As children, all of us love our birthdays. It was a time of receiving loads of gifts from parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends. It was a day when we looked forward to wearing new clothes [feeling one up when other sibling were in their usual attire], taking chocolates to school wearing ‘coloured clothes’ to an otherwise, dull uniforms. Your favourite food was prepared. As a child, you always started counting those three sixty five days or probably 366 days, as your birthday gets its curtains down.
Yes, the calendar is a useful way to let you know the date, but if you let yourself be hemmed to be bothered by it, you may lock away yourself from the various opportunities this world offers.
Both my children were fairly diligent as students. They did not trouble me with their academics nor was there any lack of discipline in them. Except for a few ups and downs in their health [which I realized as I grew older was not an extraordinary situation either], I had a fairly smooth sailing in life. I became a young grandmother at the age of 44. I loved being called ‘paati’. I made sure right from the beginning that my granddaughter called me ‘paati’ and not ‘ammamma’ [something to the effect of mother’s mother]. Some women don’t like to be referred to as a patti. I cuddled her, tutored her, took her to classes [my daughter was pursuing higher studies]. I enjoyed every bit of this without the stress of a parent. Soon, there were three more grandchildren in the family.
Four is a bunch – a bunch of adorable kids. I decided to break away from the rudimentary role of the grandma.
Traditional I am, but only on a few things. Unconventional I am, on many issues. I have always been a voracious reader. I started to fight the “empty nest syndrome”. I took to a little bit of spirituality. I attended various discourses and started reading the scriptures earnestly and extensively. I soon realized that reading the scriptures made me a better human being and gave me a better understanding of handling situations. I also started teaching the underprivileged the “Thiruppavai” and “Abirami Andhadhi”.
I soon felt that with my over involvement in this sort of ‘spirituality’, I was making me an alien in my own family. I would observe strict rules of silence while I practice my ‘religion’.
I understood quickly that this is one life and I have to live it fully. With 70% of it almost exhausted, why deprive myself from interacting with others ? Why those self imposed rules? I wanted to break those chains which I had created and lead an unconventional lifestyle [by my standards].
I began by compartmentalising my day to fit in all my priorities, in such a way that I do not get in to any one slot any day. I made sure that I got my space while I walked on my treadmill. I read my scriptures for an hour a day. I started reading more books on history, literature both in Tamil and English. I made sure I listen to Carnatic music everyday.
I sincerely came to believe that evening time is family time. I started watching programmes on television which included Master Chef [that gave me an opportunity to exchange notes with my daughter in law]. I also watched cricket matches, reality music shows and of course that much hyped “Big Boss” show. I realized that If I stuck to only what I personally enjoyed, I would be a loser. If I got to learn and enjoy what others would also enjoy, I would be in the company of many. Sometimes, it needs a lot of guts to forego your choices of likes for the betterment of harmony. I think, it is good and ultimately pays off.
I play games like ‘hangman’ and ‘sudoku’ both to please myself and my grandchildren. On special occasions when there is an informal gathering of the children, I also play ‘dumb charades’. I occasionally play carrom with them too.
I do not want to be stereo typed as a vintage grandmother. I make sure, I go to the parlour once a month. You may call it indulgence, but surely that little pampering helps you a long way. I have become a foodie gorging on the infinite international cuisines that are offered in the country. This is one way of connecting with the younger generation. My husband, being a movie buff, makes sure we watch a movie a week with “XL size tub of popcorn” – “the good, the bad and the ugly”.
Apart from all these, I also get to write articles in magazines. When I was nearing sixty – the great milestone – I got an opportunity from the editor of a magazine to write a column every month. I have in the last eight years, managed to write month after month on various topics, including traditional saints, traditional games, arts, crafts of Indian Traditional Recipes, festivals, dances and home made medicines. This opportunity to write came out of the blue. It helps me to research and put them in my style regularly.
Autobiographies of great people are written and preserved for posterity. I realized that there is no harm chronicling the history of the family where I was born and the family to which I got married. I brought out my own story and called it “360 at 60”. Simple but brought back a lot of fond memories to the immediate family who read it. I am planning to bring out one more book on the ‘Festivals of India’.
Age is a definite number. You cannot deny it. Ageing is a natural process. You cannot deter or stop it. How best to use it, is an art.
Aches and pains are a part of this deterioration. Do not discuss your pains with all but your immediate family. You will get unsolicited advice. Never bundle yourself in a corner. This is no solution. At the quickest chance, it is necessary to learn to extricate oneself from such odd situations. There is no harm singing or dancing or joking. If you do not want to sing or dance in public, enjoy it with your family. Nobody is going to laugh. Probably your grandchildren will click a selfie with you and put it on their facebook.
Let us never know what old age is. Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art. We are the creators of that art. Our uniqueness makes us special, makes perception valuable.
Age is a case of mind over matter. Cherish all the happy moments, they make a cushion for old age.
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