Before I turned 35, I never thought of my mother as an unusual and exceptional mother. I thought of her as being extremely principled, strict, demanding, and disciplined, especially when compared with other mothers. The list of things that I was not allowed to do was long, and much longer than the list of things that I was allowed to do. It was definitely longer than any of my friends’ lists. It was always I who could not attend a social function organized by friends: it was too far away, or it involved spending the night there. It was always I who had to leave the party earliest. It was always I who received a telephone call from my mother enquiring about how things were, and when I would be home. The list just went on.
Then, my mother passed away. I missed her terribly, much more than I had expected. Many have written about the special link between mothers and daughters, and it was only then that I realized they were right. I began to remember all the things my mother taught me, the things I learned from her, and the things she did for me. I also started talking to my friends about my mother, how strict she was, what my sister and I were expected to do, what we were not allowed to do, and anecdotes about her life. It then dawned on me that my mother was a very special woman, and an unusual mother. I kept hearing my friends say, “My mother never taught me that,” “My mother would not have noticed things like that,” “My mother would not have bothered, would not have had the time to teach us such things.” Humans are curious beings. Often, we only begin to appreciate what we have because other people tell us so - tell us how lucky we are to have what we have. They notice it, and we do not. I did not realize the treasure I had in my mother until my friends told me so.
I began to recall the many life lessons that my mother taught me, and I began to appreciate the time, the patience, and the effort she took to pass on these lessons to me. These life lessons and recipes for life might have been given to her by her mother, but more probably she learned them herself, and accumulated from her own life experience. Through these lessons, she prepared me for the many challenges of life. She made sure that she passed on to me lessons on every aspect of my life, major and minor, and recipes to deal with the challenges. She was very thorough in her teachings. There was not one single aspect of my life that my mother would leave alone. When I was younger, this was exactly what I resented, what I fought against. I felt suffocated, I had no breathing space. But now, it is this all-encompassing nature of my mother’s teaching that I appreciate most, that I miss most.
Also, not only did my mother teach me the lessons, she lived the lessons herself. She taught me by example. In particular, she made me realize who I am, what I want, and what I should and should not do.
In this book, I wish to share with you the many precious life lessons and life recipes that my mother passed on to me – sweet, sour and spicy, and the many stories and anecdotes that came with the lessons. (To protect the privacy of the people in the stories and anecdotes, their names have been changed.) Some may think that these lessons are old-fashioned, that they are no longer relevant to the modern world of internet and globalization. Those who think so are wrong. These lessons are basic human values and principles, and the stories everyday happenings. The lessons are timeless. They are relevant always, regardless of changing times.