Contest For Grandparents: Bottling Up Memories
A letter from a grandmother to her three grandchildren. On times spent together. On bottling up precious memories like perfume.
My dear Aditi, Akhil and Janavi,
You know the best period of my life? That was when you were all less than 6 years old. That’s when we lived together. The relationship saw only one aspect, unconditional love. Yes. No strings attached. The first steps you took, the first words you uttered…are all etched in my mind. Not so much with little Janu, who was thousands of miles away, yet the moments are well preserved in my memory bank.
Aditi, you were special because of two facts: you were the first grandchild and more importantly, you were a girl, after two boys born to me. You remember what girls are, don’t you? Sugar and spice… You were not only born on Teacher’s Day, but behaved like one after you started attending playschool. And who do you think was your most obedient student? Me! Who else? You called me Rapunzel, because I had long, white hair. One day, when you were around five, you asked me to make you a promise. Usually, I would have jumped and said ‘yes,’ but I asked you what you wanted me to promise. You told me, ‘Pati, promise you won’t die!’ Even now tears well up in my eyes. Then I gave you a long lesson on the beginning and end of everything, plants, animals and humans, and how they cannot live forever. I don’t know how much your little mind accepted what I said. You did not argue. But, a few years later, you asked me for the same promise. Then I told you, ‘Baby, we have already gone through this, haven’t we?’ You told me, ‘Ok, then you live till I become a grandmother, and both of us will die together!’ Do you remember that? It’s a treasure in my chest.
Akhil, you were special because all children and grandchildren are! You are the only great grandson for the entire family! You were very soft and gentle, unlike the usual boys who are what? Frogs and snails…! Aditi, you and I slept together and every night it used to be story time. Then there were also a few small shlokas that I made you recite. One was to prevent bad dreams! I am sure you would not buy that now, would you?
You had a young friend called Yash, another three or four-year-old. He was diagnosed with Leukaemia. We were all upset. Then I told you, ‘Pray for him every night, God will listen to the prayers of small children.’ So one more shloka was added to the others. One night, you were very sleepy, and in your little sleepy voice you asked me, ‘Pati, can I just say Yash’s shloka today and sleep?’ Yet another treasure in my chest. (Yash got well. Your caring for someone at that tender age made you even more special.)
Little Janu, you are not just special, you are very, very special. You are God’s special gift. You were a beautiful child, now you are a young lady, in the 10th grade, doing pretty well in your studies. With a little help from your wonderful parents, you have reached great heights. You sing beautifully, you write beautifully, you are a very pretty and wonderful child. My only sorrow is that I am not able to spend as much time with you as I would like to. You are the third treasure in my chest.
Today, circumstances have changed, and I am away from my grandchildren.
Were my children less special to me? No way. But when they were young, there was a lot more of responsibilities and duties for us. Taking care of parents and parents-in-law, juggling housework and office work, balancing income and expenditure. There was no time to really enjoy my children. But when you were kids and we were all together, I had nothing to do but enjoy your company. Your parents took care of all the chores. So, I could play with you, sleep with you, share my childhood memories with you. Now, the young have their own ideas of what they can do, what they have to do, what they want to do and what they don’t want to do. Joint families are very rare. People, old and young, want their space. Mostly, people do not like to compromise or adjust to another generation. This applies to both the old and the young. The tragedy is that both find fault with the other.
These days, children are being advised to bond with their grandparents. That would be wonderful. But at the same time, children should be made to understand that both their parents and grandparents can make mistakes. These can be explained to them kindly and a peaceful atmosphere can be assured.
I miss you all. I do meet you and spend short times with you, but I get back to my own space. I have my wonderful memories though, which time and distance cannot take away from me. Like Rebecca, I have bottled up all my precious moments like perfume.
I can always open the lid and relive those moments.
Be good citizens of the world, my precious ones.
All my love,
Featured image: Nalini with Aditi and Akhil, now 20 & 17.