I'd rather be a mother than anyone on earth,
Bringing up a child or two of unpretentious birth.
I'd rather tuck a little child all safe and sound in bed,
Than twine a chain of diamonds about my carefree head.
I'd rather wash a smudgy face with round bright baby eyes,
Than paint the pageantry of fame or walk among the wise.
She is 85 and has mothered 81 children. One, her biological daughter. And the others, abandoned children from the insurgency-hit North East. She is Zaputou Angami, the Founder of the Kohima Orphanage in Nagaland's capital.
It all began in 1973 with one child. Zaputou was a nurse at the Government Hospital in Kohima when she brought home a baby abandoned by his parents. From that moment on, there was no looking back. Zaputou had brought home seven children when it hit her. She wondered how and why so many babies did not have parents.
Zaputou found herself to be very happy in the children's company. She found the job of feeding hungry mouths and singing to sleepy eyes and tending to injured knees to be more rewarding than any other job she wold ever do. The rest, as they say, is history.
To say it has been easy for Zaputou, or that life has been kind to her and her children, would be an insult to what this great mother has done and continues to do. She has seen days when there wasn't a paisa in her pocket but there were mouths to feed. She has seen nights when insects ravaged tiny bodies that only wished to sleep but there was nothing that could be done. She has also seen times when illness rampaged across the orphanage, and all that she could give to the children was her love.
37 years later, the road remains as difficult. Yet, Zaputuo has never thought twice about her journey. In insurgency-torn Nagaland, the Kohima Orphanage stands as a symbol of love and strength for children without a home. Amidst all the hate and the killings and the unrest, here is a place where life and hope abounds, where a goodnight kiss can wipe away tears of strife, where the strains of a lullaby can silence the loudest of bombs.
Zaputou's home runs on help that comes in bits and pieces from the state government, well-wishers, the church and the Assam Rifles. Today, a total of 80 children - from across Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and even Myanmar - are all proud members of Kohima Orphanage. Also with Zaputou is her own daughter Nebunuo, who smilingly supports her mother in the best and worst of times.
Sometimes, in this certain yet uncertain life for Zaputou and her children comes the time of presents and cakes and songs - a time all the little ones look forward to for simple joys. Beyond all this, the truth remains that this home survives on meals and clothes donated by people. Yet, unperturbed and undaunted, two brave and loving mothers - Zaputou and Nebanuo - continue on with the calling of their life, day after day.
Today, on Mother's Day, I pay homage to Zaputou and the many women like her around the world - who define motherhood in the true sense. Who are mothers not only because biology made them so, but also because they possess the grit and strength that only a mother can, and the will to not merely survive but actually live against all odds.
Happy Mother's Day, Mother!
Picture courtesy: www.realheroes.com