This Indian life by Shoba Narayan: Life lessons from grandparents
Learn from those who really know
BRUNCH Updated: Aug 03, 2019 22:20 IST
In the last column, my granddaughter Shoba Narayan wrote about life lessons that she was giving her child going off to school. You want to know what is the meaning of hypocrisy? It goes by the name Shoba. Giving life advice, it seems. What does she know? How much advice I have given her while growing up. Did she listen to any of it? Never. She did the opposite of what I said. And now she is acting all holier-than-thou, as if she was some Mother Teresa.
This is her grandmother, Lakshmi, by the way. I am speaking to you from heaven where I reside now. Playing snakes and ladders with all the snakes and adders who reside here with me.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I appeared in a dream of all my family members and asked them to give proper life lessons for all the youth of today. “Life Lessons from Grandparents to Grandchildren.” How nice that sounds, no?
Well, what this question did was open the floodgates. You know what the problem is with Indians? They cannot differentiate between Alphonso mangoes and advice. All the advice from my relatives fell into three categories: how to bargain properly, how to take oil bath with coconut oil, and how to escape from servants asking for loans. As if that is all life is about.
Since my relatives are so useless, I did another thing. I asked Shoba to canvass her friends for good advice. Find people in the four corners of India, I said – via dream, of course. Then she mucked up the question. She asked: “What did you learn from your grandparents and what can you pass on to today’s youth?” Below are the answers, which, I dare say, are better than her question. Please read, mull over and comment.
Saleha Sultan, Hyderabad: “I tell my grandchildren to study, play even harder. Be satisfied with what they have, but always strive for greater knowledge. Love everyone, but most of all love and respect your parents. Listen with care, talk with caution.”
Nadir Godrej, Mumbai: “My grandfather insisted that every meal should start with a plateful of salad. He taught us how to eat healthy. My grandmother was a poet and instilled a love of literature in me. She would read aloud and recite poetry beautifully. They didn’t believe in being workaholics, but in enjoying life!”
Rohini Nilekani, Bengaluru: “I want to tell my grandson stories about the connectedness of all forms of life to our human existence, and to carry this story far and wide.”
Vina Sabharwal, Kanpur: “Keep up the traditions which your parents have kept alive.”
M N Sabharwal, Kanpur: “Amalgamate and mix with everyone without crossing social limits of good behaviour. Maintain your country’s identity and culture so that you can return to your roots.”
Lata Kelkar, Pune: “Give your love and all of your heart. Do what you do well.”
Vijay Kelkar, Pune: “Meditate every day for at least 15 minutes. Every month, try to read one new book.”
Wendell Rodricks, Goa: “My grandfather was an Army man and he passed on his discipline to my dad who passed it to me. I have also learnt from my grandfather to manage my time and to use spare time creatively. From my grandmother I learnt that there is no caste and class divide. That all humans, animals and plants are equal.”
Niloufer Rashid Khan, Bhopal: “Let your actions define you and reflect your upbringing. Be proud of your legacy, but never behave according to it.”
General Inder Varma, New Delhi: “Doesn’t take much time to acknowledge people. A nod and smile works wonders. When making a choice on anything and wondering if it’s right or wrong, remember anything that you can’t share with your parents is wrong :-).”
Aditi Ravichander about her grandparents, Mr and Mrs Gopinathan Nayar of Kerala:“Every time I hold back a harsh word, or try to give someone else the benefit of doubt, it is because of those bedtime conversations with my grandmother about kindness and forgiveness. When I choose the honest way instead of the easy way at work, it is because of the example my grandfather set for me. In a nutshell, my grandparents taught me three things: power of empathy, honesty and family.”
Anupam Sibal, New Delhi: “Be a dreamer. Find your calling. Make others happy. Never give up hope.”
Dear Readers, what advice do you have for your grandchildren? And please don’t talk about dal-bhaath and discipline. Say something original.
Smt T V Lakshmi Ammal
Tirunellayi Village by way of Heaven,
Planet Earth, Solar System,
Zip code: Milky Way.
(This column addresses the issue of parenting our parents and other unique facets of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)
This Indian Life appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, August 4, 2019
Hmm all this sounds very nice except it does not work for the Real Problem.
(Sorry Shoba’s grandmother!) In our 40s and 50s when our active lives are dwindling (and kids are on their way to college) it is well and good to remember our ancestors’ advice. But when we were teens we could not be bothered; we were too busy with MTV and ripped jeans and rebelling (even if that only meant staying out late and watching MTV and wearing ripped jeans…) I have come to accept the Fact of Life. Old memories are old/gold because you only recognize their true worth when you yourself are old.
Most of us (my group anyway) are wrestling with the Real Problem of connecting with our pre-teen/teen/post-teen children (in US or West, even in India.) My hubby observed that we mothers tend to look *back* into our lives … our parents/grandparents etc … and try to bring those memories. But children who have grown up with so much M&M (mobile and media) simply cannot relate to the M&F (mom & dad.) Further, the more we delve *back* into our experiences the further away we go from our children. It is almost like we are talking from 10 feet away and we move 100 feet away in the vain hope we can be heard better!
I think some of it has to do with our own lives. As a homemaker maybe I don’t have friends at work or more recently when I started part-time at a local bank, my work friends have grown children and not much advice to offer. Somehow my professional / working girlfriends are able to connect better. Maybe its because they also have M&M in their own work lives — or their work life somehow pushes them to remain better connected (to M&M) and thus have more to give their children than old recipes and old memories. I am now rethinking that if I had done a computer course or something and taken a job then I would have less trouble connecting with my children. Surely I would have been more confident in giving that advice. (Hubby says he steps in to fill this gap! What to say?)
Hubby feels we should work harder. Maybe he is right. But who has time to listen to Lady Gaga and have *that* discussion with the daughter? (Esp when all the daughter dreams of doing is becoming Lady Gaga!) I feel there should be some balance, mix of old and new, in the right spirit. In a few years time all I can hope is my kids go to college and start their lives properly. Meanwhile, ancestors, please do your Real Job: watch my kids when they are away and call God (on His M&M) when He is needed to protect my kids.
New York, NY
Wow, this is an article you should write Vaidehi. I somehow feel that in spite of mobile and media M&M, some strange things will stick from the past including grandparents. But you are right, it is hard to predict what will stick.