jhaiji ed

OUR MOTHER, WHOM WE CALLED “Jhaiji”

Many years ago, I read a poem by Ogden Nash, of which an abridged version is given below:

One kind of person when catching a train, always wants to allow an hour to cover the ten-block trip to the terminus,
And the other kind looks at them as if they were verminous,
And the second kind says that five minutes is plenty and will even leave one minute over for buying the tickets,
And the first kind looks at them as if they had cerebral rickets.
And what the first kind, sitting uncomfortably in the waiting room while the train is made up in the yard, can never understand,
Is the injustice of the second kind’s reaching their seat, when the train moves out, just as they had planned,
Oh, the first kind always wants to start now and the second kind always wants to tarry,
Which wouldn’t make any difference, except that each other is what they always marry.

*

 

To me, it seemed that Ogden Nash had written it especially for our parents. They were poles apart. In the above piece, the difference in the behavior one kind and the other is limited to only one facet. Our parents, whom we addressed as ‘Pitaji’ and ‘Jhaiji’ were a study in contrast, in many ways. Pitaji was a man in a hurry, forever chasing his self assigned goals and objectives. He was an intense person: focused to the point of being ambitious. He was an achiever, in every sense of the term. Jhaiji, on the other hand was laid back, relaxed and content with her lot. She did her share of the domestic chores and having completed the task, she had time enough to prattle with her friends and neighbors. Pitaji was reserved to the extent of being a recluse. Jhaiji knew just about everyone in the neighborhood. Pitaji liked to dress well. For Jhaiji, clothes were a mere cover for the body. Pitaji kept an account of every penny spent, while Jhaiji took only as much money as was necessary for the daily needs. Pitaji wanted his sons to excel in studies, while Jhaiji kept snatching books from our hands and goaded us to go out and play. Pitaji was short tempered; forever on short fuse while Jhaiji had no temper at all. She was cool as a cucumber. Equanimity was the cornerstone of the edifice of her personality. Our parents were so different in so many ways, that they made an ideal set of parents, to bring up their brood of four sons. There was nothing special about the schools to which went, but we all did well enough to make it to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology. The older two brothers went to IIT Kharagpur and the younger two to IIT Delhi.

A great deal has been written about Pitaji, but there is very little mention of Jhaiji in print. I thought I would share an incident about her life, today. This is one of the several pieces are written by her sons and grand children, and I will upload more of them, when I am able to key them in.

*

 A Trespass Forgiven

Jhaiji treated the servants very kindly. For her, they were more like ‘companions’ than menial workers. She worked with them in the kitchen, and rarely said a harsh word. Consequently, no one ever left us. There was, however, one exception; Partap, whom Pitaji called ‘Partappa’. This little narrative is about him.

It was the beginning of the first winter after our independence, which we called ‘partition’. We had shifted from Jhelum to Meerut Cantonment and a very kindly Sub Area Commander had temporarily allotted a large house to Pitaji, so that he could provide shelter to his refugee relatives. Partap had recently joined us. The kitchen was located at some distance from the main building, so that the smoke emanating from the coal fire did not trouble us. Therefore, it was customary to employ a bearer to serve the food, since the cook could not deliver the ‘chapatis’ which were cooked when the food was consumed. The servants’ quarters were located about fifty yards away from the kitchen. During those days, even a junior officer could afford a retinue of six or seven servants, which included a sweeper, a washer man, and a gardener. Since most officers kept a cow or a buffalow and some dogs, a man was needed to look after the animals.

On that fateful night in November 1947, when we assembled for dinner, Partap did not show up. Consequently, the cook was running between the kitchen and the dining room with food. When Jhaiji enquired about him, she was told that he had suddenly taken ill. She was palpably concerned and wanted to check up on his health at once. But Pitaji had other things to worry about and chided her for being unduly attached with domestic help.

The dinner over, we retired to our respective bed rooms. We later learnt that Jhaiji warmed some milk for Partap and armed with a hurricane lamp, she headed for his room, all by herself. When there was no response to her knock at his door, she beckoned other servants. Her fear was that Partap’s condition may have taken a serious turn. The door was forced open, only to discover that Partap had bolted from the window at the other end of the room.

When Pitaji learned of this, his first reaction was to look for his purse, which had indeed been stolen, along with his Identity card, his wrist watch, and a costly fountain pen. It seems that he had drawn money from the bank on that day and Partap knew about it.

