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Monday, December 16, 2013

In Another Life

There is balance in my life, as in all things, even when I can't see it. It's not all bad - it never is. No matter how angry or full of hatred I come home in the evening, my grandparents - the shining light in my life - are always there to greet me with big smiles, like they're seeing me after years. I cannot stay worked up. If I hang on to the anxieties of the day, it rubs off on them and that is something I will not allow.


My Nani is the most amazing person. With bad knees and long trail of life-threatening diseases behind her, she makes me 4 meals a day. I'm not kidding. She makes me breakfast: cheese dosa / bacon and egg sandwich / maggi noodles and of course cereal every morning. Then as I shower and get ready for work, she packs me a lunch and an apple for tea. As steady as the north star, the highlight of my day is usually the incredible dinner that's waiting for me. She pains over what I like and don't like. "I don't you don't like this vegetable, so I've made some of this for you instead". I am not worthy.


In another life she would have been a CEO of a company, I just know it. She knows every little thing that is happening in the house. She wakes up the earliest and sleeps last. "Fun" for her is arranging and rearranging our cupboards. Like a CEO puts the health of the company over their own, my Nani puts the well-being of our home - her domain - first and foremost. She will always, always forsake the last piece of fish for someone else. She'll take more vegetables and only go for the meat when everyone else is done. I try and help lay and clear the table but some nights I forget and she does it herself, silently. Like the tide. Living alone at university has taught me how much effort it takes to make food and clear it up afterwards and like the tides comes in and goes out, she will prepare and clear dinner whether we there to help or not. For us, it's an afterthought, for her it's routine. 


I saw my Nani's passport the other day. She was born in 1941. I wonder how different her life would be if she had been born in 1981. Working for Forbes, I think I've understood a little about what being an entrepreneur is and I have no doubt in my mind that my Nani has the entrepreneurial bug. She never wastes any time. An empty afternoon is filled with stitching something, cooking something, creating something. It's dawned on me that my Nani is a creator of wealth. If something is broken she will fix it. If clothes are ill-fitting she will alter them on her trusted 1960's German sewing machine that's still going strong, trying to keep up with her. In Bangalore she would organise children's birthday parties. She can not sit still. If she was born today she would have founded a company and run it with the same focus she runs our house. Maybe in another life.


I am so happy that my grandparents live with me. We have seen each other often throughout our lives but we've never lived together. My granddad has this amazing ability to wake up each day and expect the best from the world. "He is a good man with a good heart" he says, about a young bank clerk who has helped him change some minute semantics on his pension. He's a naval man and so he expects efficiency and order from the world. Ha! Nevertheless, no matter how much worry fills him through the day, he wakes up an optimist. That's something I admire about Commodore Patnaik. 


He came into my room the other day, tears in his eyes. It was the day after his birthday and I'd just gotten home from a week in Vietnam. He handed me a envelope of money. I said "Nana, I should be giving you a gift!"

More tears. He said, "You are my gift". What do you say to that? His trembling words knocked me off my feet like an uppercut.


While he, perhaps, still sees me as a boy, I think my Nani views me differently now. I am a "working man" as both she and my other grandmum - my father's mother - point out every time they see me. I think they see my dad. Even though I earn a pittance, I am a different commodity. I am a long-term debt fund that they need to keep nurturing because when I come to fruition I will take care of them all. Or something like that. 


Some things are just more important to my grandparents' generation - things we take for granted. A job or profession is sacred. One's health is of absolute, utmost importance: there is genuine concern if I have a cold. Doctors, therefore, are God. Communication is magic: it is essential to get someone's phone number and writing it down and double check it. They love to write things down in their book. When do we write stuff? On our phones? I love my grandparents' hand writing. I still look back at the hand-written letter they used to send us when we were in Singapore in the 90s. They are more eloquent in cursive. 


My grandparents are my anchor. They keep me from drifting away just as they keep me from drowning. They remind me that I don't have it bad. They remind me how blessed I am.