This Indian life by Shoba Narayan: Life lessons from grandparents

Learn from those who really know

BRUNCH Updated: Aug 03, 2019 22:20 IST

Shoba Narayan
Hindustan Times

Dear Readers,

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

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