Friday, 26 July 2013

Grandparents will always be Grand!

[My Nana and Nani with my brother and a two day old baby me.]
There is a reason why grandparents are called thus; they are indeed 'grand' parents. One of the best part of being an Indian is having large joint families, and not just having them, but loving them as well. There are so many brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and nephews and nieces, that you may never fall short of friends and companions, but most special of them all are your grandparents. They are the nicest parents you can have, for your parents have to be stern with you, which is for your own good, as they shape the lump of clay that you are into shapely earthenware that can endure the rough handling the world dishes out; but your grandparents can afford to cosset and coddle. They spoil and indulge you, partaking in your harmless misadventures, which is also necessary, for what good is a childhood where one hasn't had some fun and frolic at some unsuspecting person's expense and most important of all help you fight the common enemy, your parents, shielding you from their wrath.

Their hair hasn't turned silver overnight. They have seen the world, and all kind of people that inhabit it, and all the ups and downs that life throws at them, and coming out with flying colours. Drinking from the well of their vast experience is an experience unlike any other. Men learn from their from mistake, great men learn from other's mistakes, but the greatest share their mistakes so that none may repeat them. Grandparents make up the third kind. They love you unconditionally. They may require a stick to support their ravaged frames, but if they have to come meet you or when you are in trouble, they can run faster than the road-runner. Their hands may be shaking from Parkinson's, yet they would whip up divine food in a jiffy. There is just so much that they do, and all they ask for is some love in return. Yet it is a sad tale, that more and more people seem to ignore their importance and treat them as old discarded pieces of furniture, and forget fulfilling their wishes, they don't even pay for their everyday needs and medical bills, which are bound to increase with age. A nice way to treat the hand that fed you, huh?

An incident I heard from someone shocked me. If I were in a cartoon, my eyeballs would have probably come screaming out like Mr. Wolf's in that Droopy and Dripple cartoon. My aunt was telling me what a prospective bride asked a prospective groom in a typically Indian meeting for an arranged marriage. That horrible bimbo had the audacity to ask the guy, 'How many dust-bins do you have in your house?' At first when I heard this, I thought whoa, are people this lazy that they need dust-bins in every room? When I learnt that what she meant was 'How many old people do you have in your house?', I felt a rage bubbling inside me. Had I been the guy sitting opposite her, I would have promptly replied, 'Well, none so far and I don't want to marry you and give you the privilege of being the first.' Is that what they mean to some of the base vile loathsome kids of today? Do you spurn the once indispensable hand just because it does not contribute to the household's kitty anymore? How can someone fall that low!

Thankfully, I have much better values and morals, but more importantly, the love that I share with my grandparents binds us together. I was unfortunate to have never met my Dada (father's father), for he had passed away even before my elder brother , and my Nana (mother's father) passed away when I was just 7. However,  I have spent a lot of time with my Dadi (father's mother) and Nani (mother's mother), and fortunately my Dadi stays with us, which means that I have spent nearly all my life with her, except of course when she is visiting other relatives. She has taught me much more than I can repay. She taught me everything I know about my religion, Jainism, how to read and write Gujarati, a skill not many from my generation care about, everything about our culture, she has recounted tales from her life and the hardships that my family's faced to ensure I have an easy relaxed life, and narrated stories of bravery and truth and kings and princes to put me to sleep, she has taught me to cook some scrumptious typical Gujarati dishes, and just so much more that I could fill pages upon pages with what I've learnt from her. My Dada was already deceased when I was born, but from all that I hear, he was one gem of a person, kind at heart, hardly ever angry, and so practical. He used to always believe in giving people second chances and never shied away from extending a helping hand. His father died at when my grand-father was just 12, and since then he worked so hard to support his family and then move to Bombay and set up the very business that I may one day inherit. He has helped so many people from his village to come to Bombay and establish themselves, by offering them a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, monetary assistance and any other help that may be required. I hope one day I can be as generous and kind-hearted as him.

