Unforgettable People: Iron Mami

Written By

Indira Anand

Unforgettable People: Iron Mami Loading

She was born in the 1920s and her parents named her Lohambal — ‘Goddess of the World’ in Tamil. She married and arrived in Bombay in the 1940s, and made a home in this bustling city with her husband. Language was a challenge, and so was the cosmopolitan nature of the city, but she took it all in her stride. She gave birth to four beautiful boys over the years, secretly enjoying each pregnancy as it gave her an opportunity to go back home to her parents. Her husband Yegnarama, “Y Mama” to all of us was no less doting. Their marriage and the love they shared is the stuff of legend.

Y Mama and my father were best friends and that’s how I met Loha Mami, who my father used to fondly call “Iron Mami”. I remember how she would rush into every wedding, a purse dangling on her arm, looking like the Goddess herself. And she would deck herself with jewels safely ensconced in the purse, talking to everyone, keeping an eye on things without even being asked to, all at the same time!

She was the life of any event I attended in those years as a young girl.

Over the years I lost count of the number of bhajan meetings, weddings, picnics and other gatherings I would see Loha Mami at. All too soon, I began to notice she was absent from most events. I was too young to understand what or who “Parkinson’s” was and why it meant I never got to see her anymore.

One day, Appa announced that Y Mama and Loha Mami would be coming to visit us that day. I was excited to meet her after all this time, feel the familiar hands pulling me into a hug, see that love brimming in her ever-sparkling eyes, and simply bask in the glow of that lovely personality again.

I had no idea that I was about to experience profound sadness and helplessness for the first time in my twelve years on earth. They arrived, Mama with his usual laughter and enthusiasm, greeting me with a good pinch of both cheeks like he always did, eyes crinkling with laughter and love. And behind him, a shadow that used to be Loha Mami. She was thin as a rail, eyes sunken but still bright as ever. Her usually elegantly draped saree was askew — I knew later that she had lost the ability to wear sarees by herself and Mama had done it for her as best as he could.

The dam of my emotions broke and I burst out crying, trying to understand what had happened to my beloved Iron Mami. Even then, her love for everyone was still present under the pressure of the disease. Immediately she came to me, wiped my tears and said the last thing I expected to hear — “Who is this child? Why is she crying?”

Of course I cried some more, for the loss this wonderful family was bearing, for the loss I personally felt, for the woman she used to be. At that age, I could barely process what I was seeing. All I could do was cry.

But today when I think of Loha Mami, I always remember that towering woman who brought up four boys, spread love unconditionally and touched the lives of so many people over the years. She was truly, as my dad once said in jest, a woman of iron. Strong and unforgettable. And that is how I choose to remember her to this day.




Indira is 40 years old and settled in Dubai for the last 18 years along with her husband. She works in IT Operations with a leading airline. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, traveling the world and other creative pursuits like knitting stuffed toys, clay modeling, drawing and painting. With her husband working in a furniture factory, Indira has the unique advantage of imagining a home improvement and actually having it come to life as imagined! A kidney transplant in 2010 changed a lot for Indira including her outlook to life and learning to live fully and in the moment. In her non-existent spare time, she also writes fiction and about strong women who have made it through everything. Catch her blog at mykidneybeans.wordpress.com

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