Tiny Conversations – Does he miss me?

Some years ago, when Aly, the eldest of my grandkids was about two and a half years old, on a video call she asked me about her grandpa.

Aly – Dadi, do I have a grandpa?

“Yes, you do?”

Aly – Where is he then?

“He’s not here now,” I said, wondering if she had already learned that he had died long ago.

Aly – I know, she said, with wisdom beyond her years shining from her eyes.

“So you know he isn’t here with us, and you know why, yes?”

Aly – Yes, he is in heaven.

“Yes, sweetie. Your grandpa is in heaven.” I was relieved.

Aly – Does he know about me?

“I’m sure he does.”

Aly – Can he see me?

“I believe he can whenever he peeks through the clouds.”

Aly – (Beaming a bright smile) Does he love me?

“Oh, my dear, you cannot imagine how much he loves you. He adores you.”

Aly – (She’s glowing by now) Dadi, does he miss me?

I choked on my words as tears threatened to spill out and said, “Trust me sweetie, he misses you very, very much.”

Her little heart found a lot of comfort in that assurance. She flashed her angelic smile and settled into the couch more comfortably, content in the knowledge that her grandpa knew about her; loved her; missed her.

Sometimes it’s so much better to sugarcoat a bitter pill.

PS: Down the road, in the present time, she’s eleven and asked me about him and wanted me to tell her how he died, how I felt, and how her father and his brother took it.

This time, I didn’t sugarcoat the pill. She was ready to hear about pain and loss.

To My Father…

They say that daughters are always daddy’s darlings. It wouldn’t be right to make such a broad generalization, though, because we know that, that isn’t always the way it is. Not to go off on a tangent pursuing that subject, I’ll just say, I was definitely Daddy’s pet. It’s been a hundred years since he died…allow me the hyperbole…I’m really missing him as I always do but especially on Father’s Day.

IMG_7757 - Copy

In our day, way back in the 60s – 80’s, in my country, we never observed ‘Father’s Day’ or any of these now popularized and commercialized “Days.” So there was only his Birthday which was, in a way, Father’s Day for us. Now Daddy never made much of his birthday, he wouldn’t invite friends over or want much of a fuss. He wasn’t given to showing emotions. He was the stiff upper lip kind of man for most of his life. I only saw a chink in his armor a year or so before he died.

No, no, I’m not going to say he began hugging his kids or gave in to tears or anything like that. He just allowed himself to speak with more emotion; show regret, sadness, longing not only in his voice but in his eyes as well. These were the emotions he never permitted himself to show earlier…for the greater part of his life.

He had a commanding personality. “Tall, dark, and handsome” in his youth, he retained his handsomeness even with his shock of thick, white, wavy hair through to his early ’80s, when he passed away.

As a boy and through his youth, he had a fiery temper which could become volatile, depending on who did what or what was said or done or not said and not done, but that had simmered down to resignation with the growing years.

He was a man of contrasts.

He also had a happy disposition. He enjoyed a good joke and was a great storyteller. He could add humor to his tales without effort or addition, solely by altering his tone and bringing in nuances that made it funny. He loved to recite poetry, write couplets (in Farsi/Urdu).

He had a good singing voice but rarely sang. He used to play the harmonium and sing when the mood took over. He loved to play the ‘tabla’ on the table or any surface that provided a firm base when he heard some good songs or music.

He loved taking us on picnics. His picnics could also mean driving miles out of our city to some picturesque spot in another town or city. We’ve been on some ‘picnics’ to Agra from Delhi. Our picnic spot: in the gardens of the Taj! And at that time in the 60s, the roads weren’t as they might be today! It was a whole day program. We’d get back at night! Otherwise, we’d be picnicking at the numerous spots in Delhi. In later years, we’d be joining him on fishing-picnics! He and my brother would be fishing and we’d have a great time with our picnic by a river.

He was passionate about learning, teaching, preaching the Bible. He was an excellent orator and it was a pleasure to hear him preach at conventions or in the church. 

He had a flamboyant disregard for conventional things; social courtesies, customs, and such. But he was strict about table manners. It goes without saying, I, the youngest would invariably be checked for reaching across the next person’s plate for a dish or something.

