I echo the first President of the United States, George Washington’s sentiment, “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.”
My mother taught us to give. To give back to society, she said, was our greatest salvation. This she practices in real life even after my father has passed away a decade ago. She continues to live independently in our childhood home where she still welcomes artists, community members in need, newcomers to the country, and members of various organizations that she has led in the past.
Her fierce independence has been fuelled by her life long quest for knowledge. After obtaining her Masters and PhD. from Calcutta University, she married my father, a physician, who was studying in England. She decided that she too would like to continue her education abroad and immigrated alone to Halifax in 1960 for a post-doctorate fellowship at the reputed Atlantic Regional Laboratory of the National Research Council of Canada. The following year my Father joined her and they moved to Toronto. Here she worked for Dr Best, the Nobel Laureate who helped discover Insulin, and his colleagues, to continue the quest for a cure in Diabetes. She was a Lecturer for over 37 years with the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. She continued with her research and published over 50 articles in renowned journals in India, Canada, and the USA.
As my parents arrived in Toronto in the early 1960’s they were only a handful of Indian middle-class families living here. They endured the hardships of settlement including isolation and discrimination. During these difficult times, they relied on wisdom and values from their Indian heritage to give them strength. As my father set up his medical practice in our home, my parents decided to help all those who arrived on our doorstep in need of help and guidance. The word spread quickly and our house became a constant haven filled with people for one reason or the other. Soon my father became a successful physician in Toronto but as they say behind each great man, is a greater woman. Discovering a chronic need to serve the Indian community, she founded a number of women-focused organizations like the Association of Women of India in Canada AWIC, the India-Canada Association, the Toronto Netralaya Lions Club . Her love of Classical Indian music made her a benefactor and organizer of many concerts including Pandit Jasraj, Lata Mangeshkar, and the Ragmala Society of Classical Music. She has received multiple Service Awards for thousands of hours of volunteering in the community at large. And she continues to this day, in her mid-Eighties helping, organizing, and finding ways to help our society. I am very proud and humbled by my mother, Dr. Sudha Rastogi.
Question to Ponder:
We cannot choose where we are born, but I must have done something right that I was blessed to be born as her son. Do you feel your upbringing shapes the person you become?