Brotu Smita Foundation

Brototi Bhattacharya (Brotu) - My mother-in-law

I met her in 2003. She was a sunny personality, one who would always bring a smile to your face when you met her. I have rarely seen a person like that.  My first meeting with her was an introduction as the person who was dating her daughter. But from the first meeting itself I felt that she treated /loved me like her son.


In spite of the fact that she had a problem with her legs which restricted her from moving around freely like us she never let it affect her in anyway. She had a major accident earlier when she fell or should I rightly say was pushed by a reckless fellow passenger from a moving train which was approaching the station. Not many people would have survived that shock and the movement obstacle. Nobody will ever see that or hear from her when they meet her. She was always cheerful and she loved to have people around her.


I was in Chennai at the time and away from home. But she never made me feel that. She always made things I would like to eat whenever I would visit my parents-in-law for a meal. My father-in-law is also a good cook so that made those meals all the more enjoyable for us. She would ask Oorna about my favorite foods and made it a point to cook them every time we visited.


After marriage, when we got our first place, we used to go to the Bhattacharya residence (my in-law’s) almost every weekend and she, would without fail, pack us a ton of food would almost last us till mid-week. I had a different equation with her and she always used to trust my judgement and sometimes more than Oorna’s. I always felt that she was my second mum.


It seems like God throws challenges at people who are strong and she was no exception. In 2007 she was detected with Thyroid cancer. My in-laws were based out of Pune.


We decided to get her treated at a top cancer specialty hospital in Mumbai. There was always a huge rush at the OPD where there will be thousands of people (many from different parts of the country) visiting each day to meet the doctor. We had to go through the same hard process. Most days we’d reach the hospital at 9.30 in the morning or thereabouts and our turn to see the doctor would come at 1.30-2 pm and sometimes even much later.  By the time we were back home we’d be drained and it’s impossible to imagine what hard it was for Ma. We somehow always managed to get a place for her to sit. This whole process was painful but each day that we had to do this, we’d come in to the drawing room to find her ready and waiting for us before time. She was just like my mother. Always ready to overcome this problem by taking it head on.


She was operated on by one of the best doctors in the world. When we first showed to the doctor, he had said that surgery won’t be possible as it is too complicated and to some extent at an advanced stage. But after further investigation he changed his decision and went on with the surgery. I still remember that he came out of the OT and told us that he managed to get out almost all of the tumor. We felt so relieved.


But unfortunate luck intervened and ironically, luck, I would have to say, was something that was missing from her life on various instances. Post her surgery when she was in the ICU, she was given an oral medicine by a negligent nurse when she still had tubes inserted in her mouth. This was an irreparable mistake. She had to get one more surgery done and unfortunately, she did not recover from that. She was admitted to the hospital at various times and she also had to undergo radio iodine therapy. Life was never the same for my father-in-law, Oorna and to some extent me. We had to manage our office work and hospital duty, but we were in a zone where we just wanted her to get well. Oorna contemplated giving up her job and eventually made the right decision and to give it up. It was more challenging for my father -in- law who had to go back at time to Pune to take his classes once in a while.


I still remember the time which had spent with my MIL in her hospital room. She used to tell me lot of stories about her young age and times at Jamshedpur but during the last few visits to the hospital she did not have the strength to do so. To see her lying helpless, in that way made me wonder why is life so tough on some of our loved ones.


Almost when she was coming towards the end of her journey, she wanted to visit her mum and her sister in Jamshedpur. Although her family was reluctant to let her go and take that physical strain, it was decided to let her have that pleasure of visiting her birthplace once again. She never returned from there. She was admitted in the hospital and we all rushed to Jamshedpur. Oorna stayed back and I commuted back and forth. Life was again physically and mentally challenging during this period but more because of the fact that we were on the verge of losing a person who has given so much love to all of us.


One night both Oorna and me were in the hospital with her. One person was allowed only with her so Oorna was with her and I was waiting in the waiting area. She was very sick that time but still she would put her hand on Oorna’s head on the middle of the night and stroke her hair, she was very concerned that Oorna was not able to sleep at all sitting next to her. She also asked Oorna to repeatedly go and check on me, sitting outside as it was quite bitterly cold at the time. God knows how much pain she was in that time. Have seen very few loving human beings like her.


The memory of that phone call which came to Oorna’s Aunt’s house from the hospital around 2.30 am – 3 am is still very vivid. We all knew that was THE END. Life was never the same post that. She was too young to die but that experience taught us a lot. In our time at the hospital, we saw families who had to sell everything and come to Mumbai to treat their loved ones. Some of the patients and their relatives had no option but to sleep on the road outside the hospital to get their next level of treatment done. Not all of them have been blessed like us.


I miss her a lot. This foundation is in her memory and we hope that we will be able to make a difference to a few people’s lives in a small way.