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Women's Day special: An excerpt from Divya Dutta’s memoir Me & Ma


Actress Divya Dutta shared an extremely close relationship with her late mother, Nalini Dutta. On International Women's Day, read about the story of a strong woman by her daughter.

Our Correspondent

In her first book Me & Ma , actress Divya Dutta writes about the most important force of her life and the reason behind her success. In this particular chapter, Dutta details how after the death of her father at age 10, her small family came even closer with a boating incident in Delhi.

This excerpt is reproduced with permission from Penguin Random House India.

I still remember the time she took us to the picnic spot around India Gate. For us, although it was exciting to have ice creams and go on fun rides, the biggest attraction was boating next to India Gate. Bas, bachchon ki farmaish — the kids’ demand — Ma didn’t have a choice. It had to be fulfilled anyhow! Ma held both us kids and led us to the booking booth for the boat ride. It was extremely crowded. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, our turn came. We finally got the tickets and headed towards the boats. The boat was full already. The boatman, as if only going about his job, lifted my kid brother and dumped him on another kid’s lap. When it was my turn to set foot on the boat, he suddenly decided to have no more people aboard. ‘The boat is full, no more kids, your daughter can take the next one.’

Ma was furious. She insisted that both her children were to enjoy the ride together. Not interested in listening to her, he started moving the boat. Rahul looked on helplessly as he was being taken away without his sister. I, the sister, looked helplessly at not being able to join him. The people around showed a bit of concern but nobody bothered to do anything about it! Only one person could, and she did!

A young Divya with her mother and brother.
Courtesy: Penguin Random House India

Before the boat could move too far away, my Ma put her foot on the boat, stopping it from moving ahead! So her one foot was on the dock and the other was stopping the boat. Just like Superman! Everyone was staring at what was happening. ‘Not without my daughter!’ she yelled.

The boatman was an egoistic man. He didn’t bother about the poor lady swinging between land and water, fighting for her children’s rights and moved the boat with full force as if competing with Ma. The inevitable happened. My dear Ma lost her balance and fell into the water! That was it — I could no longer watch from the sideline. I had to save my mother from drowning though I was just a ten-year-old and didn’t even know the S of swimming. Anyway, one cannot question emotions. So I jumped into the water yelling, ‘Ma, Ma! Save her!’

There was frenzy all around. Two people were now drowning because of a boatman who still looked undeterred. I was trying to save Ma by holding her tight and she was splashing around in the water continuously. Rahul looked like he had lost everything in that one moment. He was helplessly bidding us goodbye.

Divya Dutta at the launch of her
book with Amitabh Bachchan.
(Photo: Shutterbugs Images)

The boatman had had enough of this drama. He alighted from the boat and got into the water. As he stood straight, everyone realised that the water level was only three-feet deep. So, after all the furore we realised that we were not drowning! It was mere panic.

Soon we were, not so politely, guided back to the dock by the boatman. I was extremely embarrassed but Ma wasn’t. She never was! She was still waging her war with the boatman, ‘Give me my child back! I don’t want him on your boat!

The stubborn man finally relented. He brought the boat back to the dock and out came Rahul. He ran to us to unite with his long-parted family.

As we moved away from the staring eyes, my little embarrassed self could only hear Ma’s voice, ‘Don’t worry! Let me take you to another boat where both of you can sit together!’

I looked up at her and marvelled at the lady who could do anything to bring a smile on her kids’ faces.

I was not embarrassed anymore. She held my hand tight. That grip told me I was safe, sab theek hai jab hum saath saath hain (everything is okay because we are together).

And we were...

Divya with her mother and brother on a trip to Kerala.
Courtesy: Penguin Random House India