Pritha Banerjee gives her take on the role elders play in her life.
Grandparents are our best friends when we experience the realm of childhood. It’s undeniable. Grandparents make us aware of the real apprehension and consciousness through their vast terra firma of wisdom and experience. My grandparents are unique in their own ways, and their stories are what made me master the management of little things like family, friends and neighbours. There are ample materialistic views prevailing in the society today, but the real affection can only be unveiled if we disburse some precious time to these souls, without whom we may not have learnt to walk, talk or sleep.
My grandparents are coming from a rich background of history, music, art and culture. My great great grandfather is Kshirode Prasad Vidyabinod, evergreen for Alibaba. The story endures, abides in our hearts and are accentuated various times. But, the actual taste of Alibaba can only be heard in the nooks and corners of the vintage Nandalal Bose Lane in Bagbazar, where my grandma opens up her heart to the songs and my grandpa nods along merrily. Our family, being one full of heritage, is simply divine with music, and obviously retro. Rabindrasangeet from my grandmom is something that can never leave my spirit, it remains everlasting with the voice sweeter than honey even at the age of seventy.
My grandpa is a doctor, an Army physician, a soul churner, a music enthusiast, a lover of food and huge family adda parties. Nothing makes him smack his lips more than the taste of Bati Chochori, Shukto, Chingri Bhape, Kosha Mangsho and Macher Jhal from my grandma. And believe me, they are absolutely blissful. Energetic and vivacious as ever, he used to return from his clinic and tell me to sing. He helped me pass in Mathematics and gave me the inspiration needed to build an intellect as strong and redundant as him.
Here’s a glimpse of all the privileges I get as their granddaughter:-
History – The mere glimpse of our ancient Harmonium, several Gitobitans, a graduate certificate of Rabindrabharati and photos of my grandmother singing give me a feel of eternity. It is as if the songs are freshly written every day, the books are newly bind and the song is just sung. The old radio, the cassettes and those huge gramophones where we patiently sat to listen to Aurangzeb. God! My grandfather’s certificates of honour from the army, his beautiful coat which is carefully kept and the photos of his young times, really brings along a feeling undefinable. The fact that 1932 was his birth year and he experienced the independence first hand, is something I will always cherish.
Skills – Well, unfortunately I never learnt sewing from my grandmom ( I don’t want to, right now at least!) but yes, cooking, baking, farming, all I owe to that lady! The various times I cheated on my school assignments just so she would do it for me and in return I would give her a new book to read. The give and take was never equal but she didn’t mind and I didn’t pester. Cleaning, using old tools, reusing things and careful storage are all the generous gifts of that old lady. My grandpa cannot help but make me an enhanced academian. Mathematics, physics and songs! Thanks for that!
Adda and Torko – A part of my everyday routine, a day without the jukti -torkobagish nature oozing out of my mouth, is a day wasted. My grandpa was the sole participant here along with me, but he patiently listened to my opinions as well. He never ever complained, never once became impatient. Just he would keep saying (and still does!) ” Amar shathe boshle tor porashona ar hobe ne bole dilum”. Well, who wants studies to disrupt when there is so much to express your opinions about and listen more to!
Family History – The pandemonium of old age! The family history is a bonus along with your package with this family. Every time a new subject comes up my grandma goes “Amar ma na …” “Janish to tor shejdadu o kintu erokom chilo” “Organ ta bajiye ei gan amake omuk shale ma omuk dine shiniyechilen” and the scornful look from my grandpa follows.
Food!!! – Endless! My personal favorite – everything along with pulao and mangsho, payesh. Chingrir malaikari, echorer torkari, kochu, murighonto, oler poshto, aluposto, telebhaja, alu kabli! And so many! My grandpa was a step behind. He specialised in all the “chops” – Mangsher chop, mangsher shingara, alur chop, macher chop, dimer chop and his signature scrambled egg, french fries and omelette! Delectable.
Books – God! The libraries of my city will hide their faces in shame if our collection of books is ever laid out! Classics, Rabindranath, Shankha Ghosh, Troilokkonath, Satyajit, Sukumar, Upendrokishor, Shorodindu to all those with almost no strength left in them. Still they are all readable, and they still pass the hands of this generation. Nobody should challenge us in the field of books!
Emotional Support – Broke down after school? Had a fight with friends? Had a fight with parents? Had a fight with yourself?Losing the morality of life? Can’t figure out what to do? Don’t know what to eat? Don’t know where the key is? Weather too gloomy? Come to the humble abode of your grandparents and see all the problems fade away!
The best part is when I listen to their random talks and seek to know more from what they have seen life as. Although, most of the times I get too impatient, careless and amateurish with them, but I know I understand them like no one ever did. Yes, teaching them to use a mobile is next to impossible, making them understand the usage of internet, skype and Facebook is impossible but there’s no harm in trying! After all, they taught you how to use a spoon for god’s sake!
They always gave what felt right, they shared everything, they were unbiased, they were unprecedented, they saved from habits that harm, they taught me to work hard, they saved me from my mother’s beatings and father’s scoldings, they provided all the money whenever I had a secret guilt-free wish!
Now,since it’s my time to reflect on what I can give them. There’s nothing much that I can do in this aspect but yes, I am young enough to say that love is the ultimate gift to all those grey-haired people who are near and dear to you. Spend your best time with them, get them the endearment they so deserve, teach them to be patient with new gadgets, cook with them, read with them. But, please, don’t put them in a home! It is the biggest mistake depriving both the grandparents and their grandkids to savor the time that parents fail to provide. Only 15 years of friendship has given me so much to be proud of. Just because they are old it doesn’t mean they aren’t our parents. Namma Dadu, you are god given and a well wisher for life. You know I won’t take a step if you don’t approve of it. You know I can’t get enough of your tenderness, disposition and discernment. You are vital for my life, you are always young. There is nothing abnormal in spending more time with your grandparents than your parents purposefully.
We live in a society that opposes aging, in spite of the evidence that each of us is, in fact, are aging. This anti-aging bias has prevented us from thinking about old age in a way that feels good or that will create a good elderhood.
Go say that you love them, because I tell them every day! For me, it’s quite unimaginable to see them being ill-treated. Any person who is outside wandering about helplessly should be taken in. My grandparents will always be my responsibility, it can never get neglected. It should never occur that a child is brought in this world to enable a new exploiting personality to increase in this already contaminated globe. There should be no sad memories till the last breath for people so special and priceless. We give them so less yet we regret all the times we lost. So, act now. Go speak up. Because:-
To me – old age is always ten years younger than I am.
- Bernard Baruch
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