My Uber Story: They Call Her Mama

Looking at some old homes around my neighbourhood, I realised I once lived in an era of a single-car household, where we would huddle around a television the size of a modern day laptop. And when a movie scene turns into a sob fest, we would pass tissue rolls around to each other. We had no ego or shame.

It was also a time where parents pull double income to provide, thus making the ultimate sacrifice of being denied the opportunity to truly have meaningful interaction with their children in their formative years.

Even if they feel the weight of separation anxiety, they would have to commit to the arrangement of allowing their other family members or a nanny to experience the joys raising their own children.

They simply do not have the option to indulge in what is rightfully theirs because providing for the future weighs more on their thoughts. These were the basic struggles of a middle income family.

My Uber driver's story, who'd recently retired from public service, was all but too familiar to me.

He had devoted all his career to serve the government and its people, while his wife also made the choice of committing to care for the sick in a town away from her husband and children.

I sat and listened, transfixed by the insight he volunteered into his life.

"My Chinese neighbour told me, don't worry I'll take care of everything for you. She would remind me yaya.. so and so needs to be picked up here from tuition, I'll send so and so here, take care of them."

As I listened, I realised that she did all the caring for his four children from when they were babies until they reach adulthood.

Curious, I asked, "Do your children still see her?"

He answered proudly, "Yes of course! Just recently she stayed at my son's house for a week to celebrate Deepavali. In fact, he brings her along for family vacations. He's brought her to Japan! She is family."

I asked, "What do your children call her?"

He said, "They call her Mama."

I nodded and said, "She has done so much for you and your family. Yes it is so important not to forget how she had helped you."

He nodded emphatically. In the most resolute tone, he said, "Yes, never forget."

Inspired by his story, I went home that day and cooked a different kind of thali.

Just a host of dishes made with Chinese flavours.

And instead of rasam, it was served with a side of herbal chicken soup - my favourite dish of all from childhood.

And yes, never forget.

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