An emergency meeting of all adults was summoned and they were dispatched in different directions to apprehend Partap. The ‘operation’ was successful. Partap was found wrapped up in a blanket at the railway station, and when he saw our uncle, he started running away. But he was caught and confessed to his crime, at once. He had thrown the identity card in the hedge near the gate, and the rest of the booty was recovered from his person. It was well past mid-night by the time this process ended.

Partap was locked up in a room within the house, so that he could be handed over to the police, the next morning. But fate willed otherwise. Before the sun rose the next morning, Partap was gone. Jhaiji had opened the door, given him some money and asked vanish from Meerut. Her argument was that Partap was a mere child, who had sinned. He had sought forgiveness in all earnestness. Pitaji had recovered his valuables and therefore no damage had been done. She feared that the police would beat him mercilessly, and this delinquent child would turn into a hardened criminal. Since there was nothing more which could be done beyond saying a few unkind words to Jhaiji, no more was heard of this episode. Partap passed into the pages of our family history. For the sake of record, I may add that Jhaiji was merely 31 years old, then.

Over the years, I have sinned; and I have also been found out sometimes. Whenever I have apologized and sought atonement, I have been pardoned. Jhaiji forgave the trespass of somebody else’s son. The world has, in turn, been kind to her sinful and errant son!

  1. Maj Gen Gurdayal Singh says:

    My dear Surjit,

    As usual, how beautifully you have penned your heart felt love for your mother. Probably,this holds good for most of the mothers. Mother’s love and blessings are always with you as long as you are alive. Father is generally a disciplinarian to the extent that he is one man in this world who sincerely wants his children to beat him in their achievements .

    I have a different view about your father. As a cadet I still carry a great respect and regard for him. He was very soft-spoken, considerate , understanding and respectful to us, On the other hand,there were some colleagues of his who were very sarcastic and humiliating to cadets. Generally we used to go to him after a very strenuous outdoor period. Some cadets could not help dozing off in the cool classroom environments. He would just smile off and not disturb them.

    He was very compassionate too. There was a vacancy of a lab assistant under him. A Class fellow of mine ,a Bsc, came for interview. He selected him .But he also advised him that he should keep on searching for a better opportunity

    since job of a lab Assistant in IMA did not offer much career prospects. How many people would do that?

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Affable Gen Gurdayal,

      We are indebted to you for all the kind words you have said about Pitaji. Those who had the opportunity to serve with Pitaji, say similar things. And, indeed, all his students praise him for his professionalism and humane nature. When I got an opportunity to teach, I treated him as my role-model.
      At home, however, he had to perform the ‘balancing’ act. Jhai ji was detached to the point of saintliness. Had it not been for the discipline maintained by Pitaji, we would not have grown up the way we did. To Jhaiji, our performance in studies was of no consequence. I remember a day when my brother’s son won the gold medal for standing first in PEC Chandigarh. He was on cloud nine, and was showing off his medal to every one. When Jhaiji saw it, she was completely unmoved. In an absolutely stoic manner she said to him,

      “They give such medals every year, and this one had to be given to you this year. Thank the Lord, but do not let this little piece of metal elate you beyond a point!”

      From Jhaiji, we imbibed what is now called ‘emotional intelligence’ Pitaji, on the other hand was practical. The two of them complemented each other perfectly. We are equally indebted to both of them…and our elders like you.

      We are twice blessed; and more!

      Thanks for your message,
      Surjit

  2. Maj Gen Vijay Krishna says:

    Surjit Sir,

    Very Inspiring !
    Rgds , Vijay

  3. Maj Gen Samay Ram says:

    My Dear Surjit.

    How lucky were you all to have such a kind hearted mother. No wonder she passed away without any suffering.

    2. May GOD bless her soul. Regards.

    Maj Gen Samay Ram

  4. Zal Kabraji says:

    Dear General,

    Thanks for sharing this anecdote—most mothers have affection which has no bounds & yours was certainly one of them.

    May the good Lord always bless her great soul.

    Warm regards & best wishes,

    Zal Kabraji.

