Our mother, Shakuntala Rastogi, was born in Amroha in U.P. on July 15, 1924. She studied at Gokul Das Girls Degree College, Moradabad till her B.A. Degree ' not a common practice among girls from villages in those days.
She was a lady of pious virtues but not orthodox, unlike most ladies of her age. She always placed others' happiness ahead of her own. We are five brothers and one sister, all well placed. All through her life, she cared for us, loved us so much, and made numerous personal sacrifices. When we were young she will encourage us to go and see religious movies and stay away from other movies. She taught us good principles, moral behaviour, respect for others and ethics. She would say 'you should help your spouse'. She would say one should not drink alcohol.
She valued education as the biggest booty in life and took great interest in her children's education. We remember her teaching English and Sanskrit with equal proficiency not only to us but later to our children as well. She taught us the value of education, hard work and honesty in life.
Mummy had a positive attitude towards life. To help with our studies she would say: 'Dear one, all your brothers are getting good marks, you also can put hard work.' 'Dear one, you did not work carefully.' Even if you did the smallest thing for her, she will be full of appreciation. This is perhaps the reason that all her six children excelled in their own fields.
She taught us to be happy with what we have instead of being concerned about wealth saying 'hamen jyadaa paise ka kya karna'. She taught us patience and perseverance. She was always a source of encouragement and inspiration to all. Given any big problem and her unflinching faith in hard work and truth manifested in these memorable words: 'dheere dheere sab theek hoa jayega'.
Our father Shri D P Rastogi was a sincere, hardworking and honest person. He retired as Deputy Chief Engineer from Rajasthan Government service and our mother fully supported him in his ideals and ideologies. She remained devoted to our father as a shadow all through his life though at times she may have disagreed with him. Even as a wife of a Senior Government Officer, she never misused her own power on resources and subordinates. We remember her counselling the servants many times 'you should not treat your family like that'. Once she even knitted a sweater for one of own servants, being very appreciative of his dependability and his cooking skills.
Even at her advanced age (81), rather than sitting to rest, she would often be the first to volunteer and help. She used to tell us that her own father taught her that the body is to be treated like a garment covering the soul. While the soul is eternal, the garment gets changed from old to new and no one should grief over it. She taught us religious and moral values. Her favourite mantras were Aum Namah Shivaya and the Gayathri Mantra. She believed in making donations for the poor and said when you are faced with difficulties it is your good deeds which carry youthough 'aade vakt yeh hi kara kaam aata hai'. Knowing that we could never fully pay her back for what she had done for us, we used to tell her just one thing: 'Mother please ensure you have no unfulfilled desires or attachments so thatyou are free from the cycle of rebirth.'
Lord chose to take her under His care at a time when her life could become dependent on others. She was taken ill suddenly on Jan 20, 2005 with a mild paralytic attack. While her condition kept deteriorating in a private hospital in South Delhi she fully cooperated with the doctors and nurses, never complained about her problems and maintained her positive attitude. Even from her hospital bed, Mummy was always enquiring about our welfare while telling us 'mera kyaa hai?' 'Do not worry about me ' I will be all right ' or 'Now go away and attend to the needs of your own family'. On Feb 11 she suffered another stroke.
We felt that the Doctors did not work with the family to make proper end of life decision for our mother. It appeared that they were more interested in prolonging life (by machines) regardless of continued suffering even when there was no hope for recovery, indirectly helping themselves to collect the daily Intensive Care charges.
Still in a Coma she was able to breathe and hence ventilator was removed. Family had already decided not to place her back on breathing machines again and not to prolong her suffering. Doctors were informed of this decision. We were even willing to give our wishes in writing to the Doctors to avoid any legal liability. However one morning we were surprised to see her tied to the bed intubated and placed on Life support ventilator again. The Attending Physician said that he is obligated to continue to keep her alive with machines even if this is against the wishes of family. We begged him not to make her suffer, and not to artificially prolong her life since as per his determination there was no hope of her coming back to a meaningful life after cardiac arrest and coma. However he seemed to have no concept of "End of life care". He said "this is not done in India". With no other option left, the family signed a discharge AGAINST medical advice form on Feb 13, 2005. Our mother still in Coma, unconscious, still on Oxygen and connected to a breathing tube (intubated) was taken to her Delhi home. She breathed her last peacefully within 2 hours with her grandchildren singing Bhajans as if to bid her farewell.
We deeply miss such a noble soul. However we take comfort in knowing that she rests in ever lasting peace and loving care of Almighty- our Heavenly Father. The values she stood for are cherished by her 6 children and her 13 grandchildren, spread over India, USA and Canada. These values will be propagated in generations to come.
Our mother's story is a shining example of how a person can rise above their contemporaries and lead a life that few of them can imagine. It is an amazing story of how an unflinching faith in yourself, your honesty and sincerity of purpose can make you achieve what you want in life.
Is not it exciting that this woman from Amroha lived such a glorious and memorable life?