Old age, according to me, is not waiting in a Que in front of a foreign embassy for a visa for another land, learning by-heart answers for the anticipated questions, to get clearance.
I do not believe that engaging in spiritual activities is earmarked only when one’s limbs and senses become too week for any other activities. It is a continuous process right from the early days of life. Even while in active service or holding the family responsibility, one has to devote a portion of time for spiritual thinking . ‘Budhy’, intellect should be Easwaronmukhi, looking towards the Godhead. You cannot suddenly think of reciting ‘Hare Rama, Hare Rama’, only while entering the hospital gate in a wheel chair or when you hear the first whistle for the journey to the other world, presuming there is an ‘other world’.Thinking of God ( if you are not an atheist) or living a clean life without hurting and harming others (even if you are an atheist ) , gives you a very valuable package in day today life- Peace of mind, mental tranquility. Many ‘aswamedhams’, sacrifices are worth for obtaining a peaceful life, something money, intelligence, education and other qualifications alone cannot procure.
Now coming to my role as a grand father. I became one first, when I was 68. Since then, I have been frequently coming to USA, where all my five grand children are born including the latest, just five months ago. For my daughter in law, her mother and for my daughter, her mother in law were taking care of the post natal administration as well as the babies, during the first 6 months periods, they had immigration permits to stay. Afterwards, the babies were admitted in the child-care-centers, till the mothers returned after a six month gap.
I came from Baltimore to my daughter’s house in Florida, when her in laws were about to leave for India. My daughter goes to work at 7.00 AM along with the elder kids whom she drops at their school on the way to her school where she works as a speech specialist. She returns between 3.30-4.00 pm and till then, the baby- sitter takes care of the baby. My daughters father in law, recently retired from a Govt. hospital, loves cooking and his preparations are unforgettably tasty. He took complete care of the kitchen while his wife took charge of the kid. I can neither cook nor take care of a small baby. Grown up children, no problem; they take care of me.
When I rock the cradle of the five month old kid, singing,” Thetchimandaaram tulasi pitchaka maalakal choodi, Guruvayoorappa ninnae kani kaneanam”, I recall that I have been singing the same song for more than a dozen babies in the family. I see in the smile of little Dhruv, the innocent, mesmerizing moonlight, I’m used to, since my first child was born. I believe, and I believed so earlier too, that the babies were enjoying my song, my company and my love. When I carry my little Dhruv on my shoulders and stroll on the vast open land in front of the Ocala house, the pleasant memories of carrying all my own children, nephews and nieces, how they used to burst into cry, when I slowed down motion or paused for a while, comes to my mind. When my little Dhruv smiles in sleep or I believe he is smiling, I see in my mind’s eye all the progeny of my family coming down like angels and spreading light in my house, in the houses of my sibling and other kin.
You have to act like an old, if you want to enjoy the company of the old people and preferably be adorned or armed with a neck-belt or a walk stick. You have to become a child in mind and body or at least pretend to, if you want to be accepted by a child. I attempt to do that many times. I played with the Baltimore kids in snow -storms eating snow, keeping my mouth wide open and looking up like them though mine is not an ideal age to do such gimmicks. Here I play volley ball with the kids, though running after the ball when it rolls and picking it up is mostly done by them. Soon after they return from school, when they invite me to play with them, I get excited.”Appu thatha, come let us play”-that call chops of ages from my age! ‘This is your swargam, if there is one’- I tell myself.
While I took leave of my kids in Baltimore, before leaving for Florida last month, Ananya, her face swollen, moaned ”now no one to save me”. She was referring to my support to her when her mother scolds. “You are the rakshakartha, savior of your grand children”- I told myself!
I become younger whenever I come to USA to be with my children and grandchildren. When someone says, just to satisfy me, that a grandchild resembles me or my wife, I am on cloud nine.
It has been a wonderful experience. If you have not already become a grand father you will remember me when you become one.
The moksham for grandparents is where their grandchildren are and believe me when I say this. The heaven for grandparents is the place where their grand children are, in India or anywhere in the world even in a dense forest.. You may die for want of hospital facilitates; so what? Anyway you will be dying, let that be when you are immersed in the moonshine of your kids’ smiles. The heaven for the grandparents is the place where the grandchildren are there. You may not have a temple nearby. So what? Why long for a shrine when the living gods are playing on your lap?
Continue to enjoy the great festival the God has opened up for you. Many were not that lucky like us- my eyes become moist.