“Ask for the dish to be given to you or ask Mummy to serve you.”  I’d quickly comply.

But then, I’d go again with – “Give me the dish of (whatever).” There’d be a super quick, gentle reprimand.

Please, pass me the dish of (whatever).”

I’d do as told. Take the dish, happy to finally be able to get food on my plate. But that joy and hunger would be put on hold for another minute!

“Thank you!”

“Oh, I forgot!” I’d say a quick ‘thank you’ and finally dig in. 

But that wasn’t my only ‘bad table manners’. It constituted much more… ‘don’t put your elbows on the table,’ ‘don’t talk with your mouth full,’ ‘don’t battle with your fork and spoon (or knife). Cut down the clatter!’ ‘don’t swing your legs under the table’ (this one was really bad because I’d be totally oblivious that I was either kicking someone’s knees on the other side or at the least, brushing them with my feet.

That paragraph may sound as if I had a bad time at the table… on the contrary, I had a great time at family meals. These corrections were taken well. I knew I was overlooking the rules. But I was so focussed on enjoying my food and sitting and talking, around the table, with the family, (sobremesa), I hopped-skipped-and-jumped over all the etiquette that was expected at the table.

Even today, when I look back, I love the memories. I also am glad someone took the pains to teach me. Day after day, very patiently, Daddy would check me gently about something I said or something I did that could have been done differently and properly. Most of these would be on how to respond to Mummy’s disciplinary actions! He’d repeat the same things, kindly and softly, to remind me. He knew me very well and he understood that I wasn’t flouting the rules in defiance or rebellion. He also knew that his gentle correction would imprint on my young mind lessons for life. He remained my guide, mentor, and confidante, even when I was a mom myself.

He wasn’t known to write letters to anyone unless necessary. But, I received his letters quite often when I married and moved to another state. I would be thrilled to see his almost illegible (but neat) handwriting on the familiar inland letter he used when he wrote letters. Mummy would use letter paper and envelopes!

There’s so much I’ve profited by having such a father. I would have failed miserably in the biggest test of strength and courage I faced in my life if I didn’t have his teaching to fall back on. I fell many times, but each time his words, lessons would pick me up, give me strength, build up my flagging faith in God, and set me on my way. His counsel to “trust in the Lord, and don’t despair, he is a Friend so true, no matter what your troubles are Jesus will see you through,” has brought me thus far safe and sound. I am blessed to have had him as my ‘Daddy!’

IMG_0268 - Copy (2)

On this Father’s Day, I celebrate my guide, my mentor, my strength… Daddy, you were the best dad, and I thank God you were mine!

 

 

Nanaji and the Dirty Fellas

A baby has a way of making a man out of his father and a boy out of his grandfather. ~Angie Papadakis

IMG_7758 - Copy (2)

We have specific names for our relatives, to make it clear how they’re related to each other and from which side of the family they belong. For instance, paternal grandparents are Dada (grandfather) and Dadi (grandmother). So the moment a child refers to someone as Dada or Dadi, everyone knows it’s the son’s child. And if Nana (grandpa) or Nani (grandma) are used, everyone knows it is the daughter’s child.

The same goes for other relations. They are easily recognized as paternal or maternal relatives by the terms used to address them. There is no confusion about any relationship, unlike the common terms uncle and aunt or grandma, grandpa, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, etc. Each of these relatives is referred to by different names that make it clear how they are related to you.

To come back to my father and a few memories of our kids’ interactions with him. When he became a Nana, my kids and my sister’s kids called him Nanaji. The ‘ji’ is suffixed as a sign of respect for elders. As a father, he was a strict disciplinarian and had grown more reserved with the passing years. Everyone was still in awe of this man, who though mellowed with age, yet held a commanding demeanor, and a sarcastic sense of humor. 

My two boys learned to talk rather early, so their interaction with Nanaji began early too. By this time, Daddy had already transitioned to the grandparent level courtesy my elder sister’s son.

