Dates miles and milestones

The routine was same every year. My mom would remind me. Dad would remind me. I’d make a note and there were times I’d act on that nudge. There were a few times when I wouldn’t. That just was the way of things. This year, blame it on the warm cup of coffee on a cold rainy Monday morning or blame it on the point in time of my life, I opted to take a moment to smile at the rolling number.

As with most tales, context is the paramount necessity to outline the plot and observe the way the story unfolds. This tale is nearly 3 decades old. Almost the three and that magical oh to it. Its the time to hit that rewind button and keep the tape rolling back to the onset of the 90’s. My second sis was all set to get married. We took a train that took a while to reach a destination. Chennai to Baroda(I cant spell the Vada – dho – dara). To the seven year old me, the 14 hour or so journey was an adventure of its own. I think the train journey was longer than that. My memory does fail me. To the seven year old, it was a new playground of sorts. A big family, mom, Sis, Granny, Gran dad and yours truly. My granddad has always been strict. At 35, I still do fear my granddad a bit. The seven year old version of me, lets say brown pants!

That aside, I still think I tested his nerves a bit. It must have been a nightmare for my mom to manage me and manage my sister. I’m told that my sis wasn’t all too keen to get married , back in the day. Fate had a different story to tell. A story it did go on to tell.

The point of this tale is about the mileage to life. Through my sister and my brother -in- law’s (might as well call him my brother) special date, I reflected on the nature of the way our lives intertwined. My Jiju has seen me grow up from a spoilt little bratty , careless, reckless, hot headed, ill tempered kid to spoilt, not so little, not too bratty, careless, reckless, not too hot headed, not too ill tempered KID.

From being the child in the family, upgrading to be a child among my nephews and princess of a niece, to growing up into the uncle that they inherited and probably deserved, I’ve seen myself and my family evolve through the years. I’d like to believe that the family and I, we’ve taken our sweet time to grow warm to each other. It hasn’t been a single shot tale of immediate family bonding from the moment go. Let’s get reasonable here. I was seven when my sister married. My biggest euphoria was that I had a room of my own. Cant expect the world from a child that young. Cant expect the world from me , even today.

Those summer vacations when my sister would come visiting, the smiles of receiving her and the kids from the railway station, the tears of seeing her off again, the months where the house was filled with fun and excitement and the prolonged silences in the house after they’d leave, the days of sitting down as a gang and playing cards, to taking responsibilities of babysitting the kids, the petty fights over what channel to watch, the years have been loaded with memories. It was great to be in touch. We remained oblivious to the digital age. The anticipation and excitement of waiting for a month from the array of the available 12 made it all worth the while.

From being a child among children, somewhere in time, I had become a stranger among children. The adolescent years were not kind. It was the perfect testing time of sorts. Nativity to blood was lost to bonds of friendships. It was the age of misplaced priorities. It was the age of yearning in silence. I didn’t look back and watch out for the ties that had started to dwindle. I don’t know the silent tears of disappointment from my chosen recluse. The years did come and go. I had survived them to grow a bit wiser. So had my family.

Then came the reprising. There was a point in time when I could associate the calendar dates to project delivery milestone dates. In that process, I also started to notice that I was missing out on the family album. The pursuit of life, a pursuit of career, a desire to still be a part of the family, an awakening to the need to realign priorities later, the road that started taking from that point on began to change. Then came the cycle of being a participant to the way of life to being a consultant. The transition to being a shoulder and tree of dumb , ridiculous advice to the next batch came into being.

Its been a fun ride in retrospect. The magic and warmth of taking a moment from the busy daily schedule and reflecting upon the road that we’ve taken as a family. Life is filled with dates, mileage and milestones that come along the way. Its not the date that hold a meaning. It’s the meaning and association to such dates goes on to define the worth and value of such dates. Of dates , misplaced priorities and realigned priorities. I’d like to fathom a belief that anniversaries are beyond the usual norm of wishing free over an instant message, a status change and update. Keeping ourselves human is an endeavour worth the adventure.

Karthik

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A story of tales.

Dear Diary

I guess , after these many decades, I finally do understand the subtle difference that’s love. Live long enough with an open mind, I bet one stands to grow wise.

The many years we spent waiting, the payoff had finally come. It wasn’t much of a payoff as it was the satisfaction of seeing our kid again. I belong to the old world where a man doesn’t emote. I’m used to the code of a stiff upper lip. I appeared normal. I felt elated within. My excitement was contained and it took a tremendous effort to keep the blazing fireworks under wraps.

