All grown up


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.

22 thoughts on “All grown up

  1. “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. ”
    It did not sound morbid or ill-natured to me. Rather it reminded me of the day my Mom told me on phone to pray that my grandmother dies peacefully. I hated her then for having said that, but got the depth of those words a little later in life. My grandmom who lived like a princess at her parents and a queen at her husband’s had extremely terrible last days having lost memory and being completely bed-ridden for almost 3 years. Yes these are some incidents that made me grow up. But I guess I grew up to be a completely different person when my Dad left me for his international stint when I was just 5. That did make a huge impact on my childhood which I believe died the same day. Good to know a little more about you through this post, Jai!

    • @Rekha, yes, based on some of your posts on this subject I had suspected that the fact that you pretty much grew up with your Dad abroad must have been one of those formative experiences in life which would have forced you to ‘grow up’, more so because you were the elder one of the family and had a little sis who probably used to look up to you in those years.

  2. Agree with Rekha. We all have been through that at least once in our lives I guess. I did when my maternal granddad was in the ICU, with numerous tubes going in and out of his body. Diagnosed with an almost 90% heart valve damage, he was trying to recuperate after a second bypass surgery, and not able to eat anything but the fluids that were going inside him through those tubes. He, who was a diehard foodie, would plead to my mom to get him something nice to eat. It was heartbreaking for my mother to see him like that, and she would pray that an end be put to his agony. Thankfully, God answered her prayers soon, but I still miss the grandfather who used to love his first grandchild, me. And Sid (the Balachandran) might kill me for saying this, but he does have a very uncanny resemblance to my grandfather 🙂 He looks exactly the way my thatha looks in one of his old photos. 🙂

    • @Yamini, yes, I guess the fact that I was just about entering my teenage years coupled with the fact that I was pretty close to both my maternal grandparents meant that I had to ‘grow up’ in a hurry to accept the fact that they had passed on and would not be part of my life anymore

  3. I think ‘growing up’ is generally accelerated by eye-opening events/developments like death, illness, separation from a loved one, economic difficulty, etc. because these events/developments make you ask questions.

    Eye-opening events/developments are generally sad ones because we always take happiness for granted … until something sad happens to us.

    It’s just like how we take a smooth road for granted, but start thinking about the road-building process only when we encounter a bumpy road.

    • @Proactive Indian, so true, these deaths brought me back to reality and to accept the fact that we simply cannot take our own lives or of those around us for granted, and that the only inevitable truth is that we all pass on one day or the other.

  4. I wouldn’t want to share when I grew up but yes, it has been a rough journey. And incidents like these do hit us hard.
    Life is however all about moving on. Every day, we are adding a bit to our minds and souls in some way or other. I wouldn’t say I am the same as yesterday today. 🙂

    • @A walk in the woods, I completely understand if you wouldn’t want to publicly share when you ‘grew up’ but suffice to say that most of us seem to learn more from the harder experiences rather than the pleasant ones. And yes, as long as we keep adding something positive to our lives every single day, we keep growing up, don’t we?

  5. Right, you want me to think about when it is that I grew up? The honest answer would be “probably never” 🙂 On a separate note, I think I grow up a little everyday. Little instances and little experiences make us what we are. Great take on the prompt and as Rekha aptly said, shows us a little bit more behind that “mahabore” persona of yours !

  6. Jairam , I guess most of the humans are defined by the tragedies more than the happier occasions. People tend to grow up during the bad and difficult phases and the happier ones makes a person young by heart. Usually a death or a separation of a loved one make them see the serious side of life . I do not remember any particular incident when I felt grown-up. But the birth of my son made me feel responsible and a bit vulnerable as the mammoth responsibility fell on my shoulders.

  7. I guess, each of us has strong moments where we need to grow up. I read your other post on detachment. I detach from the grief in time and then bounce back to being a child. That is my way of handling such moments. No wonder, I think I am a perfect companion to my daughter 🙂 Thanks for sharing a part of you in your posts. I loved both these posts.

    • @Poornima, yes, these two posts were unexpected and unplanned walks down memory lane for me as well and I guess they came from deep within 🙂

  8. Sorry, been caught up with too many things and didn’t want to read your blog in a hurry so here I am a tad bit late .. 🙂

    Both lows and highs define the person we are… I guess the tragedies stand out more because of the depth of emotion (pain) attached to them… our reactions to those usually are great reflectors of the people we are…. I think every incident in life shapes us in some way or the other… because at the end of the day the way we respond to it depends on how mature we are..
    And what you felt about your Ajji, there was nothing wrong in it.. it just shows how much you truly loved her…

    • @Seeta, completely agree with you when you say that almost every significant incident and how we react to them shapes our lives and personalities in one way or the other, in fact I guess this post was also trying to highlight the same fact, albeit in a different manner, that’s all 🙂

  9. There was a day when my maternal grandma left the world, my appa was away and amma was all alone, broken at the loss. I had to receive her dead body from the hospital, take it to her home almost an hour away from there, and get her ready for the final journey. The memory still stays with me, reminding me that that particular moment, I felt all grown up, suddenly aware that she’ll no longer be available for me as a guide. And your paternal grandpa’s incident, I copy it here, but for the minor variation that he asked me, ‘who are you’ when I returned for my first vacation from Dubai after marriage.
    A touching post. Honest to the core, as usual.

    • @Sreeja, wow, that must’ve been quite some experience, actually having to take responsibility of handling your grandma’s body and all the related activities

  10. Jairam, these are incidents that define us as a person ans we suddenly grow p. it rmbr when dad passed away in 2007 I found ma self taking over as he was lying, breathless on the dead bed, holding mom n making her understand as a big boy.

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