Sunday (September 10) was Grandparents’ Day. Shernaz recounts the playfulness and bickering with her two adorable grandchildren. She worries about the world that they would inherit. From media reports blasted at us daily, it would seem that no child is safe anywhere. Read more in her weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Being a grandma is ‘grand’! It is walking through the doorway of bliss, leaving behind the mistakes of motherhood and taking along the lessons learned so that you can fix those errors and find some self-forgiveness. It is a vulnerable journey of rediscovering your own children through this invaluable link and re-bonding with them. It is stepping into a world of the play, where everything is magical and delightfully fresh because you learn to put blinkers on your weary eyes and see through eyes that know only wonder and fascination and excitement at everything they behold. It is a period of abandon, laughter, and silliness. It is the sea of a fantastic relationship whose tides, ebbs, depths, and storms one must weather and dive into for its precious pearls. Time contracts in the company of grandchildren and expands in one’s renewed sense of being useful and needed once more.
No longer hampered by the weight of responsibility, sleepless nights and overworked days it is being in attendance to endless joy and unconditional love. Without the societal fetters and emotional fetishes that bound us as mothers, we may still slip-up; but with our understanding and acceptance having matured, the downward slide is slower and less painful. The interaction with grandchildren becomes more dynamic than the one with our own children was. The travails of bringing up the kids belong to their parents; ours is the overwhelming pleasure of admiring the amazing package of life, wriggling its little toes, kicking, throwing up its arms, curling up its nose, smiling at angels and fairies invisible to us; it is marvelling indulgently at the speedy ingenuity with which the miniature miracle learns to manipulate the posse of grown-up admirers, in particular, the grandparents.
When grand-motherhood happened to me, it was an invitation to reawaken to life with the two adorable little charmers my daughters brought one after another into my autumnal days. One was blessed with a sparkle-eyed little male enchanter and the second one with a precious daughter, who like her elder cousin, instantly stamped ownership on our hearts. I learnt anew to tell and read stories, to play games that my grandmother played with me, to invent new ones and to be a giggling child again; I had the enviable privilege of crooning them to sleep and comforting them when they were hurt, and of helping to nurse them back to health when they fell ill.
From the distance of generations, I leafed backward to memories of my beloved grandmother – could I be like her? Sadly, I found I lack both, her patience and wisdom. And yet I know she and my daughters’ grandma are the best ones to emulate; it is payback time for the love each of them showered on their grandchildren and what better way than to make my mother and hers my role models?
Now, they have grown enough to tease me, play pranks on me and assert a modicum of supremacy when they teach me to use modern digital gadgets. I love this role-reversal, a slight reconfiguration of our relationship. It is so beautiful being with them and catching them with a reciprocal twinkle in the eye when they cheat at board games; my grandson, Kayanush, and I make our own rules when we play our version of football. We just kick the ball around in the long and narrow corridor of his home with shrieks of laughter as we scream “No, that’s cheating”. It is absolutely calming to sit and colour picture books with, go together for walks or watch my granddaughter, Saiesha, as she shows off all she is capable of doing on the play equipment in children’s parks.
They are fun but it can be very tiring to match the explosive energy of these little dynamites. As an old Gene Perret joke goes: “My grandkids believe I’m the oldest thing in the world. And after two or three hours with them, I believe it too.” My old bones cannot match their enthusiasm and energy but my life glitters with the stardust of their love and trust. I hope they and I together have made some magnificent memories, doing school projects together, watching movies and TV programmes of their choice, eating the food of their preference, just being together; reminiscences to which they can hold on and say “Yes, we had a grandma who truly loved us”.
Like all kids, both my grandchildren have minds of their own. I am often at the unloading end of nasty frowns and angry growls because I believe in disciplining kids to an extent; I can indulge them too but not at the risk of turning them into brats. I have been told that I am a ‘bad’ grandma; that I am not loved; that ‘real grandmas’ are not like me; that I should go back to my home and ‘never come back here’. I love it all immensely. The bickering, the tantrums, the drama and the rebelliousness, that are all a part of their growing up. Oh, how delicious it is when after their tempers have cooled, with sweet smiles and hugs, they re-affirm their love for me and are reassured of mine!
My time with them is limited. I may not be around when they graduate from school and start a new life in this vast, so often nasty world. They make total strangers fall prey to their charms. Even folks who don’t particularly like kids find their beguiling smiles and innocently twinkling eyes irresistible. This very endearing quality makes me fearful at times. My maternal instincts kick in apprehensively – what kind of a world are they and their generation inheriting? I mean, forget the global warming and all. Here I am contemplating the cruel frost that has rimed the hearts, minds, sensibilities of sections of society; a cold-bloodedness, an unabashed, unabated senselessness that petrifies!
From media reports blasted at us daily, it would seem that no child is safe anywhere. A two-year-old is raped by a neighbour, sweet little things, who can hardly pronounce their names correctly are molested by drivers and cleaners, who ferry them between home and school. Children from rich and prominent families run the risk of being abducted and killed for ransom. Paedophiles are ever on the hunt. Sexual abuse apart, the dice can roll against the bully as happened in a school here. Unable to tolerate his browbeating, his victims just went ahead and shot him dead. We had read about such incidents occurring in other countries but here in ‘tolerant’ India, whose renowned sons – Buddha and Gandhi – gave ‘non-violence’ to the world? Before the shock waves had subsided, there were more reports of students being killed by their classmates and violated by their teachers! Such news glares at us daily! And how can we forget the revulsion and horror generated by Blue Whale in this digital age?!
Are these just stray incidents? Can anyone remain smug in the belief it won’t happen to their child? Such dangers surfaced as we too were growing up but they were not so rampant. Am I being paranoid about the future of my grandkids and others their age? I’d rather be labelled that than complacent. No child can be confined in his home. He will have to go out and face the big bad wolves at every corner, but for his own security, we might have to teach him to curb his ebullience. We might need to teach her to put caution before trust. S/he will need to learn self-protection without subscribing to the ‘eye for an eye’ practice drilled into many children by their parents and teachers.
In our day, we crossed the threshold into the world of prowling predators and marauding monsters after the curtain had risen on adulthood. Today, the menace has crept with impunity into classrooms and in extreme cases in playrooms, divesting our children of their innocence and childhood. Lechers crawl out of the woodwork of their own secure (?) homes! The constant anxiety that they may not be safe with nannies, watchmen, teachers, principals or family members, forget strangers, is increasingly becoming a scary and gloomy reality of our lives.
I hope and pray that all little angels will have their own Guardian Angels, protecting them constantly.
Photos from the Internet
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