Sunday, November 15, 2009

Solutions from the heart

At 75, she looked back at her life with a lot of satisfaction. At a time when norms of behaviour for a new bride in her in-law's house were fairly conservative, she was lucky to travel and set up house with her husband who worked in another town, away from home. Living with people from all over the country who came to work there, this was her introduction to the customs from different communities, that make up he mosaic that is India. Nucleisation of family life sometimes brings a different kind of freedom to a family. There is less minding of overbearing P's and Q's, and more open thinking. But she always remembered her family back home, and ensured that the children spent some fun times at their grandparents' home during the summer holidays.

Today was her little grandson's birthday. The first one after she lost her husband, ten months ago. The little boy's maternal grandparents had traveled over for the event, from out of town, and the house was all hustle and bustle with the boy's mother organizing the eats and games for the evening. The cake was home made , iced according the wishes of the little boy.

She remembered the last birthday, when her husband had distributed the prizes to all the little ones who won in the games, with the birthday boy holding his hand, jumping in excitement as his friends rushed up to get their prize. Late that night, after everyone had left, the little boy had sat with his grandfather, and opened all his fancy presents, both of them admiring the stuff, as the ladies were organizing the left over food and the mess in the living room, that remains after some boisterous 7 years olds have finished with it.

Traditionally , every birthday, an aarti was done for the little boy. He sat on a "paat" , east-west facing always; and every year, the two grandmothers, his mother, any aunts who happened to be there, as well as the household help lady who was like a family member did the aarti. His face would gleam in the light of the oil lamp, as he beamed at the ladies, and they would apply some vermilion and turmeric and rice grains on his forehead.

She sat to the side today, and watched the hustle and bustle of the preparations. She never ever sat idle and her hands were always busy with something like shelling the cardamom, or peeling cucumbers or boiled potatoes , or whatever was the requirement of that time.

The boys mother did the aarti. Then his maternal grandmother , who was nearby , did her turn, and she looked around for the other grandma. She was watching them all, an indulgent look on her face, some old memories bringing an occasional old thought into her eyes, and she smiled at the little boy.

"Aji, come, its your turn !" and he looked expectantly at her.

"I need to just get done with this for your mother", she said, " You all carry on "....

The boy's other younger grandmother understood, but didn't agree with what was happening.

Widowhood was a new factor now, and at 75 years of age, all the old customs came back to the elder grandma.She wouldn't do aarti for the little boy. It wasn't auspicious. Her heart didn't agree at all. But her head was in the grips of age old tradition.

"Tai, come , its your turn now. Its OK, we will do the cardamoms later. " the younger grandma said, trying to act casual. The little boy was not to know why his older grandma was hesitating.

She went to the older lady and spent some moments cajoling her into doing the aarti.

"No, No. Its OK. You carry on. My mind is not in it." she said. The older lady , acutely aware of her widowhood, was trying to exclude herself, thinking her participation would be unlucky.

Her daughter-in-law went over. She and her mother insisted that the older grandma participate.

"You know, Aji has to do aarti for her grandson. Its your blessing, and see, he is waiting. How can the birthday be properly celebrated otherwise ?" . And saying so, the younger grandma held the hand of the elder one, and escorted her to where the little boy sat.

Aji looked very gratefully at the ladies, her face a fleeting mixture of sorrow and joy, and slowly took charge of the aarti plate , and shielded the lamp with one hand. She bent down to apply vermilion and turmeric and rice to the little boy, and did the aarti.

The little fellow had a smile on his face, eyes twinkling, and he seemed to be holding something half hidden in the folds of his shirt, which was not tucked in yet. Sometime during the time that the ladies were busy convincing the elder grandma, that no taboo or tradition, irrespective of marital status, could stop a grandma from doing aarti to her grandson, he had quietly got up, grabbed his grandpa's photo from the side table, and was clutching it tight in his hands. The family was complete ......

