Bidding farewell to a few friends and colleagues from work, I was caught up in a private conversation with one of my favourite people – someone I had loved to work with and grown to love as a person outside of work as well. An elderly lady, probably in her mid-to-late 60s, we had taken to each other like family. We would trade pictures of our countries, family, events regaling each other with stories of childhood. In my case – mine, in her case – her childrens’. She would always fondly tell me that she would love to be a grandmother to my children someday. For that reason, the word ‘grandmother’ got imprinted in my mind and hence led to one of the most embarrassing moments for me ever (probably the second most, the most embarrassing one – I wont even tell you about!) when at the end of conversation, hugging her, I said “You make the best, most perfect grand-mom!” to which she responded “ Grand-mom? I thought I am like your Mom, but grand-mom works too!”
Caught like a deer in the headlights, I didn’t know how to respond and we somehow laughed it off when I told her about her wish to be my children’s grand-mom. But days later, I sat thinking about the episode and what had prompted me to blabber out something like this.
Nothing clicked until I landed in Chennai for a cousin’s wedding. Staring at the framed picture of my paternal grandmother who had passed away a few years ago, it struck me. It was a picture of her, taken when she was in her 60s. To me, my grandmother was only as old as in the picture. She was frozen in time. And she would continue to be so. In many ways, this colleague of mine reminded me of my grandmother. Sure, age for one. But apart from that, the way she spoke, the way she cared for me, her mannerisms, everything resembled my grandmother’s way of life.
And suddenly, the image of my now-retired then-super busy mother in her 40s flashes before my eyes. The way she was, when I was in college, bringing friends over for dosas and idlis, to watch the Indo-Pak cricket match on TV and she would be hustling and bustling around. I am glad and proud to say, nothing much has changed. She still feels young for her years, brisk and enthusiastic. Now retired, she’s having the time of her life. Relaxing, reading, watching TV, meeting up with friends, shopping, touring the country, catching up with family and so on. My ‘little’ sister is all grown up now, mature, independent, professional. Everyone around me has put on a few years and so have I. The apartment building where I stay used to be packed with children running around in the evenings, watchful mothers mingling with each other nearby, exchanging gossip, keeping an eye on the kids. Now the same venue seems somewhat deserted – elderly folks sit and trade stories. No kids run about. Possibly an effect of TV, video games or the internet even.
With every growing year, I feel like I am gaining so much more in terms of life’s lessons, identifying the harmless mistakes that are OK to accidentally repeat and steering clear of those that I cannot afford to repeat. Feeling the pangs of family more, wanting to spend every waking moment I could around them. Trying to understand why someone behaves the way they do. Learning to be happy for someone in their good times and the knowledge to empathize when the need be. Becoming increasingly confused about where I want to stay for the next few months, years, forever. Weighing my career options. Becoming more aware that decisions and choices now are so much more complicated than they used to be years ago when I was in school. When the only thing we were worried about then, was whether to pay Rs. 2 for a bunch of berries or tamarind (imli) instead from the local hawker peddling his wares down the street, choosing the flavor of the 50-paisa pepsi from the store on the way home. I am sure even these and the stress of examinations would have scared us enough back then!
So even as I frame my next email to my dear colleague sending her an update of how I am doing – looking back at those days, how I wish, we could pick a time frame of our lives and then, for better or for worse, just stay frozen in time! I don’t know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing tho’!
I would love to hear your views!