Sasu Ma’s Gift
Sasu ma is the Hindi name for mother-in-law. Having lost her parents at the age of 15, Kusha was happy for her arranged marriage five years later when she would have a husband and a sasu ma. Kusha received a pair of turquoise running shoes as a gift from her sasu ma instead of the customary Indian sandals. This was a sign that Kusha had been accepted as a daughter. A valuable relationship began, and when Kusha’s sasu ma became ill, Kusha had only one wish: to spend more time with her.
I grew up in the holy town of Uttarkashi in India with my four sisters and my parents. I still remember our garden with my favourite apple tree. When I was 15, both of my parents died. My sister, Kalavati, helped me through my sadness and became like a mother to me.
At 20, I became a wife in an arranged marriage. This was the way of life in India, and I was excited to meet my future husband and his family. In Hindi, we say sasu ma for mother-in-law. My sasu ma’s name was Chandra Devi. I never had the chance to meet my father-in-law because he died two years earlier. My husband’s family was nice to me. I felt like I belonged. My mother-in-law accepted me as her own daughter.
When I was pregnant a year later, Sasu Ma gave me a special pair of shoes to celebrate. Instead of the customary Indian sandals, I received a comfortable pair of turquoise running shoes. We often walked together, because Sasu Ma said fresh air was good for me and that I should stay active. We were very happy when my daughter was born.
Sasu Ma and I continued our walks with my baby girl, Radhika, and I always wore those turquoise shoes. They were special to me. They represented love and acceptance, and they were Sasu Ma’s favourite colour.
Sasu Ma and I laughed, talked and cooked together. Her favourite food was dal makhani with rice. When Radhika began to eat solid foods, this became her favourite, too. I needed to learn how to prepare this dish, and Sasu Ma taught me.
In 2009, Sasu Ma died. I was very sad. I missed our walks and talks, the laughs we shared and the time we spent cooking meals together. It was a hard time for me, but Radhika, who was four by then, always encouraged me to step outside and go for a walk, wearing my turquoise shoes.
In 2011, my husband moved to Vancouver for a job. He was a chef at an Indian restaurant. Radhika and I stayed with my husband’s family in India. By then, they were my family too. Radhika missed her father, so I would prepare Sasu Ma’s favourite dish to make my little girl smile. A mother always feels happy when her child is happy. I remember when Sasu Ma said, “You are like my own daughter.” Now, when I see Radhika happy, I understand how important my sasu ma and I were to each other.
In 2015, after four years apart, our Canadian visas arrived. Radhika and I would leave India to join my husband. When the day came, I was almost too nervous to fly. I had never travelled before, especially on an airplane. Then I glanced at my new shoes, same as the ones that Sasu Ma had given me. The turquoise colour caught my eye and I relaxed. I was no longer scared.
I felt at home in the mountains of Canmore. This new place was quiet, and there were endless places to walk. I was happy. I started my first job as a housekeeper, wearing my turquoise shoes, and I knew that everything would be alright.
I decided to buy several pairs of shoes in Sasu Ma’s favourite colour. Now, whenever I walk with my family, I wear turquoise shoes. They give me strength.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I enjoyed fresh air and stayed active, just as Sasu Ma would have advised, and I wore my turquoise shoes. My son was born in June 2020, our little Canadian. I am very happy to have a complete family, but I still miss my sasu ma.
Kusha Bisht is from the holy town of Uttarkashi, India, where the spoken language is Hindi. Kusha’s first-ever trip was with her 10-year-old daughter in 2015 to join her husband in Canada. In 2020, their second child was born, a baby boy with Canadian citizenship. Kusha loves to cook her favourite Indian meal—patta gobi ki sabzi—with an age-old spice mix that is good for a person’s wellbeing.