Walking Into The Sunset...
"Aging gracefully" is at times a cruel oxymoron. It is beyond most people to accept deteriorating health, changing social conditions, descent in the status ladder, increased dependency and oppressive loneliness that are the curse of old age. The tragedy of becoming time's relic - an anachronistic joke in the middle of a world busy moving ahead - is a fate that most of us who live long might not escape.
But this is the story of a patriarch in his late seventies who is walking into the proverbial sunset with his head held high - a man who has been an idol for his grandchildren, provider for many a relative, an ever ready source of expert counsel and great fun to be with. Not only has sharing the past several years with my grandfather been sheer joy but it has also given many lessons in how life ought to be lived.
Grandpa learnt his ropes under strict British disciplinarians in the tea estates of Sri Lanka's Nuwara Eliya district. The values and meticulousness he imbibed then have survived to this day. Even now, things need to be done with the immediacy and precision of a military camp at home. Bills are neatly filed, phone calls are diligently recorded, the smallest of batteries have date-stamps on their backs, newspaper cuttings of the slightest relevance are immediately posted to grandchildren... I could go on and on...
Grandpa still takes care of his and Grandma's expenses by himself. What's more, he has been helping with the education and well-being of almost all his grandchildren. And with two great-granddaughters now, he is likely to do his bit for them as well. The only financial redress we are allowed to make is in the form of small gifts. Anything more is refused with characteristic sternness.
But what set Grandpa apart are his principles. No he isn't a local leader or activist, but he is a study in social responsibility.
While most of us crib about bribing, we seldom realise how difficult life can get without the occasional "tip" to the phone-repairman, power linesman, postman and others. Grandpa has always refused payment to these notorious specimens of government inefficiency and yet manages to get his work done.
This is how a typical post-repair conversation with the telephone guy goes -
Worker: "Sir, something for tea, tiffin...."
Grandpa: "I'll give you as much as you want. But give me a bill for the amount. I'll claim it from your manager!!!!"
And every department that tried its dirty tricks and delaying tactics with Grandpa ended up losing badly. If there is undue delay, letters written in neat cursive are dispatched, ascending the ranks in quick succession until some serious officer sets things right (often with severe reprimands to the miscreants). Trust me, it works!!! Grandpa is living proof that our laziness drives bribery as much as politicians do!
Grandpa is a keen follower of the political scene and we often have long discussions. But, one can't play the typical middle-class political hypocrite with him. Voting is a sanctimonious ritual. He goes to often inconveniently situated booths and waits patiently to exercise his franchise. And if you didn't do it too, you are in for serious trouble when you next meet him. From the way you park your cycle in front of a shop to where the neighbourhood wastes are dumped, things need to be done the right way with Grandpa.
He's still enthusiastic about new things. He often tries new gadgets - usually after long debates with salesmen. New exercises and diabetes remedies are tried out with the enthusiasm of a kid. And recently, he borrowed a rather bulky book on Indian political history from me and diligently completed it despite eye problems.
Today is Grandpa's birthday! And this one's dedicated to him... And to grandparents around the world for all the joy they bring to their grandchildren.