Daddy would use all his sarcastic humor on the kids, who just loved it! They were quick to retort and he would have his laugh. They often got into little ‘kiddie’ fights with him, and when we’d hear, “Dirty fella, I’m not talking to you,” we knew we would witness a wonderful, funny incident soon.

The First Grandson: Forgive and forget

One day, Daddy had a falling out with my elder sister’s son Hemant (pet name – Chiku). Chiku was three and a half then.

“Go away, I’m not talking to you, dirty fella!” says Nanaji to the scowling boy. 

Both walk off in a huff to their rooms; the grey-haired one hiding a broad grin and the younger one certainly miffed.

A few minutes later, a chubby face peeked into Nanaji’s room. He was ignored. The second and third attempts to reconcile were also met with a royal ignore! The fourth time, he came with a bunch of grapes as a peace offering. Nanaji refused to accept it, closed his eyes, and appeared to have fallen asleep.

Chiku stood and stared at him for a while. Then he decided it was too much. Enough is enough! He plucked two grapes off the bunch. Kept the bowl on the bedside table. Daddy was observing all this through his eyes that were closed to slits. He did not expect Chiku’s next move and thought the little guy had decided to eat the grapes himself. But his grandson had other plans. Before Nanaji could say, “dirty fella,” he deftly stuffed them into Nanaji’s nostrils and scampered out like a grinning monkey!

Thankfully, the grapes weren’t far in and he could snort them out easily! Then, he was in splits. He laughed so much. I can’t say what the dirty fella had expected, but I’m sure he hadn’t seen this coming. He crept back, confirmed it was a truce, and stepped into the room.

A while later, we saw them sitting together and eating the rest of the grapes.

The Second Grandson: Dirty is not good

Daddy would sit in the back verandah or in the back lawn and write when the weather was cooler in summer or warmer and sunny in winter. On one such day, Nanaji had an encounter with another three-and-a-half-year-old Ranjit (pet name Tintin), the elder son of yours truly.

Nanaji was immersed in his study and writing while Tintin played with his toys. Nanaji had an old, in fact very old, Bible which he loved, and in which he had written many notes on pages specially inserted into the binding. It had a thick, hard leather cover that was faded, well-worn for use, and cracked in places. It was open and lying face down on a table beside him.

Tintin sauntered over and looked at it. Apparently, he didn’t like the look of it. He screwed up his face and asked what book it was. Nanaji answered him without interrupting his work or looking up. A few moments later, he needed to refer to something in the Book, and well, it wasn’t on the table! he looked around and what do you think he saw?

“You dirty fella, what are you doing?” he exclaimed and jumped out of his chair to rescue his precious Bible from a washing.

Tintin had carried off the heavy, thick Bible and dunked it into a tub full of water, that was kept for two small tortoises Nanaji had bought for him. He was just getting into the washing part when it was retrieved.

“What are you doing, you dirty fella? Why did you put it in the water?”

“It was dirty so I was washing it,” replied the “dirty fella” blissfully unaware of the damage he could have caused.

Nanaji found the explanation quite plausible, and though he was worried about the Bible, he couldn’t stop laughing.

Once again, this little escapade didn’t cause major damage. Except for some notes pages getting smudged with ink (he used fountain pens which had to be refilled with ink poured out from a bottle!), so a wet page meant the ink would smudge. And, of course, a loss of Daddy’s personal notes. Apart from this, the Bible was not irretrievably damaged. We just needed to dry it out. This took a long time given the volume of pages! Thankfully, we had a few sunny days!

This was one time when the grandson antics got me a bit worried. I knew how much that antique Bible meant to Daddy. Besides its worthiness in its antiquity, it had been his companion and guide for many years. I thought that this time, the ‘dirty fella’ and his mom would have to bear the brunt of some annoyance if not anger!

I shouldn’t have worried and trusted the Daddy I’ve known since I was a girl. 

Though some note pages and notes had gone, Daddy didn’t worry much about that. He could rewrite them. But after drying out, a few of the pages were a bit crinkled like an unironed shirt and the cover looked more thumped and weary than it did before!

The third Grandson: A Lesson in Etiquette

Nanaji got a lesson in etiquette and right practice from yet another of his dirty fellas when he came on a holiday to Rajasthan. This time, it was Vineet (pet name Viny), not quite three yet. He is my younger son.

