My grandmom has been on my mind for a week now; maybe because I am feeling extremely guilty about not visiting her for almost 2 weeks. I find it hard to visit her in her new home, not because she is losing her mind or because she is ailing. I think it’s because she is not all that and therefore her new home though convenient for all and though she is showing signs of being happy, my traditional conservative personality is not being able to digest that with 3 kids, 3 grandkids (I have omitted the youngest one who is too young) we have no room in our lives to look after and entertain an aging person.
Maybe being the oldest granddaughter and having spent a lot of my childhood with her, seeing her here is affecting me, or maybe considering all the hardships she went through, I just want her to have a better time in her old age.
I consider my grandma to be a woman of substance and I admire the way she has always looked ahead. I hope I have half the strength and capabilities while I live my life.When I see her sitting on a plastic chair or lying on the bed watching TV in a room that’s barely 20 x 20 makes me wonder how much more curve balls life will throw at her.
My grandmother or Avva as I call her was a solid presence during my growing up years. She was there whenever her family needed her, travelling to Bangalore, Kerala, Coorg wherever her presence of mind, practical solutions and manual help was required. It was, I am hoping, returned in kind by people who also care for her.
I consider her a woman of substance in her own way. She did not discover any chemical element, nor did she rub noses with celebrities nor did her photograph come on page 3, but she lived her life with integrity, guts and a lot of gumption.
She was born in a far off village in Coorg when technology and development were words that was not in the vocabulary. She was born during the time when girls were meant to act as mothers to their many siblings, schools were a luxury and common sense was expected if you want to survive. She lived her childhood making sure her mom’s life was easier by acting as a surrogate mother for her 5 siblings and very many cousins, ensuring food is on the table when her dad comes tired from the estate and tackling the very many small and menial tasks around her home essential in the village where fresh food was scarce, money was even hard to come by.
Wearing a coorgi sari, she followed her husband almost 1200 kilometers to make a home in a city that she had never visited and a place where she had no friends or family. There was no cell phones or the internet so the only way she could communicate was to write long letters to her mom and ask for advice or exchange information of any kind.
I never met my grandfather, but Avva always speaks of him with great respect and fondness. She was a mother of 3 kids, a wife and a sister who provided a roof for her siblings and cousins while they tried to strike gold in Bombay.
When my grand parents moved back to Coorg to start a new life, my granddad died. Too soon. Too soon for the kids to lose their father and a wife to lose her husband. Their life’s dreams snuffed out even before it started. Circumstances, events and paranormal experience made her sell her only asset and their life savings not to live life in style, but to plan the future of her 3 kids. Being a widow, life in India is not easy and is especially hard when you have no education or money to spend and have dependents who need your support. Like every Indian mother, she hoped her son will go on to earn well and look after her and her daughters will get married and give her grandkids. She went through all the hardships with grit, determination and help from her near and dear ones. And life threw her a lot of scenarios in her face and she came out of them all with assurance and strength that I do not know how she gets. She saved, sacrificed, and downplayed her needs and requirement. As a woman she was trained to do that, as a mother it was her utmost goal. She would meddle, suggest, advice, push, encourage anyone and everyone. She did not believe in wasting time trying to placate people, she called a spade a spade and well, a lot of us hated it! She did not have money to eat out, or to frivolously buy a sari or even to buy jewellery so when she saw us not respecting money she made sure she told us about it. To a lot of us when growing up she came off as a strong disciplinarian with no time for laughter and every moment every day had a goal. Did circumstances make her this way? Was she always like this, I never bothered to find out.
Your old age is a time to live on your savings but as a widowed and unemployed mother, she depended a lot on her kids to provide for her old age. Is that selfish? Is that too much to expect? Hasn’t she given enough to expect that?
For me, old age is scary. I always used to think if I had siblings somebody would look after me when the time comes, but what I have learnt is that in this urbanised world don’t ask for anything and do not expect anything. Those lucky get to live their old age under the roof of their own home surrounded by family and friends who love you.
Unfortunately, Avva was not one of the lucky ones, and life made her carry whatever possessions she could fit in one cupboard into an old age home without a murmur or tears.
While it is convenient to all that she is in this wonderful home for the aged, while she is respected and well looked after by the nuns of Augustine Nivas, while she has people to talk to and company during meals somewhere in the bottom of my heart I wish she was with family.