Watching my parents grow old
After a long long time (one month) I’m proper drunk at home. No better time to write I feel. There have been friends and acquaintances who have urged me to write more often in the last one month. As usual, I’ve disappointed them. But it’s fine. At least another article is in progress. My dad bought a new car. Maruti Ciaz. “Fucking middle class.” I thought when I first heard of my parents’ decision to replace our Volkswagen Polo. But when my dad told me of his “third innings of life” and how maintenance and fuel efficiency played a role in that decision, did it dawn on me that my parents are growing old.
Incidentally, both my parents were born and raised in poverty. Dad more than mom. At least mom’s family had a farm and some land to rely on. My dad had four brothers and one sister to share the meager family resources with. My dad was born in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Mom in Hubli, Karnataka. Both are Maharashtrians by heritage. Arranged marriage brought them together but love, compromise and the quest to progress and improve their circumstances has kept them together.
I am an entitled twat. No two ways about it. But I am lucky to have two parents who are more grounded and sane than I am. And it hurts to see them grow old. I lost two grandparents in the span of six months last year. I never saw my paternal grandfather. He suffered a paralysis stroke and passed away before my dad could be married. Only my dad in our nuclear family has ever seen him. Last year, I lost my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather. Both had absolutely amazing yet tragic life curves.
All I know about my paternal grandmother is that she was a lady who saw long before than most people that education was a way forward for her kids to escape the clutches of poverty. She lived with us for many years but I never got to really know her. In her final years, when I started maturing and her health started deteriorating, I made a pact with her. Every time I went outside to buy lunch, she would get a vanilla ice cream. It didn’t cost much or made any sense whatsoever, but it did put a smile on our faces. And that’s all I cared about because deep down I knew she was dying. She passed away sometime last November in Kolhapur. The place where she brought up her kids, including my father. This was a lady who never smoked, drank or partied a day in her life. Yet she suffered her final days in bed, combating memory loss, physical pain and unknown emotional trials. Unfair, I thought.
My maternal grandfather was my favourite grandfather. He was the only grandfather I ever saw so he had little competition but I am sure he deserved it. I still remember how we made sure I got the best mutton possible every time I visited him in Hubli. He died an alcoholic. My mom says he was depressed. I knew he was depressed. I met him in January last year and saw him consume his meals only after he gulped some whiskey. It was slow suicide. When I bid him goodbye in early 2017, I told him of my successful MBA which culminated in a lucrative placement. He said he was proud of me. I thanked him for his blessings and left my native place knowing I’d never see him again. He passed away in May 2017. He sacrificed a lot for his family and deserved a better ending.
Pretty grim till now. I know. Sorry about that. But I promise I’ll make you laugh.
I knew my parents were ageing when they couldn’t hear us across our home. They complained about the distance between the rooms when it wasn’t a problem five years ago as they would yell at the top of their voice from one corner to another to ensure we got back in line. At first I thought it was them playing mind games to try and get me out of my room and talk to them face to face. As time passed by, I realised they really couldn’t hear me and my brother that well. My dad who could once whack me across the hall in one swing of his hand, now needed me to pick his travel bags as I took them from our home to the taxi downstairs. Surreal.
Today, my dad implores me to invest in mutual funds and think of buying a house. The ultimate Middle Class Maharashtrian boy marriage requirement. My mom stares at me for uncomfortable periods of time that I am sure are spent imagining how her grand kids will be like. “Will they be short and ill tempered like him?”. “Will his wife cook round rotis or bring shame to the family kitchen?”. I brush these behavioral patterns off with temper tantrums and pretending to be tired from work. Growing up to be twenty five isn’t as stressful as watching my mom not able to stand for more than thirty minutes at a stretch or seeing my dad struggle to find his specs as he is wearing them on his forehead.
I fear they’ll suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Watching my late grandparents suffer in their old has heightened this fear. I buy books and give them targets to finish them in a month thinking that’ll stop their brains from losing its sharpness. Alas, they are addicted to WhatsApp and mobile games. My mom is so engrossed in her “Beautiful ladies of Tulsi Mangalam” WhatsApp group that she sometimes forgets she has a twenty five year old scheduling a temper tantrum in her direction at 7 pm on a Thursday evening. My dad, I suspect, has found the ultimate fifty plus year old man’s distraction. The digital chess game he plays on the phone I gifted him last year. Sometimes I feel like taking that phone away saying “It’s mine because I bought it.” but don’t follow through on it thinking he’d kick me out of the house citing the same logic.
My dad shared a Chivas Regal with me today. I had the balls to complain that I found Jack Daniel’s to be better but he didn’t react. We began as a father-son duo who couldn’t stand each other. But today we share drinks as I play his favourite Asha Bhosale songs. My mom knows I smoke sometimes and does an absolutely tremendous job of pretending I don’t. Maybe it’s them letting me find my own way. Maybe it’s them trying to get closer to me before they are no longer with me. Or maybe it’s me being selfish as always and my parents being understanding as always.
To conclude, all I want is my parents to enjoy their “third innings”. They’ve spent their first innings escaping poverty and second innings raising children who never had a whiff of what it means to struggle for basic necessities. I secretly fear they’ll suffer in their old age because of the inevitability of its circumstances. But I know for a fact I will make sure they laugh as much as they can and have a nice time while they’re addicted to retarded WhatsApp forwards and impulses to ask me to reproduce a property/ grandchild next year. It’s my job to make sure their old age is comfortable, smooth and full of Asha Bhosale songs. And I’ve a feeling I will follow through on that promise.