The days passed off fast, and Nanaji and the boys had a rollicking time. Then, it was time to leave. Our little one was over-eager to help. He tried to push and tug bags to a waiting taxi. Everyone was mightily impressed by the offer of help, as all the bags were too big and too heavy for him to even budge a centimeter.

Yet, he was lending the proverbial helping hand. He’d place his little hand on a bag being carried or rolled out! He hung around Nanaji, who once again saw through all the show, and was waiting to get his last laugh before leaving.

All the bags were stowed in the trunk. Mum was in the taxi and it was time to say the G’byes. Nanaji got into the taxi, but he didn’t close the door. Instead, he kept making small talk with his “dirty fellas.” We tried to hurry him but he kept stalling. Finally, what he was waiting for happened. Afraid that it would be too late, Viny took the initiative to inform his Nanaji about Rajasthani customs.

“Nanaji,” he said seriously, “jab koi jaata hai na, woh kuch de kar jaata hai.” (Trans: Nanaji, when someone leaves, he gives something and goes.)

Nanaji was thrilled. He got his laughs. He dug into his pockets and handed both the boys some money. It was customary, in those days, for elderly relatives to give the kids some money before they left. Needless to describe the glee with which the cash was handed over to mother dear (me!) as Viny rattled off all that he would buy with it, including a car.

I didn’t spoil his joy by telling him that he would fall a bit short of cash for a car!

Just for the record, he was thinking of buying a real-life size car… LOL

So #grateful for the memories.

“Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave another.”~Richard Garnett

 

 

 

Did I lose My Identity?

Many years back, around 1987-88, I realized, I was better known as Viny’s mom, around the neighborhood we had moved to in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Later on, at the school where I taught and in which both my kids studied, I was addressed as “Joy Ma’am” in class but identified as Ranjit and Vineet’s mother. I found it amusing and people often commented on how I had lost my identity to my two little rascals!

banyan-tree-1049021_640

It was all in good humor and taken as such. But, in later years, it ceased to be a humorous comment. Losing one’s identity when one got married etc. etc. became an ego issue and people assertively professed – “I have my own identity.” “I am ME.” 

I didn’t quite get how a humorous quip like that became a serious issue. Even if someone had meant it seriously, it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. 

Putting this into a simple, everyday situation, I believe each family and home rejoices in the worthy achievements of its children because they do contribute to them in many ways. Yes, I feel blessed, proud, grateful, and honored to be known as R & V’s mom. And I am further blessed to be known as this one’s grandmother or that one’s grandmother; that’s who I am to five lovely children.

So, years later, when someone said that I had now lost my identity to my grandkids, I wasn’t surprised. She went on to lament about how women had to lose their “identity” but men continued to be who they are. I didn’t bother to contradict her and let her be happy in her misery.

I don’t lose my identity if people recognize me as someone’s mother or grandmother or daughter just as a tree doesn’t lose its identity if it doesn’t bear fruit. Good fruit or bad, little fruit or an abundance… It owns its identity even though it may not be recognized by some.

I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me — they, and the love and loyalty I give them form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.~Veronica Roth

A changed surname didn’t rob me of my identity… of who I was. My inherent qualities, values remained. I didn’t become a stranger to myself. I was who I was before the name changed or the kids were born. The changes that came in added new roles and relationships; it taught me new things and helped me develop and grow in practical knowledge and in wisdom. Through it all, I was the same person; I didn’t lose ‘me’.

As a family, we connect to each other with love and bonding. How I conducted my relationship in this fold, in relation to the others, and my own values and beliefs formed my identity. This stretched to form my identity in my extended family; my husband’s family. But I didn’t lose my identity at all.

So, when I got married changing my surname didn’t present any issue at all. I didn’t feel isolated or cut off from my parents and roots, or different in my skin or have personality changes just because I had a new surname. 

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The other, the reverse of losing one’s identity, was gaining an illogical one! At our time, people discredited parents whose kids turned out as rotten apples. One cannot generalize these things. Worthy parents have unworthy children and vice versa. Most of us know someone or the other who are outstanding human beings in every way, but whose kid turns out just the opposite. And the other way round too.

