Contributed by Mustafa Mawji,
Long before a child steps into this world, his house witnesses elaborate preparations related to his arrival. A whole set of baby clothes is bought for him while a toy collection awaits his coming. Space is made for the baby’s cot and plans made about how to bring him up in the best manner.
However, other than the materialistic side to it, prayers and blessings of Allah swt are invoked for a normal, healthy child. This is indeed mostly the work of the elders of the house who think of ridding their family of the evil eye before knitting the lovable sweater for the little one.
Indeed when the young one opens his eyes in this world, it is these elders who revive the joy of becoming grandparents and looking for their kids’ semblance in the baby. They insist on naming the infant with names they have carefully researched on and love teaching them the tiny stunts they are so proud of. However, in this modern times, this wish of grandparents of naming their grandchild is hardly fulfilled, and they carry this incomplete desire with them to their graves.
There have been times where I have thought of those families who do not have their grandparents living with them. I would not call them anything but unfortunate, for there is a whole angle to their lives that they seem to be missing out on. It is true that parents are always there to guide us through the crucial phases of our life and teach us right from wrong. However, it is only our grandparents who add the element of experience and true values, as they narrate stories of their times to their grandchildren. It is the aura of self-respect that they possess which in itself is self-imparting.
The significance of grandparents can never be understood unless you ask someone who has lost them or who has never seen them alive. Alina says, “I just wish I had my Nana alive with me right now. A great man of his time, he was loved by all and had a very liberal approach. I am sure he would have understood me better.”
Sara regrets not being able to see her Dada & Dadi while they were alive. She says it would have added much more fun to her childhood experience if her Dadi would have been there to narrate stories of her times, or help her learn the Urdu nursery rhymes grandparents are so fond of.
When I look back at my past, I realise how incomplete my childhood and, in fact, my present life would be without my grandmother. She would always treat us to the sumptuous forbidden delicacies without my mom knowing. At every birthday, every result, she would give us the gift of our choice and always act as the intermediary between me and my parents when asking for those ‘permissions’.
To this day, very conveniently my grandmother covers my faults for me for she adores me and all of my siblings. Some may accuse grandparents for excessively pampering the kids but quite conversely, I believe that a little flexibility coming from the grandparents, if not the parents, is necessary for healthy grooming of the child.
At the end of the day, children need someone to go up to and have a light conversation with. They ask for their grandfather’s advice which is one in a million and their grandmother’s suggestions and home cures for headaches and other ailments. Zainab claims that grandparents are a blessing in disguise and should be taken care of in every way possible.
Moving away from the emotional perspective and looking at a modernised approach, there may be people who would argue that taking care of the elders is a hassle and working parents don’t find time for them. This is quite conflicting with today’s needs, because when parents go out to work they need someone authoritative and responsible to take care of their children and no one can do this better than the grandparents.
Zainab reminisces that with a working mom, she had only her grandmother to look after her when she came home. She would give her lunch and put her off to bed in the afternoon. “I would not have survived my childhood had it not been for my Dadi’s bedtime stories or consoling hugs that would await me every time I had a bad day at school.” Ayesha also shares similar views, “My grandparents are like my second parents. They really love me and wish for my best. Whenever my parents are busy, they are always there for me. I love them a lot!”
Regrettably, people in the West believe that keeping their parents with them is an added responsibility which is too much to handle with their job as well as other activities. They boast of a fast paced life, where their career, leisure and social commitments have precedence over their parents. It is for this reason that the governments of many developed countries have made old age homes a necessity, by opening up at least one in every small town. This makes it a very easy decision for the children to easily ‘dump’ their parents. What they fail to realise is that these old age homes are no more than buildings deprived of love, care and attention.
Though not a trend in the East and the developing countries, a few old age homes can be seen springing up due to the ‘match-up catch-up game’ in the economy. Fortunately though, the moral values of many hold them against old age homes and they cater to their parents’ needs when they are old and weak. There can be no one more selfish than a person who does not repay his parents despite having the ability to.
Dear friends, have you ever realised that the position of our grandparents in the household is much greater than that of our parents? Not only due to their old age or because of the experience that they have above our parents, but merely because of the blood relation they have with us. Without them we wouldn’t have received the values that our parents imbibe in us, let alone even existed. They are the ones to whom we trace back our ancestry and who are an integral part of our identity. Hence, it is not only a blessing but a treasure to have them around and to learn from their experience what the world has in store for us ahead.