She straightened up from the aarti, passed the paraphernalia to her daughter-in-law, so the lamp could be kept in front of the Gods, and looked at the younger grandma who was standing beside her. They both had tears flooding their eyes. They had no words, and none were needed. They suddenly decided there was some stuff that needed their attention in the kitchen /balcony etc and slowly made their way there.

For the little boy, something had changed. He was a big boy now. He knew that God had taken away his grandpa almost a year ago. He suspected that his grandma was missing him on this day. So he did the obvious. Grandpa watched , as grandma did the aarti, and the little boy was pleased.

His grandpa would be watching the entire birthday, from the frame on the side table .

The little boy's mother thought she noticed an extra smile playing on face in the photograph.

The two grandmas were at peace in their minds.

They couldnt get over the amazing solution offered by their little grandson. ....

This entry is a part of the contest at in association with


  1. Awwww! Touching! :(
    I don't understand the customs widows are made to follow. Some seem ridiculous, but I am not an expert on such topics so I will shut up. But this episode was really sweet. I have seen women telling other women to stay out of auspicious occasions because of their widowhood. This was a nice example for everybody present there.

  2. What a beautiful story and what a thoughtful and caring little boy !

  3. What a beautiful story and what a thoughtful and caring little boy !

  4. What a moving and beautiful story, Suranga! And what insight for a young one to have!

    Enjoy your week!


  5. such a beautiful post...and the pooja thali, we do it the same way, haldi, kunku, the gold object - beautiful pic:)

    very touching post :)

  6. Thank you for sharing this lovely story of a very wise young man on his birthday.

  7. Very touching story! And children often think of such lovely solutions don't they?

    I wish it were always so simple.

    A cousin of mine was widowed before her daughter was married. It was a traditional marriage, and the daughter had told her in-laws beforehand that the Kanyadaan would be done by her mother (my cousin).

    Her in-laws were okay with this, but not the Bhatji, who refused to conduct this ritual.

    But the girl was not ready to let anyone else do the Kanyadaan, so with the support of her in-laws, that ritual was simply dropped and the subsequest ones conducted.

    I still feel my cousin should have been able to do the Kanyadaan. But it's not always possible to create a scene either...

  8. Beautiful story - it made me cry. I am now wondering if my mom has any such ideas... she did attend a wedding recently.

    I am going to make sure she is there for every function and after reading Manju's comment, I will make sure it is discussed and decided completely.

    @Manju the girl did what she could... she was strong and right to refuse to let the ceremony be performed without her mother doing it!

  9. What a wonderful account. And narration. It got me all moist eyed.

    Sometimes some customs need indeed to be broken. There cant be anything more auspicious than a young boy with a flickering hope. Asking for his grandmother's blessing !

  10. I am out of superlatives after the post on Sachin.. but that doesnt mean I didnt like this...

    its a very very beautiful story !

  11. What a sensitive and sensible family! If only more people would realise the unnecessary ways in which we hurt ourselves and others by sticking to some meaningless traditions rather than simply solving them from our heart.

  12. Beautiful thought and very touching. See the young boy and his perspective. Well written.

  13. love the story! And, my family would do the same, for which I am immensely grateful and proud!

  14. this brought tears in my eyes.

    the little boy is a gem to be treasured.

    excellent narration...

  15. my mother has been a widow for long over a decade. This story touched a chord...

  16. G

    Children have the most simple and logical solutions. If we only stop restricting them with some illogical customs....

    Barbara, Haddock, Sylvia, Neha, Darlene, Braja

    Thank you.

    Manju Thank you. And what a great story about your niece ! Kudos to her in-laws for understanding her. What can you say about the bhatji ? They are so bound by old rules ....

    IHM, Hitchwriter, NSiyer, Roshni, Suma Thank you, and yes, the little boy is surely a gem, though not so little any more.....

    Kavi Thank you. Grandmas and grandkids are special. There is a lot to learn from them....

    Usha You said it ! We need to solve things "from the heart" in sensible ways ! So true.

    Sucharita Thank you.