I do not accept that one’s identity or worthiness, for that matter, is established only by the quality of one’s offspring or the other way round. And as for identity, I am someone’s daughter, wife, mother, sister, daughter-in-law, and grandma. I am all those even as I am my unique self. Each role I play has a unique part of me.

My identity is embellished by such references and it endorses the fact that our tree has grown and branched out, reaching for The Light; the most important and magical thing a tree needs to nurture and enrich its roots and fruit. I am blessed abundantly and may you also be gladdened when you “lose” your identity to your children!

 

 

Happily, Everafter is a Choice

“Tell your children some good family stories, and you’ll be remembered for generations. Be the story, and you will live forever.”~Joy Clarkson

I trawled through my memories for stories, incidents, and anecdotes I could add to my collection of ‘paans’ and ‘giloris’ (tidbits) for my ‘#khaandaan ka paandaan, (the family cache of differently flavored ‘paans’), and as I did, I wondered about my need to recount little snippets and snapshots of our family life. I believe it is very important to know, if not all, then, most of the people (nuts too!) of one’s family tree.

But what’s more important to know is how they lived, and what ingredients were stirred into their lives that produced characters and lives so varied and diverse that one wouldn’t even know they were related if the family tree didn’t join them. It also helps to know which ancestor to blame for all the quirks you have!

I enjoyed listening to the yarns about my parents and older siblings. I also learned a few things; some ‘what to do’ things and some ‘what not to do’, and a bit of ‘left to do’ stuff. So was this the reason why I was going down the tunnel to the past? I mulled a while, and the outcome was the quote which opens this chapter!

Once again, I go back to where my story starts, with my mother and father.

10365644_10152415715119929_1023283820802389678_o mumdad

The Royal Indian Navy and the WRINS

“A great #marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”~Dave Meurer

Daddy decided to join the Navy as a sailor to fight the war – WWII. He was only seventeen when he made this momentous decision, but more on that later. The British were ruling India so the Naval Force in India was called the Royal Indian Navy. The women’s division was known as the Women’s Royal Indian Navy Services, and the recruits to this wing were referred to as WRINS.

Having earned his commission in the UK, Daddy returned to India. He was in the signals division, posted at Bombay, now known as Mumbai. He bossed over some WRINS who were stenographers and made up his department. My story revolves around only this group in his office because it is important to the development of this narrative.

Daddy was a youth from rural Punjab, with an excellent physique and handsome face. Tall and dark, he fitted the bill to be a Barbara Cartland hero… “tall, dark, and handsome.” Needless to say, he was much sought after by women, including those in his office. He was quite aware of the effect he had on them and enjoyed the attention they lavished on him. The drawer of his table would be filled with chocolates; just one of the bribes to ensure they didn’t get a rough day at work! Daddy was a strict disciplinarian and low on patience if things didn’t go accordingly.

No matter how many times I heard this story, I never failed to marvel at the stupidity of these WRINS. Why on earth were they giving Daddy chocolates! They should have been receiving them from him!

“Ab woh laakar rakhte the meri drawer mein, toh main kha leta tha. Unko bola thodi na tha ki mujhe chocolate achchi lagti hai” (“They’d bring them and put them in my drawer, and I’d eat them. I never told them that I liked chocolates.), he would laugh off my childish contempt. I guess these WRINS knew the ‘mellowing’ quality of chocolate!

“Of course, you used to ask them to get you chocolates. And when they wouldn’t, you’d get angry.” Mummy was quick to correct him. The jealousy apparently still lurked within.

Daddy would refute that with a silent nod of his head.

This was the cue for someone to ask if everyone, without exception, gave in to this extortion. And I promptly did!

“Oh no, everyone wouldn’t. There was this small Burmese who refused to comply,” he’d say, his eyes twinkling.

We’d all turn to look at Mummy who’d be blushing and smiling shyly; another cue for more questions, and I’d shoot them.

“Why didn’t you bring chocolates?”

“Did you get a rough day at work”

“Didn’t you like Daddy?”

