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Extended family bonds

Being grateful for people who make me happy

Gulf News

Being happy for people who make me happy

I have been lucky enough to get to know the extended families of close friends during my frequent visits to their homes. I soon struck a rapport with the grandmother or grandfather who came for a holiday and this stood the test of time.

I enjoyed listening to a way of life that was still so vivid in their memories and they were appreciative of the attention paid to them. I recall one grandparent teaching me card tricks, another expounding on his favourite subject of philosophy. It certainly was a learning experience for me.

I have kept in touch with all these people and feel good when I am told that they always ask about me.

Perhaps my effort to keep in touch is because I haven’t had much contact with my own extended family. Visits from relatives on my father’s side were non-existent for the most part as he was disowned by his parents for marrying someone of his own choice. He was never forgiven for this and, as a result, we had no contact with cousins or aunts and uncles from the paternal side.

However, years later, some did try to get in touch and they were always welcomed. But the years of estrangement had taken their toll and it was too late to establish strong ties or a meaningful connection.

So, I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to bond with relatives of close friends, who are like family. For example, the other day I suddenly remembered the birthday of a grandmother of a good friend. The grand old lady died many years ago but I vividly remember her visits and my conversations with her. She was well-educated and came from an illustrious family and it was always a pleasure spending time with her. When I texted my friend to let her know that I had remembered the date, she was deeply touched as well as impressed.

I happen to have a very good memory for birthdays and anniversaries of people whom I care about and this has always stood me in good stead. Earlier, I used to send cards on the occasion but now this has changed to wishes on Facebook or WhatsApp as everyone is connected these days. Even if the elderly person is not social media savvy, there are children or grandchildren who are active on these platforms and who help to convey the message.

On another occasion, on a short trip to Bengaluru, I went to the house of a dear friend where her mother-in-law lived. Although this friend lived in Mumbai, I told myself I must make the time to visit this lady who had always been so loving and welcoming.

The change in her was sad to see as age had taken its toll. But I was awestruck when she told me that she had just had a cookbook published. It later went on to win an international prize. She insisted on giving me a copy, which I gladly accepted, and even wrote inside it. Then she decided I had to eat something she had made.

Normally, she wasn’t allowed into the kitchen due to her frail condition. But she walked into the kitchen, brushed aside the helper there and lit the stove with hands that shook. She made me a south Indian snack and managed to complete the task without incident. The woman who usually cooked for her stood by her side but was commanded not to help her as she was determined to do this all by herself.

She sat down at the table and watched me eat, eagerly waiting for my reaction. Of course, it tasted wonderful, especially when it was cooked with so much love.

The saying ‘the best and most beautiful things in the world are felt with the heart’ is so true.