  5. Susheel P Harchandrai says:

    Hi uncle,
    Lovely email. Thanks for sharing. I can relate to this very well. Thanks Lots of loves and warm regards
    Susheel

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Susheel,
      I always feel very happy to hear from you. You and Chandni are very dear to us.
      Why don’t you plan a trip to Chandigarh?
      Surjit Uncle

  6. Lt Gen Jagdish Chander says:

    Hullo Sir,

    I could’nt hold myself back from saluting you for recalling this event so beautifully.

    It gets one moving, when one looks back on our elders and their simple but sincere ways of dealing with situations.

    with very warm regards,

    Jagdish

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Jagdish,
      You choose your words very well.
      I earnestly request you to write a piece for our blog…and do please embellish it with some pictures.
      How is my sister, Uma? She is the finest hostess I have ever met in my life!
      Regards,
      Surjit

  7. Lt Gen RK Gaur says:

    Thank you Surjit for a nostalgic write up on Mothers. I think everyone from our generation will identify Jhaiji as the Universal Mother. You have great talent for effective communication. You bring the subjects of your articles to life.
    You should now write as a whole time occupation. My compliments and my gratitude.

    Love

    RKG

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Affable General,

      Thanks for the kind words.
      The truth is that I wanted to take to writing when I was not yet a teen-ager. In fact, I began composing poems when I was in class VIII. I wanted to be a full time writer. During those days, writers, particularly poets were looked down upon. The film Pyasa which was released in 1957 had a profound influence on me.

      How my life turned a sharp turn is narrated in a story which is posted on our blog, the link to which is given below:

      http://amolak.in/web/five-golden-rules-by-prof-mohan-singh/

      Thanks you, once again. For whatever is left of my life, I intend to spend all my life on the computer keyboard.

      Regards,
      Surjit

  8. ABS Sidhu says:

    Thanks for sharing happy memories about your respected Mother . Her love and affection for the family can be seen in the way she brought up you four brothers ,
    who have done so well in life and made her proud . I also have similar experience of being brought up by very affectionate and loving Mother , who devoted her life in bringing up four of us , two brothers and two sisters, without caring for her comforts . Blessed are those who are lucky to have such lovable Mothers .

  9. KS Virk says:

    May God bless her soul.

  10. kulbir singh says:

    Sir,
    Incidentally we also addressed our late mother as Jhaiji. Coincidence.
    Kulbir

  11. Gulu Hora says:

    Delightful reading as always.Cheers and many thanks sir.

  12. Virinder lidder says:

    ou write wonderfully well sir.regards to your mothers departed soul.such gems are rare to find.

  13. pushpendra singh says:

    YOU are indeed blessed 1

  14. ravneet kaur says:

    Ssa uncle….
    It is so touching and beautifully written…the best post ever!!!!

  15. Ranjit Grewal says:

    Thanks My mother died in a similar manner. Sent my memories to 1993 May

  16. Vijay Krishna says:

    Very Inspiring !

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Thanks, Vijay.
      Do tell me all about your family. Where are the boys? And how is Mrs Vijay?
      And I am sanguine that the tachycardia has not bothered you after that ghastly incident.
      Surjit

  17. CK Sharma says:

    Beautifully told tale, sir!

  18. Susheel Prem Harchandrai says:

    Hi uncle,
    Lovely email. Thanks for sharing. I can relate to this very well. Thanks Lots of loves and warm regards
    Susheel

  19. zal kabraji says:

    Dear General,
    Thanks for sharing this anecdote—most mothers have affection which has no bounds & yours was certainly one of them.
    May the good Lord always bless her great soul.
    Warm regards & best wishes,
    Zal Kabraji.

  20. sundara rao says:

    Dear Surjit,

    Thanks for the msg. We offer our respect & salutations to yr Jhaiji.

    Sundara Rao

  21. Bhaskar GN says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  22. Durgashanker Nagda says:

    our mother was like a godess, Maj. Gen. Surjit Singh ji.

    Thanks for sharing.

    How much was she educated? Just curious.

  23. Saravjit says:

    Thank you very much for this very touching episode about your mother and her kindness towards Pratap.

  24. Vinod Tuli says:

    Too Sad General.
    May Her Soul Rest in Peace.