How many girlfriends did he have?

“Were you jealous?”

Whenever these #conversations took place, I sought the same information in different ways;  but the answers were always the same as was the accompanying bashfulness. Despite the well-worn, oft-told anecdotes, the interest remained fresh on both sides of the table; just as Mum and Dad retained the #timeless #joy of their courtship even though they had been married for donkey’s years.

31865_410247814928_3323506_n Mumdad

I listened and marveled, at the love that had bound these two very different people, with renewed interest. For every wrinkle, every gray hair that got added, with the passing of time, made it more amazing that the story could still evoke the same feelings which #youthful #romance had embedded in their hearts forever.

“Love me when I least deserve it because that’s when I really need it.” `Swedish Proverb

I’m not even remotely suggesting their life was Utopian bliss for them. They had their squabbles and bitter fights. As I mentioned earlier, they were poles apart in all things. And that’s what makes it unbelievable. Daddy doted on Mummy even though she drove him mad at times… most times. And she remained forever jealous and possessive of him till she died.

Theirs might not be an ideal love story as love stories go, but it had all the ingredients of which legendary romances are made. Boss and steno; rich-poor divide; North-South chasm; urban-rural culture chasm; language barriers (with in-laws), whirlwind courtship, parental objection, elopement, alienation; they went through it all and survived the tests! Taken in the time that they did all this, it is commendable. I’m talking about a long time back. They married in July 1947, in a small, conservative town in Punjab!

“Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions. So love her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her.”~Stephen R. Covey

I still smile when I picture Daddy teasing Mum, obviously savoring those long-gone moments. He’d look lovingly at Mummy who’d be as shy as a new bride as she smiled and glanced at him with apparent adulation. Yes, they sure had something special between them.

 

Glossary: 

Paans and Giloris: Paan is betel leaf with supari (areca nut) and other things added to it. Chewing paan is an age-old practice deeply rooted in India. A Gilori is also a paan, but smaller in size.

Khaandan: Family. Earlier it meant the whole extended family… a joint family… grandparents, mom-dad, including boys of the family (brothers) and their families.

Paandaan: A container that had the betel leaves and all the other things that would go into a paan. These were usually ornate; they could even be in silver and decorated beautifully. Families that chewed paan (especially the women) habitually kept these paandaans. They were usually found in the homes of affluent families.

 

 

 

 

Siblings – Friends we can’t get rid of!

“No one knows better than a sister how we grew up…she’s your mirror shining back at you…she is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were the only child! Do you have a sister? If you do, you’ll know what I mean.”Barbara Alpert

max-goncharov-625787-unsplash

We were four siblings. Three sisters and a brother. I was the fourth and the youngest for the first ten years of my life. I enjoyed being the youngest… my father’s pet and my mother’s unruly filly. But life had something better in store – a younger sibling! 

The announcement that I was going to get another brother thrilled me no end. My elder brother was my friend and partner in crime. I enjoyed playing with the boys more than the girls who I found to be “sissies” and forever crying, throwing tantrums, and more interested in who was wearing what and only liked playing ‘house, house’. {That’s a true confession of a 6 yr old!)

I wanted to play ‘Cowboys & Red Indians’, ‘Robbers & Police’, gymnastics and rougher sports and games than most girls my age cared to play. So, another brother was more than welcome.

What I didn’t realize was that a ten-year age difference wouldn’t work out as I had envisaged…our interests would be worlds apart by the time he grew up!

I never got to develop a really close relationship with my sisters. They went to boarding school when I was five or six. We’d meet only when they came home for their annual holidays. I would be in awe of them.

The eldest was seven years older than me and the other was my senior by five. When they passed out of school, they left home to pursue whatever professional training/jobs they had applied for in the city. We were living in the country then. My elder brother remained my pal-at-home a few more years and left too.

The younger one was too young to take his place. A three-year-old isn’t much company for a thirteen-year-old! I grew up through my teenage years of schooling, practically, as an only child. And because the school was very far from home, I didn’t have friends to hang out with on the weekends or holidays.

