I’ve heard that you should spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 5. Most people already know that I spend enough time with those under the age of 5, enough so, that sometimes, through osmosis, I become like that also. Staying here in Kovai Pudur for the past two and a half months, I’ve been able to fulfill the first part of the saying. I’m living here with paati (grandmother in Tamil) – the mother of my mother’s friend from Australia. She is an exemplary woman, and I only hope that by the time I near her age, I am as detached and happy with the simple things in life, as she is.
At first, I was worried to come and stay with her – I would be at school most of the day – and wouldn’t be able to help her around the house as much as I would have hoped, and the teenager in me was scared about the lack of entertainment I would get to fill my time around school. But soon, we began to settle into a nice little routine. Paati’s life is very regulated – something I hadn’t experienced since being at school, and I was greatly looking forward to routine for the next three months. She wakes up quite early and spends most of the morning engaged in meditation, yoga, going for a walk and doing her morning prayers. I’ve usually left before she has breakfast, but after breakfast, paati rests for a while and then prepares lunch.
I get home in the evening between 6:15pm and 7:00pm, and after a wash, we make the chapatti’s together. During this time I fill her in on my day – what I learnt at school or any eventful happenings on my bus rides – and she listens to everything I have to say (with rapt attention). I then have dinner early while she watches her Tamil soap (or the murderer show as she calls it) and every few days she fills me in on what happened to the poor girl who was so close to being married off to the rogue in town. I then either read, finish some of my chanting meditation, or go on the internet, while paati does the same and then finishes her night with a TV show on Hanuman – the loyal servant of Lord Rama. We sometimes talk afterwards or I help her with things on the computer, before she goes to bed.
On the weekends if I’m not in Coimbatore visiting relatives, then I get to wake up late, get treated to typical South Indian meals, visit paati’s relatives and friends, take her out on shopping expeditions, and we have our own cooking adventures at home. Contrary to my dad’s belief, and against his explicit instructions ordering me not to drive, I’ve been taking paati out around the area for the past two months. It’s really exciting for me and paati both – as I am actually driving a manual car in India! and paati doesn’t have to rely on the availability of the driver to take her around – she has her very own personal one at home!
It’s so refreshing having conversations with paati and her friends. We talk about spirituality, different cultures, Ayurveda and many other things. It’s not that the topics are different, but more their perspective and thoughts, that make the difference. They’ve worked and retired, and now are living for themselves – not to impress anyone, or earn anything – but doing what they want. It’s really nice to see them engaged in things that they’ve wanted to do – after spending a lifetime looking after their families and others around them. I love talking to them mainly because they are so genuine – sincerely listening to what I said and giving their honest opinion. When we meet up with them, there is no glamour or sense of showing-off that I am used to from social functions in Mumbai – they are down-to-earth and happy with being themselves.
Last weekend, we invited paati’s friends over for afternoon tea, as a sort of goodbye before I left. Paati and I cooked most of Sunday, making dhokla (steamed semolina cakes):
And Apple Pie:
All had over conversations and cups of tea. When I told my cousin we were organising this afternoon tea, she told me: ‘older people are much better company. They actually listen!’, and she was spot on! I’ve had a wonderful time with all of them, and especially paati. Here’s a photo of all of us at the end, paati is second from left.