  25. Vinod kapoor says:

    It is indeed a wonderful soul in the garb of Jhaiji. She thought of the errant servant boy more than the ire of Pitaji.
    Her appreciation is beyond doubt a logical one..
    God bless the noble soul and May her soul RIP

  26. col m b jauhari says:

    Thanks for sharing,

    Reading the post, I think most of us would have turned emotional and would have remembered our respective set of parents. I think life was tough for fathers at that time. Families were usually large and most male heads not only looked after their wife and children but also parents brothers sisters and needy people in the immediate circle. As a rule people were honest and had limited means.

    Mothers were usually non working (Not employed for salary i mean) and were normally not involved in financial calculations or selection of subjects/course for the children. Their forte was efficiently running the household, looking after male head(Father) children and all guests, whether live in or visitors) were given special feeling of welcome. This rare breed of mothers was always a fountain head of love and even they were most compassionate to animals and birds.

    I can particularly relate to the post as we are 10 siblings, seven brothers and three sisters and our Parents almost identical replica of your venerable Pitaji and Jhaiji.

    Thanks again and regards to the blessed family.

  27. Lt Col H.S.Bedi says:

    A very touching account. I think most mothers are like that. It’s their motherly instinct. Thanks for sharing.

    Harindar

  28. Must make a power point presentation about her good qualities and share it in what’s app family group or Facebook , maybe instagram where next generation can see and experience the Powe of jhaiji

  29. RASHMI OBEROI says:

    ~ Beautiful piece Uncle. What a lovely emotional tribute. Thank you for sharing.

  30. SURENDRA says:

    Very well articulated, Sir, as usual. Touching too.

    Regards

  31. Jasdev says:

    Each time I read this short story , I learn something new .

    I can still feel the blessings Jhaiji gave me before I left for work at American Express that fateful day on 30 April 1997@ Lodhi Estate .

    I had started working only a couple of months earlier .

    As I came and touched her feet , she put her hand on my head, in a very special way while holding back clear pain .

    Just a night before I had bought a bed pan from the chemist , which she had refused to use .

    She was someone with enormous strength and yet gentle and loving to her children and grand children.

    God bless her soul, always !

    Jasdev

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Jasdev,
      Thanks.
      I do not know about you…but I am certain that Tripti will produce some lovely pieces of literature. She has it in her!
      Papa

    • Jasdev Singh says:

      Papa,
      Inshallah ! God willing .
      She has your inspiration, and now, it’s her hard work that will sustain her .

      Creative writing I suspect will still be safe from AI and robotic intelligence that promises to replace a lot of hard work that the previous generations had to put in .

      Love and respect,
      Jasdev

  32. colls says:

    I missed this version Then you had not included me in GUFT TA GU But I attended Dear Jhaiji’s cremation in Delhi.
    Reading your version
    I now recalled my mom who died in 1968 followed by my doc pop in 1969.

    When we embraced ”POVERTY” from Intense Richness,
    I could still see my mom share her frugal means
    as usual with the servants as long as she could
    till the fleet of 6 or 7
    now reduced to two
    mom and I

    But she never let a tear
    She burnt up a LIBRARY of antique volumes of Encyclopedias
    just to make tea .
    She was generous and kind but Illiterate.

    My pop never cared for money
    so I had to show myself
    the foot path to the Army

    If you recall you once asked me
    ”Why did I not become a poet.”
    The answer lies down memory lane
    NOSTALGICALLY
    we all love our mummies.
    She couldn’t afford my fees…
    God Bless all mothers
    and
    sons like you who still care

    Colls

  33. Col V P Kapoor says:

    It was a touching story, Mothers will always be mother. They treat all children as their own.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  34. Inderjit Kashyap says:

    Reading the beautiful piece about Jhaiji, took me on a trip down memory lane, & the good old days when our mother, Bibi Ji, so calmly managed us, 11 brothers & 1 sister. Pita Ji wasn’t reserved by nature but the fuse was short & hence we had to be on the guard. The difference, as pointed out by U, was immense yet they held the family together, a value not only passed down by them, but practised by us till date, we are still a family united. Our parents did possess some unique qualities.
    Thank U indeed.

