Navaratri has become my favorite time of the year, as much as it always ends up being a whirlwind period of rehearsals, practices, and programs. This year was no different, and the nine days were coupled with my own midterm projects for university. Our Navaratri program this year (as part of the Sai Temple’s cultural celebrations) was on Navami, and my mother closed the evening with the slokam from Padmabhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam’s choreography Kamakshi Stuthi.
As I watched her dance Thursday night, I was reminded of her chanting the Devi Kavacham. My mother reciting the Devi Kavacham is a memory from my childhood that brings me immense comfort and joy. Then, I had a realization.
When I imagine Ammavaru, she has my mother’s face.
If you know me, you know my mother is my guru, my pillar of strength, and my inspiration. If you know her, you know why. You likely have experienced the same warmth, the same boundless energy, and the same determination from her as I have. These last couple of years, I have seen her go through a myriad of surgeries and medical procedures. This is not new. I have had a view into her many struggles to dance, despite obstacles after obstacles and discouraging prognostics from medical professionals.
In June, I watched her conduct a live program Saturday, and then pack up on Sunday for surgery Monday morning to have three disintegrating discs in her neck fused with a metal plate and screws. I spent Tuesday, my birthday, watching helplessly as she faced debilitating nerve pain instead of promised relief. I spent the day after with bated breath, as the doctors repeated the procedure. I watched in the weeks that followed, as she slowly, determinedly began reclaiming her independence, building the strength to walk, to uncurl her hands, to hold her head up without support, to grasp objects, to drive, to lift objects.
This Thursday, exactly four months after her first surgery, exactly 120 days after her second surgery, I watched her dance for Navaratri.
I am in awe of my mother. I am in awe of Devi’s strength that courses through her.