In response to ‘A Word a Week Challenge‘, a collection of portraits inspired by my grandmothers, who have been key to my growing years. My paternal grandmother, Ajjee, is nearing 100 years and there is no one more endearing, intriguing and exasperating than her in this universe! My maternal grandmother, Amamma, is aging rapidly now and can be a handful to manage! But every time I look at her, lovely images of the past fill me head- her cooking, her making me flower braids for my hair, her taking me to the temple…. No wonder then that my photographer’s eye is drawn to aging, graceful old ladies. They remind me of my two formidable grandmothers who have given me unconditional love all my life.
When the dates for my mother’s trek to Kailash Mansarover came in, her biggest concern was how her mother would be looked after when she is away. Amamma spends the summer months in Gurgaon and lives the rest of the year in Chennai. Over the past few years, as she approached her mid 80s, age gas begun to tell. And her sprightly outgoing personality has given way to someone who is content to get tasty meals on time! She tires easily and her strength has ebbed, but she still retains her sense of humour and a sharp eye for what is happening around her!
For example, the maid overcooked the pumpkin today and she asked her who she thought didn’t have teeth in the house! It was a joke on herself in the light of the dental treatment she is undergoing at present! Hilarious indeed.
Anyway, as you can see, the problem of taking care of her in mum’s absence was resolved by moving her to my home. I spent two years living with her and my granddad when I was very young (between ages 2 and 4) when my parents were away on fellowships abroad. I convinced her to stay with me claiming that I can look after her for one month if she could put up with me for two years back then! That tickled her immensely and lightened her up about the unexpected new situation.
Looking after her has not been too difficult, but there are days when I find my patience wearing thin. Like a child, she has questions about the weirdest things. She cannot hear too well so it is a challenge getting through at times. I’m having to work on my Tamil. Much of her vocabulary in Hindi and English has been lost with age and disuse, having lived in Chennai for many years. And yet, I feel so grateful for this opportunity to spend time with her. I feel the emotional bonds renew. I see how the presence of a great grandparent affects my children, sensitising them to the facts of ageing, developing patience in them and all of us. It’s much like looking after another child, but one who you owe a lot to.
In the beginning, it was about getting through the month. But slowly I found myself growing into the role of caretaker. When her teeth demanded attention, I found myself proactively taking on the responsibility of taking her for the required treatment. After all, how can we repay the debts of unconditional love, unlimited care and countless blessings?