My grandmother supported me through everything...now it's my turn
We have all had grandmothers who spoil and love us unconditionally. Although they teach us the same things that our parents teach us most of the time, we truly understand those lessons when they come from our grandparents.
They are also the ultimate praying machines. And I know that I am not alone in saying that when our grandmothers pray for us, we usually believe that their prayers are bound to come true.
“Hamara aur kaam hi kiya hai beta? Bas tum log ke liye duaein karna.”
(What else are we supposed to do now, dear? Except for praying for you people.)
This is the usual reply I get from my Nani (maternal grandmother), better known as Mamma, every time I ask her to pray for me. She is the one person that I and everyone who knows her, go to when we are in dire need of prayers. She is, quite literally, our 24/7 access to God.
When someone is having problems at work,
“Mamma, please dua karein job achi tarah chalti rahay.”
(Mamma, please pray that my job continues smoothly.)
Or, when someone is suffering from a health problem,
“Mamma, dua karein bas yeh takleef dur ho jaye.”
(Mamma, please pray that this pain goes away.)
And even when one of her grandchildren is anxious about an upcoming exam,
“Mamma, please dua karein iss baar pass ho jaoon.”
(Mamma, please pray that I pass my exams this time.)
And the list of prayers that we want her to do for us just goes on.
I am the eldest of all her grandchildren and hence, I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time with her while she was still able to move around with ease and her knees had not yet given up on her.
I remember when I was in grade three and had been diagnosed with jaundice. My mother who has been a working woman most of her life, and continues to be so to date, was stressed beyond measure when the doctors said that I would have to be hospitalised for two weeks. With little domestic support at home and three other children to take care of, it was difficult for her to stay with me at the hospital.
Of course, my grandmother came to the rescue as always.
Even if I live to be 100-years-old and get diagnosed with dementia, I will never forget those 15 days this wonderful woman gave me. From putting up with my tantrums at being forced to eat boiled vegetables, to taking me to the rest room half a dozen times in a day, she did it all without so much as a frown on her forehead. She nursed and prayed for me, nurtured my young mind with moral-laden stories and admonished me when necessary. And in doing all this, she never spoilt me unnecessarily and never let me get away with being disrespectful to elders.
She taught me the meaning of kindness and humility and the importance of selflessness.
As I look back, I realise that those were the good old days. It was a time when she could still do everything herself and did not need any help. She ran all her errands on her own. All she had to do was tell me to get ready and I would be up-and-about to go with her to the nearest market and buy whatever she needed with the meager income from my late grandfather’s pension.
Running those errands with her was nothing short of pure joy and she would never bring me back without having treated me to my favourite ice cream, despite her meagre resources.
Mamma would be the first one up in the morning and have breakfast ready for everyone in no time. Her delicious parathas and mouth-watering daals are now a much-missed treat.
But these days when I visit her, I often find her to be very quiet.
She sits in her usual seat in a corner of her room with her walker within reach. I feel sad as I look at her – a woman who taught her children and grandchildren the lessons of life and gave them the wings to fly now fears the very act of taking a single step without support. I can tell that she quietly yearns for her partially lost mobility. Despite being surrounded by her family, children and grandchildren, one cannot miss the traces of fear and loneliness that old age has brought to her lined and creased face.
We all know that growing old is inevitable as are the afflictions of old age. But it must be quite agonising to be acutely aware of the fact that all your important milestones of life are now behind you and all that is left are a bunch of yesterdays and very few tomorrows. Perhaps one can only understand the full extent of that agony when one actually reaches that stage.
But bringing some solace into the lives of our elderly relatives is not impossible either. All we need is a little empathy and that comes from bearing in mind that we will be in their place someday as well.
It does not require a lot.
An hour or two spent with them every day, reading a book with them, making their hair or helping them change their clothes; even the simple act of just chatting with them over a cup of tea can be quite helpful for them to get through the day.
We must remember that a typical day in the life of an elderly person is filled with an indefinite amount of lonely moments. Their days are quite unlike ours devoid of busy schedules and important tasks. Hence, they are dependent on us for their happiness. They wait anxiously for those few moments that we take out for them and once we leave, they anticipate the next time that we will be able to find time for them.
As I enter her bedroom, all I have to do is call out,
“Meri pyaari Nani, kaisi hain aap?”
(My lovely grandmother, how are you doing?)
And her eyes light up with joy while the lines on her face break into a beautiful smile just to see me standing there.
I know that I cannot bring back her mobility just like I cannot bring back her better years. I cannot repay her for her never-ending prayers and her lessons of virtue, nor can I ever make-up for those days and nights that she nursed me when I was sick.
But for now, just bringing that smile to her lips and the sparkle in her eyes is enough for me to know that this was a day well spent.