82 and A dreamer….This GrandMom inspires everyone to begin!


In a fast-paced world where we often find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of our daily routines, it’s easy to overlook the extraordinary moments that quietly unfold around us. It’s those moments that hold the power to inspire, uplift, and remind us of the remarkable resilience of the human spirit. Recently, we had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Usha Vinayak Rao, a woman whose presence radiates warmth, wisdom, and a profound sense of purpose. Her story, much like her infectious smile, has the ability to ignite a spark within us, reminding us of the boundless possibilities that lie within each and every one of us. 


Though this was the first time that we were meeting 82 year old Ushaji, we were no strangers to her talent. Her daughter in law, Hema Nagar Rao, a member of Maa2Mom, always gifted us beautiful flowers made of fabric created by her mother in law. In fact, most of us have a collection of them. Hema informed us that her mother in law suffers from partial vision impairment, called Acute Macular Degeneration, in which Retina membranes get weak and a cloud is formed in front of retina restricting one to peripheral vision only. Reading is restricted… Hazy blurred vision remains.  Thus intrigued, we decided to invite ourselves to their house and interview Ushaji. 

Dressed elegantly in a sari, not a pleat out of place, she welcomed us with a beautiful smile. Hema introduced us and thus began our conversation over samosas and filter coffee (made by Ushaji)  

M2M: Aunty, can you tell us a little about your childhood?

Ushaji: I was born in a Maharashtrian family, which had generations ago settled in Chennai.  My father was a government servant and was transferred all over Tamil Nadu. We were allotted bungalows with huge gardens wherever we shifted, thus beginning my lifelong love with plants.  I planted all kinds of seeds, but before we could enjoy the fruits, my father would be transferred again. This became my attitude in life, to do well and not worry about the result.  My parents insisted on speaking Marathi at home lest we forget our roots. We spoke Tamil with outsiders, thus becoming a beautiful amalgamation of Marathi and Tamil.  

M2M: Aunty, you are so talented. How did you learn so many things?

Ushaji : The credit for this goes to my mom.  She disliked anyone sitting idle and taught my sisters and me knitting and embroidery. She also insisted that we learn both the Marathi and Tamil Brahmin cuisine.  Those days it was very important for girls to manage the whole house.  This helped me later when I got married and went to Kolkata.

M2M: Oh Kolkata! It must have been so difficult, settling in a new place?

Ushaji : It felt different in the beginning, but we women manage to make home wherever we go.  Later when the children were born, I was busy with them. Taking up their studies and looking after them. But, whenever I would get some free time I would embroider or knit.  When kids grew up and my daughters got married, my husband retired and we went back to Chennai.  

M2M : How did you come to Mumbai?

Ushaji : After some time, my husband fell sick, my son and daughter in law decided to come and stay with us. That way, all of us could spend time together and bond with our granddaughter Pragati .  After my husband’s death, my son got a good career opportunity in Mumbai. They insisted that I too join them and to be truthful, I did not want to stay away from my granddaughter.  I enjoy reading and watching TV, also making friends comes easy to me as I have lived in so many different places, it felt like a new chapter in my life. 


M2M : Good for you! Mumbai is so cosmopolitan that you must have felt at home right away.

Ushaji : Yes, it did. Here, I could converse easily in Marathi, Tamil and even Bangla. I have made many friends here.


M2M : How did your journey to making fabric flowers begin?

Ushaji : Everything was smooth, I was happy spending time with my family, socializing with my friends, reading. When one day I realized that I couldn’t see properly, thinking that maybe I needed new glasses we decided to visit the optician during the weekend. But, suddenly I felt my vision deteriorating further every minute.  To be truthful, it scared me. After a few tests, the doctors diagnosed AMD, so now I have only peripheral blurred vision.

First thing that I thought was what will I do the whole day as I cannot read, but my daughter in law was very positive, she told me “Aai, we will think of something”  I don’t like to indulge in self-pity, so I decided to keep myself occupied. There were a few old dupattas lying around, I cut them and made them into a table mat. Then used old leggings to make table covers and such. My family got me a tab and taught me to use you tube. I began browsing and found many interesting sites that showed how to make flowers. Hema encouraged me and took me to shop for the material.  Once I got the hang of it, I wanted to create new ones.  The more I practiced the better was the finishing. Hema began gifting it her friends and family. The praises made me more confident and I began experimenting with new materials and new types of flowers.

I loved to knit and found a site which showed how to knit purses and bags.  I can safely say that all our friends and family members have at least one bag made by me.  When my daughter came from the US of A, she carried bags made by me to gift to her friends there.  Many of them messaged me saying how they loved the handmade bags.  This encouraged me into making a few more. Hema has suggested that we sell them during the Navratri fair in our building.  I am excited but also a little apprehensive. Will the people buy? Will they like it? But, like my granddaughter says,” Aaji, don’t worry. You keep creating, selling is not your problem.”


M2M : How lovely is that! Aunty there is so much positivity to be learnt from you.  Is there anything that you would like to tell our readers?

Ushaji : Never feel that you are too old to learn, I cannot read a book but have learnt to use the tab and this opened a new vista for me.  I keep myself busy so have no time to think about what has changed and what I cannot do. Instead I focus on what I can do now.

We came back from meeting Usha ji feeling happy and cheerful, especially when she promised to invite us for a lunch of bisi bele once the monsoon begins in full swing.