Books became my friends and I became an avid reader. Thanks to my elder sisters’ fondness for reading, there was never a dearth of books. They kept a steady supply. And thanks to an American friend in the American Peace Corps, and stationed in our town, we had more than enough books of all genres.

I traveled with my book friends and experienced different cultures and traditions; their emotions, their actions, reactions, responses and values as I lived with them. This worked against me as my schoolmates couldn’t relate to the books I read and so I couldn’t discuss them either. It created a chasm.

The distances were constant between us siblings. Rarely were we all together, and even then, it was never for long. But, whenever we got together, we would pick up from where we left off as if we had never left… never been absent from home.

We’d talk one to the dozen, laugh our guts out – almost literally – because we’d be doubled up in laughter, our arms folded across our bellies, tears flooding our eyes!

With the years passing on, we got married and home meant another place.

I and my eldest sister lived in regions far from the rest and each other as well. The youngest who joined the Army moved from the north in the Himalayas to the southern lush green regions and the western arid zone… what I’m saying is, we hardly met.

Those were not the days of internet and wi-fi; no mobile phones, no face time, no emails and chats. The occasional snail mail and cards made their slow way to keep everyone updated. Though, by the time people were updated, the information was already outdated.

Yet, when we gathered at one place to attend a wedding or a funeral… or I’d make an annual trip with the hubby and kids in tow to meet the family, it would always be like we met just some days ago! It was always comfortable, always fun. We’d be howling with laughter at the silliest things, we’d be singing the same old songs… and we gossiped about the same old people. We bonded like only siblings can.

At the time of writing this, we’re in the same situation of vast distances between us… in miles. I’m the farthest from my siblings, yet, when I think about it, it is just the oceans, seas, and continents that separate us.

Although I value physical nearness (nothing can replace that; no internet – Whatsapp, Facetime either), but I am also grateful for all of these modern technologies that bridge the gap. I’ve been in places, in another country, without leaving my chair! 

I have driven through the streets in Canada with my son as I sat comfortably in my room in South America! I’ve been a part of a baptism service for my grandchildren (virtually), making the vows I had to make… as if I were there in the Canadian church myself. Facetime is the closest to personal and physical nearness.

But, it is not these hi-tech facilities that keep me close to my family.

The bonds of birth and a shared childhood; same roots, same family ties, many shared experiences… survive over and beyond the distances.

Is it because we are siblings born of the same parents? No, what keeps siblings together is a relationship. And like all relationships, it takes a lot of working at, to grow strong. It takes a lot of love, forgiveness; patience and tolerance, understanding and respect for siblings to grow as sisters and brothers. This is best explained by Maya Angelou in this short quote: 

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters and brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them the mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” –Maya Angelou

Yes, siblings – sisters and brothers, as defined by Maya Angelou, are the friends we not only “can’t get rid of” but whom we never want to get rid of.

**********************************************************************************

Does Your Toolkit Have The Right Tools?

I have often been asked how I have managed my family, home, relationships and life in general. A verse from Proverbs 14:1 comes to mind – “Homes are made by the wisdom of women, but are destroyed by foolishness”

I believe wisdom here lies in having the right tools of the trade. My tools have consisted of Faith, Love, Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Humor. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have these tools and to use them.

Faith has been my bedrock. I know whatever may happen and however rough times may be, my Lord and my God will be there to guide, protect, and carry us through. My faith has been put to the test many a time and I have turned and put my Lord to the test and He has never failed. Faith has taught me patience. It has taught me to trust and wait for His timing. Faith has shown me how to cast my cares on God. When my family was in need He provided for us. His grace keeps restoring our hope and faith.

Love has always acted as an all-purpose tool. When everything fails, pull out love; it never fails. It will not only transform the home but will also transform you. When I say ‘love’ I mean the kind of love as is written in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

love-is

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I sincerely believe love makes you calmer, reasonable, sensitive and definitely more approachable. Love is the best beauty treatment you can ever have, inside out, it makes you radiant.

Forgiveness is an important thread that holds families together. If we must survive the hurts that we cause to one another we must have forgiveness. Much as we don’t want to be hurt we do get hurt, disappointed or offended. People hurt people.

