired “How do you manage your faith and your corporate lifestyle together?” My intuitive reply was “If our faith and lifestyle can’t go together, there’s something wrong with one, we need to figure out which one?”

She and I spent our best times together as friends, as mother and child, and two humans just immensely in love with each other. Her passionate curiosity to learn new things turned me into a lifetime learner. She taught me to process things with objectivity and to be alive to my surroundings both good and bad. Most importantly, she taught me the extremities of love; that love gives us strength and makes us vulnerable, inspires us to scale mountains and yet leaves us helpless, makes us a dreamer and yet gives us nightmares. She helped me discover and experience love. She allowed me my solitude and provided me company when I needed that the most. She told me it was okay to have self-doubts and helped me grow over them. She steered me in my moments of weakness and yet provided me the freedom to fail.

It was for her I learned to be at peace with myself, accept my failures and outwardly limited success. Coming from a family of engineers, I never made it to an engineering college and it was a big deal. The closest I got was to qualify the written test of Aligarh Muslim University’s engineering. I got rejected in my interview. One of the interviewers asked me specifically about my brother who was a student leader in the engineering college. He with his friends organised the longest students’ strike to the dismay of many teachers and administrators. I didn’t make it to the final list and conveniently credited my rejection to my brother’s conduct in the college. I told her “if not for bhaiyya’s doing, I would have made it.” She returned “You didn’t fail that interview but you are failing now, when you seek an excuse to blame someone else, you lose it then.” I learned to own my failures more than my successes, a learning that never failed me again.

As I reflect on the time and moments spent with her, I only wish she was around for a little more…

Ishteyaque Amjad is Vice-President Public Affairs and Communications, Coca-Cola India