Mother – what a simple word, but what a profound meaning. The more you think about a mother, the more you explore her nuances and yet layers are left to be explored. She is the most selfless human as she sacrifices everything for her children and desires only their happiness. She is willing to sacrifice her own needs and desires for the sake of her children, but she is also fiercely protective and ambitious for them – that way she is selfless and selfish. She has a happy face for children and keeps her sorrows limited to herself. The umbilical cord never detaches in reality. She is the most important entity in everyone’s life. A mother is important for everyone, irrespective of any segregation that society has created. There is no substitute for a mother. Even if we wish to, we can never repay the debt of her sacrifices.

I am fortunate that I had a mother who was not just a mother, but a hero too. My father died when I was four. None of my siblings, including me, could imagine her pain. The struggle that she braved as a poor, beautiful widow, with seven hapless children in a remote village of Odisha is unimaginable. We stayed for days without food, and she struggled to provide us the next meal, bringing up seven children single-handedly. Her struggles etched wrinkles on her face, and her burdens made her shoulders bend. But she was very principled, strong willed and her good virtues have been our legacy. Her colloquial quotes have become a guide for my life.

I struggled throughout my childhood. From the age of 25 years, I struggled to set up KIIT and KISS. I never gave time to my mother while I struggled to make it big and do good for the society. I never spent even 5-10 minutes of time with her. One day, she forced me to spend ten minutes chit-chatting with her, holding my hand. I asked her, is tomorrow not coming? I will see you tomorrow, I said. And tomorrow never came!

It is the biggest regret of my life because she left me the day after this chat. I have never given any happiness to my Maa. I haven’t taken her to any place for a retreat in Bhubaneswar or India or outside India. She wanted to experience a flight journey. It was her dream. I could not give her one. How could I deprive her of her wish? How could I do this injustice to her? I assumed she was immortal. Who knew she would leave us like this, in the most peaceful sleep?

I am happy that without my knowledge, two artists working in KIIT made an art piece – a sculpture of the book, ‘My Mother My Hero.’ After they quit the job, I realized this was made by them. It was very lively and we wanted to use this piece of art – an open book, my first book, biography of my mother. A few staff members installed it at KIMS for motivation to one and all. They wanted at a prominent place and were considering replacing the Mother Mary statue, but on my insistence they refrained from doing so. It was finally placed at a suitable area behind the statue. It was as if they brought my mother, her legacy and her principles to life.

I am glad I wrote a book about her. I released the book two years ago, and now it has been read by many people in India and abroad. It has reached the policymakers, presidents, prime ministers and celebrities of many countries. I hope wherever she is, her soul is happy that her son has made Kalarabanka a smart village. She didn’t ask for wealth or personal aggrandisement, she always pushed me to develop our native village – an epitome of selflessness. She is no more with us, but her value systems run in me and my surroundings. Long live MAA!