An era bygone…

Come summer and grandma’s in-house production factory would kick off with alacrity. The supplies from her factory, namely pickles, a host of vadaams*, karudaams*, vatthals and a lot more goodies would start rolling out in geometric progressions (*For those not familiar with these items, these are typical ‘Tam Brahm’ preparations meticulously crafted from rice flour/ sago in myriad compoundings, dried under the blistering Tamil Nadu sun, and tucked away carefully for frying and having as an accompaniment with the banal sambar and rasam rice). My mind goes back to the mouth-watering dishes which grandma dolled out with apparent ease and simplicity. As children, we took these for granted whenever we went to visit our grandparents’ house during the summer holidays. We would list down in our little heads amongst childish banter, the various dishes which our ‘Paati’ (Tamil for ‘Grandmother’) would make for us and rant on about the favorites of each cousin.

Grandpa, for his part was no less. He used to exuberate in clandestinely getting us delicacies from outside, strictly prohibited at home by our pious grandma. These included the hottest ever chilli bajjis, abundantly spiced raw mangoes and peanuts and the likes. He was our guru in philately and numismatics, at a time when we didn’t even understand the relevance of stamp and coin collection as hobbies. A number of fond altercations took place in the house on delights which were prohibited by one party, which the counterparty willingly allowed. A very vivid example of this is my grandpa taking us all to the Elliot’s beach in Madras every evening, while grandma lamented the mammoth effort of cleaning the sand from the ‘sand-bathed’ kids which somehow conveniently managed to get into every nook and crevice in the house!

Such were our carefree summer holidays spent, with both grandparents trying to pamper the grandchildren and thereby vying to be the chosen one. When a parent went against you, the sole and best redress was a grandparent. Their love was boundless, you could wiggle your way out with them, they could convince any harsh parent and the warmth of their hug comforted every little tear-stained cheek. Childlike reasoning somehow appealed to them and they understood those fears, likes and dislikes which parents couldn’t ever manage to fathom. Their elaborate story telling sessions well-knit with mythological tales on long, dark nights touched the rock bottom of our tiny hearts and managed to create a stubbornly permanent space therein.

Their word was the final verdict in the family. They epitomized the values, tradition and culture of a long-lost, innocent and righteous world, where truth prevailed in the end, no matter what. In that long-lost world, freedom fighters were worshipped as gods and idolized, corruption was quite rare and well-despised, long distance relatives and even neighbors were hospitable and closely knit, and there was an underlying sense of goodness in every person.

Such timeless memories of the best phase of one’s life are well-cherished. The biggest thought which haunts me at times is ‘Will the young generation enjoy the delectable pampering and love of grandparents?’ Sadly, I find the answer to this, more often than not in negative.

In today’s urban lifestyle, most of us are working hard, running behind the crafty mirage called ‘MONEY’, with packed days and schedules, ever so busy, tensed, stressed, worked out, tired…Yes, we do have a five day week, and on each of the five days, we look forward to ‘THE WEEKEND’!! But, weekend is a bigger deceit in itself, because it is a two day holiday in disguise for doing things pending from all the other days! Weekend is for sorting out household affairs, settling pending bills, going to the bank, arranging and tidying up, shopping, washing, ironing and on and on and on…The stress is compounded for working mothers, whose lives ricochet between the demands of home, work and self. In order to combat this, what arrived was the age of the ‘INSTANT STUFF’; of anything that is magically easy and quick to make. ‘Instant’ became the in-vogue word which made any product look immediately attractive.

Right from noodles to Bank Loans, fast and quick is what everyone wants. Because this is just not the place for the slow soul. The clock just keeps ticking… Our days, events and lives are micro-programmed to an unimaginable extent and any substantial change to these schedules, albeit for a short period, seems to throw life out of gear! There is no time to chat relentlessly with family members, to camp incessantly at relatives’ places, to cook and eat slowly and elaborately, to waste time in plain nothingness and to deliberately pull the plug and throw life out of gear for a while…

Unconsciously, as an outcome of this ‘New York Minute’ lifestyle, our culture, age-old practices and traditions are getting eroded. People don’t feel the need to conduct rituals and festivities as elaborately. Our traditional preparations are seldom remembered and made, since they demand patience, hard work, meticulous preparation, devotion and most importantly the ‘TIME’.

As extension of the above, I often end up thinking of my own busy lifestyle and how much time I have for disposal of my loved ones. Caught in the career groove, most of us, at one time or the other, end up shelving our heart-felt desires, hobbies and passions for tomorrow, when we shall retire…which effectively means that we have booked our retired life also well in advance!

Will we then have time for our grandchildren? What will we teach them? Will we have any traditions and culture left on us worthy enough of passing on to them? What shall make them effortlessly conclude that their grandparents are the most loving beings on this planet, passing on unadulterated love and values to their lineage? What will give the children of today, the hope of regaining and relishing their lost innocence in the midst of their grandparents? Today, I know that if I forget a bit of my favorite mythological story, I can still go back to my grandparents and recall the bits. Will today’s children have that option? I try and picturize the modern, young adults of today in the autumn of their lives and they somehow don’t seem to fit the ‘grandparents’ bill. They may be affluent, smart, suave, loving and sensitive; but can they offer the luxury of their time to their lineage??? Although they may, in their late years, fall short of the contemporary modernity of their grandchildren, there will still be a void, an irreplaceable piece of ‘the conventional grandparent’ which they may never be able to fill.

And so shall we age and retire, our grandchildren being smarter, cleverer, more suave and alert than we ever were.. But if we don’t have the time to share with those little ones and a good handful of our roots to lovingly pass on to them, then the essence of a grandparent is lost. It is probably unfair to deny our generations the rich moments and joys that we have cherished, probably selfish to permit such innocent lifestyles to become the characteristic of an era bygone…