She was as much of the old world as I was. Her happiness was on a constant display. Life had found her again. It breathed energy into her old bones. Her movements quickened, her pace picked speed, she was no longer an old grand ma of sixty. She appeared to be thirty again. She managed to make a list of things to buy, things to cook, places to visit, people to meet. As the day approached, her spirited frenzy enthusiastically escalated. Mother’s pride , that’s exactly what it was. It was on abundant display.

‘So tell me again.. when is his flight? What time will he be out? When do we finally get to see him?’ she’d ask me from time to time. She knew the details by heart by now. The information didn’t matter to her anymore. It was the sheer joy of hearing the news that brought a smile to her face. The weeks leading up to the day, I guess I’d have answered her sequence of questions, which never changed their order, a few hundred times. I played along. It was nice to see her happy and alive again. It felt good. I didn’t mind the questions.

Now that I take a moment to reflect, I think I’ve had a reasonably decent middle class life. Born into a family of four, I had the luxury of pursuing my education. I didn’t have to worry about shouldering responsibilities. I found myself a job and there was nothing special about it. I was happy staying employed. The time had come for me to take the next step. Ironically enough, it was a step that was taken on my behalf. That’s what it was. I didn’t complain. I didn’t know if there was an option to even complain. It was just the way things were. It wasn’t a bad marriage. She was a quiet girl. She has always been quiet.

There were times when her enthusiasm for life trumped the moment. Her childlike conviction to a cause was a sight to cherish and behold. I did my best to bring that side of her out as much as I could. Her moments of sublime bliss was a challenge worth spending a lifetime to work towards. Unlike the new brave world that expresses itself out on every given minute, ours was a world with few words and fewer expressions. We worked on a simple routine of care and questions. With money tight, surprises were few and scattered away. It’s been a life no different than the usual norm.

In time, we soon had a common dream. An American dream to be precise. We skimmed through our needs, we skipped on pointless comforting luxuries, we saved ample enough for that ticket. Our son did the rest. He studied when he had to. Poor kid, he barely complained. He had inherited his mother’s smile. when the time came, we bid our goodbyes in the airport amidst hugs and tears.

With our dreams now vacant, going back to the life we had felt different. The boulders of responsibilities had waned thin. We were again thrust into a world that was constituted by only the two of us. We found a routine. She took it upon herself to feed stray dogs, tend to birds that nested around our house. She had things to do. I enjoyed watching her go about her life. It was almost like the old days. I was happy watching her childlike conviction to her causes.

We had not seen our child in two decades now. He was no longer the little kid that we sent away to the land of dreams. Work, life, promises to keep and commitments to meet, the time had flowed forward without much dissent. She cried when our kid announced his marriage. She didn’t mind the merger of cultures, she missed being there , watching them make a new start. She cried when our grand daughter made it to this world. It wasn’t the birth of a girl child that bothered her, she missed being there, watching the new one. In time, her tears had dried up. She didn’t cry any more. The kindness and care that were within here were reciprocated by the society that surrounded us. We weren’t the grumpy old couple. Kids enjoyed our hospitality. animals found shelter in our old aged home.

The call brought a change in us.

All of this was new. All of this was exciting. The day had arrived. A son met his mother. A mother met her son. A hug that took decades in the making. All the love in the world that had the power in them to stop time.

Well, that’s the story if you asked my wife.

My son started off the usual way. He couldn’t understand the economic divide that kept me from being a provider that he wanted me to be. I tried. I had failed. My son vowed to change his fate. He’d never allow his kids to undergo the same fate. The ferocity in his determination was a testament to a man who had made up his mind to change his destiny. The last of the hurdle were the tickets to his land of dreams.

He had distanced himself from his former world. He wanted nothing to do with it. He was now a part of a new world. A world that he fought hard to keep away from the one he had left behind. He had orchestrated his own life. I was happy, as long as he was happy. I didn’t have a say in what transpired. I didn’t want to have one either.

The day had come, he had arrived. Just him. He saw his old frail parents. As he hugged his mother, he shot his glance towards me.

‘Appa, hope you’ve considered my offer to sell that house and move to a care home.’

One story. Two tales. I finally understand the difference between a mother and a father today.

Cool.

Karthik

Inspired by watching this old couple stand an hour in the tube station. I hope they had a better story of life.