We all have occasions and instances in life when we are catapulted to adulthood from our carefree teenage years. For some of us, it might the first day of our job after completing our graduation, for others it might be getting married after spending more than a few carefree years in our first job, for some it might be when we get saddled with the additional responsibility of having to take care of our retired parents at least financially, but I suspect that for more than a few of us, there were more serious incidents that happened in our lives that forced us to ‘grow up’ more than just literally.
I remember, when I was all of seven years old, my maternal grandfather was just about beginning to teach me the nuances of the wonderful game of chess when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. And despite the fact that he was admitted to a hospital full time, his last words to me on the day before he passed away was “Always remember that the pawns always move forward, never backward.” And although I did learn chess, I never took to it with the same passion or commitment that I might have if he were around to finish up his classes with me. But those words will stay with me forever.
Five or six years later, when my maternal grandmother who was quite old and had lived with blood pressure and diabetic problems for more than a fair share of years was in her last days and was admitted to the same hospital and if memory serves me right in the same ward as my grandfather. Now Ajji, as I used to call her was someone who literally brought me up given that I had a working mother. All the good things, the naughty things, my eating habits, my doodling on wall habits, my potty training, my toys, all of these were courtesy Ajji and when you are all of twelve years old, these memories are still quite fresh. To see her suffering during the last week or so in the hospital affected me quite a bit. And for the first time in my life I actually prayed that someone would put an end to her suffering and that she could die in peace. I know it sounds a little morbid and ill-natured when I put it in as many words, but the truth is that I didn’t want her to suffer the way she was during those days.
Fast forward to 2004, I had gotten an admission letter from one of the Tier 1 B Schools in India after a torrid 13 month hiatus when I was unemployed and writing B School entrance exams left, right and centre. My paternal grandfather, who was all of 92 yrs old then, who had never once visited a doctors’ clinic in his entire life (except for a minor operation) had been diagnosed with early signs of Alzheimers’ Disease. I still vividly remember my last conversation with him the day before I left Bangalore to B School. The irony was that he not only had forgotten me, but also my dad when I mentioned his name in the conversation. He talked to me like he would talk to any visitor who had come home. That shook me up quite a bit. That memory haunts me to date.
Looking back at these three incidents after all these years, I guess these were pivotal points in time when I actually ‘grew up’ as a person, an individual and these incidents helped me get a perspective in life like no other. I guess I am more defined by the tragedies in my life more than the other ‘happy memories’ and they helped me ‘grow up’ in more than one way, I guess.
I would love to hear snippets from your life when you have actually felt ‘grown up’. These walks down memory lanes always make for interesting readings, don’t they.