13 April 2009

Amma

I apologise for the long absence. I've been at work, and been working on a major project that's so exciting that it's been taking my considerable mental (and physical) energy, and channelling into making it a success. However, that doesn't mean that I've forgotten my friends on the internet here. I was thinking of my mother (as I often do).

Amma.

It rolls off the tongue. Um-maaaaaah. Tamil speakers the world over instantly recognise it as one of the first words that they learn to say. It means mother. It's also the word we use to describe Gauri, who is the wife of Shiva, and the mother of Ganesha and Murugan. The supreme mother.

Somehow that word in itself just wraps you up in a cushion of comfort and peace.

When I hear someone else calling her or his mother "amma", it immediately comforts me, because it means that all is right with the world. For you to call someone amma shows the utmost of love and respect. It's not a word that's used casually.

It's funny though. Friends of mine who used to play at our house would end up calling my mother Amma too, because that's the only thing they ever heard her being called in the house. And amma she was to all of them. She'd be just as comfortable feeding, comforting, or hugging any one of the parade of children who tromped through our house as she would her own children.

I found out later in life that it's a fairly common occurrence in the homes of other Tamil speakers, whose last names can get rather long (Venkatasubramaniam, anyone?), and the simple expedient of amma would often fill that role quite comfortably. But I'd like to think it's because a Tamil mother is a woman who has the skill to make anyone call her amma.