I may have been too young when my Nana passed away, but I still learnt a lot from him. He was a great businessman, one of the best diamond merchants of his time. He had to start from scratch a couple of times, whether it was because he left his village to fulfill his dreams in Bombay or they had to leave Burma as they government suddenly didn't want any Indians there, but wherever he went, he worked hard and smart to establish himself, and establish well he did. It just taught me that you have to always move on, you cannot live in the past. You learn from it, and enjoy the memories made, but cannot live in it. He was also a man who believed in all gods and religions, showing no disrespect to any, something that I still believe in. I may now be an atheist and have my own opinions and ideas on gods and religions, I still respect the thoughts of each person when it comes to this. He was the one from whom I inherited the hobby of collecting antiques, stamps and coins. A large part of my collection of coins and stamps came from him and after his passing, my Nani. My prized possession, a 1928 British India ₹ 1000 note was also given to me by her. Both him and my Nani believed in always giving to others as per your capability. Even when you do not have a lot, you can still find something to donate or at least share. They taught me that family is the most important of all relations, your friends may come and go, but blood ties are an eternal bond and nothing is as good as helping your family. My Nani too has taught me so much. She was the sweetest person I ever knew, and a tough cookie who was extremely level-headed with an iron mind, yet so emotional and loving, that she could reach out to just about anyone. She has seen more ups and downs than the most terrifying roller coaster in the world, the ups higher than a life the kings led and downs lower than what you would wish for your enemy; but through all that, she never gloated nor complained. She taught me to be content with whatever you have. Life may not always be fair. In your doldrums, you dwell upon the wonderful moments you've had and get through the ebb, for the tides are an uncontrollable force, and ebb and flow happen, whether you like it or not. She was a fighter, who battled breast cancer, brittle bones, diabetes, and horde of other physical and financial problems, yet was always smiling. She was the best cook I ever knew, whipping up traditional treats like a fairy with her wand, especially her sweets, chillies and pickles were unparalleled. She too has meant so much more to me than all of this. That is why I was so shattered when she left us.

My Nani passed away on the 26th of July, 2012. Seven years ago on that very day, the rains had brought the city to a standstill, this time around, it was as if our lives came to a standstill. She had been out of the hospital two weeks ago and well on the road to recovery, however, that evening she felt breathless and was admitted to the hospital. She even spoke to everyone till nine that night and seemed to be fine, but then within an hour, she couldn't breathe. It was as if the little fighter didn't want to fight any longer. She had everyone at her bedside, even her daughter that lives in Belgium was with her, and she had bid her goodbyes. She somehow felt content that everyone she held dear was with her and happy in their lives. Me and my brother were at home and rushed to the hospital by which time she was already put on ventilator. Her body seemed to give up and by eleven thirty that night, there was no hope, not unless she were kept as a listless vegetable with a dozen tubes piercing her body, and the ventilator was switched off. We had lost her for ever.

The giver that she always was, gave a parting gift to society even in death. We donated her eyes, which could be used for research purposes, and skin, to ease the pain of burn patients. At times like these, I feel like a toddler, hoping for a miracle, that somehow she comes back to life or wishing that I were not so realistic and atheistic and that God could somehow descend to our world and restore the life he took, but I guess emotional distress is the price one pays for being pragmatic. It's been a year since her departure, and there have been numerous moments when I see something that would have interested her or I have some great news that I want to share with every loved one and I think, 'Oh I must call B...' and I leave that sentence hanging in mid air. Baa is no more with us. There is no one who will answer that phone call...

All her life she has taught me innumerable things, and even as she left she taught me a couple more. To this day I regret not calling her the last week she spent in this world. I had met her two Sundays prior to her passing, and spoke to her over the phone a few times after that, the last being on the Sunday before she left us, but after that for four whole days I thought I'd call her, but never ended up doing so. Alas, now I shall never have that opportunity. That is one regret I have and one that I can never try and alter it. Maybe that's why I still have those moments when I feel like just dialing her phone and hoping against hope that she answers. I guess that's my way of trying to compensate for something that was my basic duty to perform. However, that did teach me one lesson - Never ever procrastinate; something that I'm rather fond of doing. Do what you wish to, intend to, right at that moment and live life with no regrets. Life's too short, you never know when it could be your last moment and then it's better to leave this world with a clean slate, leaving behind only memories and material possessions, but no negative feelings or regrets. Live life to the fullest and take every day as it comes, with a smile on your face. That is what is living, rather much different from what most of us do on a daily basis, exist.

In loving memory of my Nani, Taramati Dalsukhlal Vora, who left for her heavenly abode on July 26, 2012. May she be happy wherever she is and may she ever be in our thoughts and memories.

[I planned to post on my blog so many times after that post on July 24, 2012, but just couldn't. The next post had to be about her, but each time I tried to pen something down, I'd well up or feel emotional drained and just couldn't do it. Now, one year on, while her memory is still fresh in my mind - the way she'd kiss me on my cheeks, mind you the only person who was allowed to do that... and the feel of her soft hand on my face or how even after growing up she'd take my head in her lap and stroke my hair like one does a baby's and put me to sleep, I finally managed to write something for her.]