Bumble used to call me "son." How fortunate I was all those years, and I did not know it. I had a second mother in Bumble mashi. She knew it, and every interaction she had with me reflected this maternal sense. Virtually every phone call and email, as well as those precious personal visits, began with a simple salutation: "Hello, son!" Hearing those words always cheered me up.
As the first year anniversary of her senseless and tragic passing nears, I think back to all those conversations that began with her loving invocation of the word "son."
Living half a world away from Bumble made building a strong relationship with Bumble challenging to say the least. My sister and I grew up in the west, and our mannerisms and tastes often reflected it. Despite these obstacles, Bumble took to the hard work of getting to know us. It did not hurt that Bumble had a soft spot in her heart for western cuisine, films, and books. Nevertheless, Bumble met us half way and made great effort to engage us on familiar terms. As a youth who struggled to forge my own personal identity, Bumble's willingness to transcend geographic and "cultural" boundaries made all the difference. Who among us did not enjoy having a good talk with Bumble? She engaged me in discussion after discussion, just as she did with countless other people.
So what do a middle-age aunt in India and her nephew/son in America discuss? Our last discussions involved wine, current events, politics, and friends. Before that, we talked about community service, career choices, and research. Our conversation points reflected one of the greatest qualities about Bumble – her ability to take an intense and genuine interest in the lives of others. Bumble cared about the "everyday" in peoples' everyday, if you will. Whether it was my ups, downs, my days, weeks, or months, Bumble wanted to know.
I can still hear her smooth and deep "very good!" which punctuated my sentences. It was her way of encouraging and saluting me at every turn (regardless of whether I deserved it). And after Bumble's every "very good," "excellent" or "very proud," I found myself wanting to tell Bumble more. Regardless of physical distance, talking to Bumble was always a highlight.
Bumble's maternal love for me extended beyond the check-ins and discussions over the years. She trusted me and my judgment even when I was not sure about my own choices. She may not have known the full context or the exact details, but Bumble always communicated an innate faith in my ability to do the right thing. She loved that fact that I wanted to teach. She loved the fact that I was politically engaged. And she loved the fact that I felt I needed to give back. While other relatives (whose hearts were also in the right place) would counsel me to make safe choices, Bumble counseled courage, conviction, and justice.
Bumble's love and encouragement made her one of the most giving individuals I will ever encounter in my lifetime. I regret that I never returned to Bumble the sum total of Bumble's love and affection gifted to me. I suspect I am not alone in this sentiment. And while words fail to adequately address her loss to me, I am proud to carry on a small part of her legacy as her son.