My mom Raj Kaur Rekhi (nee’ Oberoi) would have 96 this year. We called her Baji. She was born in Lahore and passed away in the Bay Area in 1998 . She outlived my dad by almost 24 years. She was was the middle sibling in a pack of 9 and did not get much education. She was her mid-twenties at the time of the partition. She was the bedrock of our family. I felt I was a favorite of her, though she did not favor any body.
My mom had as hard a life as you can imagine. She had eight kids of her own, had three sister in laws, two brother in laws and her father in law and mother in law to worry about. My memory of her is one of constant working; cooking breakfast to get dad out to work & kids out to school, lunch for remaining people, do daily laundry for the whole tribe, start cooking dinner. Did I mention doing dishes and house cleaning? We could not afford much hired help. My aunts did help out but I still remember constant work. All this before we had any machines. No washer or dryer, no fridge or stove. We used coal for cooking. There was no TV or time to watch TV. We did have an old radio that we all listened to.
When Dad started to go out for postings on his own, mom had to take over as the head of household too. That meant all shopping to run the household was on her shoulder too. I very early on stepped in to take over that part of the household. I was doing all the shopping; buying wheat and taking to the mill (Chukky) to be ground in to flour, going to Mandi (farmer’s market) to get vegetables, going to milkman to get milk. I became the man about house managing the monthly allowance that dad gave us. I would make sure that money will last the whole month. All this at the age of twelve!
After I left for IIT in 1963, one of the younger brother stepped in my shoes. Mom did all this without complaining. She made sure none of us felt neglected.
I left for US in 1967. I started to help financially as soon as I got my first job. Mom kept reminding me that brothers and sisters needed a helping hand. I sponsored them all to come to US, one by one they all came. She was not sure she wanted to come to US or not. After the death of Indira Gandhi in 1984. Congress Goondas (Goons) rioted against Sikhs, especially in Delhi and Kanpur. Our house was attacked and almost fire bombed. Did not matter that we were a military family; besides my dad, two of my brothers served in the army. Mom did not feel safe in her house any more and she also finally emigrated.
She lived to see me achieve the great success that I eventually did. She loved America and all its conveniences. She loved soaps and was especially fond of Pakistani Soaps. She was very proud of her family till the end and was rueful that dad did not live to see family prosper.