  35. Thanks for sharing it , I keep hearing about them from savneet
    Wish I had spent more time with them
    GOD bless them both
    It shows that how good it is for children for balanced parenting to have parents who have different attitude but same principles (GURMUKH)

  36. how can i forget mother, who was ,

    an ocean of peace, ……. a reservoir of goodwill,

    a spring of joy. ……. a fountain of love

  37. THANKS FOR GIVING A PEEP IN UR PARENTS, SPECIALLY JHAIJI LIFE..AS ALWAYS WORTH READING MANY A TIMES

  38. D S Madan says:

    I READ YOUR NOSTALGIC MEMOIR WITH INTEREST . I CAN SEE THAT YOU LIKE TO GO DOWN THE MEMORY LANE. IT IS A GREAT FEELING

  39. R K Mehta says:

    Thank you for sharing a lovely emotion.

    rk

  40. Manjit Singh says:

    I have just completed reading this piece.You have such a good memory for details and you are and you were so observant. I am feeling emotional after reading this narrative.Thank you. god bless you.Love and Regards.

    Sent from my iPad

  41. Satish Inamdar says:

    So masterfully worded; very touchingly beautiful!!
    Inoo

  42. C Sundara Rao says:

    Dear Surjit,

    Thank U for an interesting article regarding yr parents. As expected it is well written, short & conveys a lot of information.

    Sundara Rao

  43. Ram Gupta says:

    A befitting tribute by a loving son.
    This will help quite few to travel back in time and recollect their parents.

    With Regards

    Col RL Gupta
    Panchkula
    09815010456

  44. Rakesh Sachdeva says:

    Sir,
    This is chicken soup for the soul! Much thanks for sharing this.
    May you & family have a happy and safe Diwali.
    With every good wish and regard.
    Col Rakesh Sachdeva (Retd)
    Pune

  45. Aridaman Jit Singh says:

    Hi Sir Sat Sri akal,
    .

    regards and thanks

    sincerely

    Aridaman

    Aridaman Jit Singh

    For Team Nishan

  46. YOGI says:

    Such a warm and tender tribute, Surjit-Bravo and thanks.
    Is it nature’s rule of balancing that spouses have complementary( read opposite/flipside) personality make-ups? Or is it ‘opposites attract/co-exist’ principle ? Fascinating fact of relationships, almost invariably.
    Also, compassion is a normal maternal instinct- by design? Or did the culture of the times play a more predominant part?
    Whatever, one can wistfully and gratefully look back on the graceful Mothers
    and mercies of those days- may their souls ‘rest in peace’.

    • Dave Sood says:

      A great tribute to your parents.

      Brings out the right emotions and qualities of your parents.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear General,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      The Lord created ‘mother’ because He could not reach out to every one Himself!
      Yours is a very special case. You had TWO doting mothers, and received the love and care from both of them!
      With best wishes,
      Surjit

  47. Ashutosh Mathur says:

    As a matter of fact, during the 40s and 50s traditionally ‘PITAJIs’ of the family by and large use to be very reserved, to the point of being grumpy. They mostly believed in never giving a second chance to repeat the same ‘crime’, which means every bad act as and when committed must be followed by an appropriate punishment and invariably ‘JHAIJIs’ would come to rescue!!!

    Those were the days of large families, so there was no pampering expected nor done. Life was simple yet hard, so no soft corners for any one.

  48. That uncle and aunty had totally different nature, I have experienced first hand.
    I was studying in Cambrian Hall, Dehra Dun in Sept 1959 when dad got posted to Ambala. It was decided that I should continue with the school as a boarder till the end of the session i.e., Dec.We had all moved to Ambala and I was to return to Dehra Dun with uncle and aunty in the black(austin?) car, who were returning to Dehra Dun from Jullundar(?) Dad brought me on his Raleigh cycle to the railway overbridge on the GT road, which had been fixed as the RV(there were no mobiles in those days!).I was pampered throughout the journey by aunty.
    From CI Camp,Premnagar, I boarded the bus for the school next day with my bag. After classesl,I should have joined the boarding, but I did’nt like the idea and took the school bus back to CI Camp. Aunty was very happy, she told me that I could stay at home for as long as I wanted.Uncle’s look said something different, but I did not have to worry with aunty around.This continued for a couple of days, till the weekend, when uncle took me in the car and handed me over to the stern lady warden.
    I fondly remember the car journey and the days spent with them in CI Camp.

  49. J Thomas says:

    Nice story.
    What was Pitaji’s reaction ?
    Did you encounter Partap again ?
    Did he reform ?

  50. Devina says:

    That was a touching story. I enjoyed reading it very much. Thank you for sharing it.

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