Dubai: Growing up, I always felt close to my maternal grandparents and spent almost every vacation in India. My memories of summer are filled with tea sessions, conversations in the garden and watching old Hindi movies on a box television with my grandparents. However, my time with them was limited, as I lost my grandmother when I was 12, and my grandfather five years later. I would give anything to spend some more time with them.
According to a report by The Telegraph, 2013, in Britain, “one in three older people say they are lucky if they see their grandchildren once a month”. With life being extremely fast paced and with people constantly struggling to have a work-life balance, grandparents are the most affected. Daily, there are reports of senior citizens being neglected, which make them prone to loneliness and depression.
In India, old age homes have become highly commercialised and popular in recent years, as stated in the newspaper The Hindu, with Non Resident Indians willing to pay lots of money so that their elders are cared for, thus shifting the responsibility onto someone else.
This brings us to the question: Do we take our grandparents for granted?
For 16-year-old Disha Bobby, keeping in touch with her grandparents is important and she manages to do that by speaking to them every two weeks. She is closer to her grandmother and said: “She told me to pursue whatever subject I like in school, regardless of what people say, which is what I did.”
Social media blogger Aditi Raturi admits that she does not find the time to call her grandparents often, despite sharing a bond, but video-chats them from time to time. She said: “My grandparents have and use Whatsapp, so really, they are just a text message away.”
Those who have their grandparents living in the same city, find staying in touch easier.
Twelve-year-old Sara Al Abdul Salam keeps in touch with her grandmother by visiting her occasionally as she lives nearby. The Omani national and Abu Dhabi resident said that she also calls her grandmother on special occasions.
Impact on life
Talking to your grandparents adds value to life as tapping into their past and listening to their wisdom teaches you more than any book ever can. Films and art often discuss the relationship between children and their elders because of the support system and positivity such interactions create.
University student Mira Kerbaje, 21 said: “My grandmother keeps telling me to be happy and not to focus on the negative things in life. I should try and fight through every problem.”
For Indian national Jisen Raj, losing his maternal and paternal grandmothers last year was devastating. He told Gulf News: “I am lucky to have spoken to them about their past and heard stories from them personally.” He added that his grandmothers always encouraged him to be humble and kind, which is advice he holds dear.
Maryam Khoory’s grandmother lives in Dubai and meets her every week. The 16-year-old said: “We talk a lot. She has always told me never to forget my prayers and always pushes me to do what I like.”
In a New York Times article published in 2013, the older a child grows, the more likely they are to need or desire to connect with their grandparents. In the report, Sara Moorman, a Boston College sociologist was quoted: “We know relatively little about what grandparents and grandchildren do for each other on a daily basis during the grandchildren’s adulthood.”
Moorman investigated data collected through the Longitudinal Study of Generations, which surveyed families in Southern California and discovered: “When the pairs described themselves as fairly close emotionally both generations showed fewer symptoms of depression on a standard psychological scale, than those with more detached relationships.”
How well do we know them?
While conducting interviews, some people said that they were close to their grandparents, while others were not. Children were quick to identify their likes and dislikes, but when asked about a deeper understanding of their grandparent’s personalities, a lot of young adults were unsure.
Fatima AlKhaja’s Emirati grandmother lived with her for many years and while she knows her routine and has spent time with her, Fatima said that because while growing up her grandmother “grew weaker”, she does not believe she knows her for who she is.
Dubai resident Yuvika Bhatia said she knows her grandparents in terms of their history and back-story. She said: “I would say I know them between 75 to 80 per cent. I want to say that I know them inside out but I don’t.” The 21-year-old added that she does notice more things about her grandparents, as she gets older.
Similarly, university student Vibodh Gupta knows that his granddad likes antique cars, but when asked if he knew his grandparents for whom they really are, he said: “I would like to say yes but since I haven’t lived with them enough, I’m not sure. I would love the opportunity though.”
For those children who lost their grandparents early, the void cannot be filled. Farah Heiba lost her maternal and paternal grandparents by the time she was 13 and told Gulf News that she felt like she missed out on things. “They were the reason I got excited to leave for Cairo in the summer. They really filled my days with joy.”
Pritesh Oswal, 17, lost his grandfather and was very close to him. They would go cycling together and spent a lot of time with him. He said, “I miss him as a whole. If there was one person I would pick to be with, it would be him. When I visited Mumbai, we would be together all the time.” He added that for the people who are lucky to have their grandparents around, they should support them and be there for them as much as they can. “You need to imagine them in your place and you’ll already know what you’d like them to do for you.”
In the everyone’s rush to grow up, we forget that our grandparents are getting old too. So, if you’ve not spoken to your grandparents in a few days, call them up, tell them what you’re doing and reach out. They miss you too.
Quick quotes from readers about their grandparents:
Krishna Chellani, 13
“I know more about my grandmother than my grandfather, mostly from stories. My grandmother is more rebellious than my mother. She is very different from her. My sister and I love going shopping with her.”
Ananya Krishna, 15
“My granddad is a very humble and kind person who always does what’s best for others over him. He goes out of his way to make us feel happy and comfortable.”
Sehrish Kodare, 22
“My maternal grandmother I know very well. She loves movies, eating, going out and wants everyone to look presentable all the time. She is the one who has instilled strong moral values in all of us.”
Abdelrahman Ezzeldin Elkallawy, 21
“I still hear stories about them, all of them left a track of inspirational stories behind them, ending by how blessed they made me feel, leaving their own unique mark on my character and for raising a powerful father and mother figure…”
Diksha Chadha, 23
I will always remember the impact my paternal and maternal grandparents have had on my parents and myself. They’ve taught us to be independent and always to be kind, which I’ll never forget.