It is a flaw of human nature that we tend to hurt the ones we love the most. This is because of the ill-placed expectations we have of them and when they do not come up to our expectations we tend to deride them, be angry, take offense and blame them, thus adding insult to injury.

Forgiveness lightens the distress on both sides. It isn’t easy, but the good news is that it is possible to forgive. We need to forgive ourselves too. Often our guilt or anger at ourselves builds up walls of bitterness and resentment. We can’t face ourselves.

To forgive others we must first be able to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we may have to work harder at it, especially when we have been deeply injured. Turn to Faith. Turn to love. Turn to Forgiveness. Forgiving families are happy and united families.

Humor is one tool that can never be used too much. It is a wonderful tool and can lighten gloomy days and chase away the blues. It should be readily available and used liberally.

“Laughter disarms, relaxes, distracts, enhances, and connects us to one another. There is no sweeter melody than when our families laugh together and sharing joy causes us to bond at the heart,” says Patsy Clairmont, and I couldn’t agree more.

Seeing a funny side to a situation, helps us to be more positive and cheerful. Laughter acts as a safety valve to release repressed emotions or stress. It improves mental health and lends an amiable disposition.

laughter

Gratitude, simply put, is thanking God for everything He gives. A grateful heart acknowledges even the tiniest help rendered.

Thank God in good times, thank God in bad times.

A thankful heart will let us look beyond our difficulty and see the lesson. The message comes from our ‘messes’ – a learning point.

There is a fable about a man who was miserable and couldn’t stop bemoaning his fate. He was forever focussing on all his problems and felt life had been very unfair to him.

He looked around and found that his family members were more fortunate, his colleagues were lucky, his neighbors were better off.

He declared that God was not just and it was no use worshipping him.

Finally, God appeared to him in a dream and told him that he could put all his problems into a sack and take it to the Tree of Destiny and dump it in exchange for any other sack over there.

The man happily lugged his sack to the tree. There were many other sacks there and he found many belonging to some of the people he had envied. As he started opening the sacks, one by one, he found he didn’t want any because what he saw there did not appeal to him.

So he gathered up his bag and walked home. The morning saw him as a changed man. He had developed a grateful heart and he thanked God for his lot.

Be a family that is thankful for God’s mercies. Be a family that appreciates anyone who has done anything good for you.

Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!

Stack up your toolkit with the right tools.

 

bubble-49004_640

The Little Joys of Grannyhood

I have always enjoyed my conversations with my grand-daughter, who is now four. The other day she wanted to Face Time with me and she sat down and talked about many things: her best friend, her baby sister who will be born next month and so on and so forth. She calls me Daadi. All of a sudden she changed course and asked me:

“Where is my Papa’s papa?”
“He’s in heaven, Aly.”
“Is he with Jesus papa?” She refers to Jesus that way quite often.
“Yes, he’s in heaven with Jesus papa.”
“But why did he have to go to heaven?” Aly hasn’t seen her grandfather (Daada)
I wasn’t sure how I should answer that. She knows he died when her papa was a boy. So I wasn’t sure about what she wanted to know. I guessed she was asking why he had to go so soon.
“I think Jesus wanted him in heaven for a reason. So he had to go.”
“He did? So, now is my papa’s papa my Jesus papa?”

Where did that come from? I wondered. I guessed she must have seen garlanded photographs of parents who’ve passed away, in her Hindu friends’ homes, where the family pays obeisance to them and presumed that dead parents become gods.

“No Aly, he’s still your papa’s papa, your Dada, who’s in heaven with Jesus.”
“Okay,” she said thoughtfully, then added, “Does he miss me?”

Oh! that wrenched my heart. I wanted to hug her, she looked so sweet, as she gazed at me on the screen, waiting anxiously for an answer.

“Sweetheart, he does. He misses you a lot and is so happy when he looks down and sees you.”

img_9957

Her face lit up and she beamed a 1000 watt smile across the miles that lit up my heart and soul.
The joys of being a grandma are indescribable. Ever so often Aly says or does something that bursts upon me with the joy of life; of living: the joy of inexplicable blessings!

 

boy-2758833_640