Happy Children’s Day: Let us reminisce the grandparents we have met over the years

 This last post in the series of posts dedicated to children is also meant to be a tribute to be a tribute to Children’s Day. There are so many people out there who make a difference in the lives of children by giving them a reason to smile. It could be anyone; from loving parents and dedicated teachers to the padhar dadu who indulges children in the neighbourhood or even the kaku who always takes out time to play with them. For those born in more vulnerable circumstances, it could be kind probation officers at child care institutions, duly sensitive members of Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards, helpful police personnel, the akkas from NGOs who visit regularly, or anyone else for that matter. I was fortunate enough to born into a loving family. While growing up, I was a rebellious teenager and had many complaints against my parents. Then there came a time in life where I felt so defeated in life that the only thing that kept me alive was my parents. With the aid of my therapist, I gradually learned to let go of my misgivings against my parents and look at the brighter side of things. With age, I realized that parenting is hard indeed and no one gets everything right. What matters is the intention behind every action that matters at the end of the day. I became thankful for the material comforts provided to me, the educational opportunities provided to me even if that meant letting me go to another city to study, the support I received when I decided to take up the road less traveled, the financial security which ensured that I can follow my heart in terms of choosing a vocation, not being badgered about getting married and most importantly my parents putting up with my antics. I have always been stubborn about doing things my way and my parents have been more than tolerant about it. Then some teachers were generous enough to put up with my incessant talking in the class. Family friends and relatives who would load me up with their blessings and food, gift me books, lend a patient ear to me. Since this post marks something so special, I spent many days wondering what to write about. There were so many areas to explore yet none seemed the right fit. At last, I found just the right thing for this post. This year Children’s Day and Diwali happen to be on the same day. In Bengali culture, the night preceding that of Diwali is known as Bhooth Chaturdashi. While my understanding of Halloween comes from the festivities accompanying the celebration of the same Hogwarts; funky décor and a delicious meal, somewhere there I associate it the comforting smell of allspice mix that is synonymous with autumn. The celebration has become a part and parcel of my life, thanks to the kids around. In the housing society that I presently reside in, I eagerly wait every year on 31st October with a huge eggless cake to welcome the children who come to ask for treats. However, just like every other festival, Halloween wasn’t spared either this year by the raging pandemic. I sincerely hope that the youngsters are aware of Lohri, during which children seek treats from elders while collecting logs for a bonfire and singing Sundar Mundariye. So, in terms of children seeking treats, Lohri and in light of the tradition of lighting candles and diyas Diwali have more in common with Halloween. On Halloween, since it is believed that the lines between the dead and alive blur making possible for the dead to visit us, homage is paid to forefathers, costumes are donned and candles are lit inside jack-o-lanterns to keep the evil spirits at bay.[1] However, the treatment meted to our forefathers during Bhooth Chaturdashi is more similar to the way El Día De Los Muertos (The Day Of The Dead) is celebrated in Mexico, as portrayed in the heartwarming tale of Coco.[2] The altars are intricately decorated with pictures of the deceased along with flowers, candles, and even food offerings.[3]To make sure that their ancestors are well looked after, Mexicans leave bottles of tequila and baskets packed with food and sweets and even pillows and blankets outside their homes. As per Bengali folklore, our choddo purush from each side of the family visit us on the night of Bhooth Chatudashi and are guided by the light of choddo diya lit at various corners of the house.[4] In light of the intricate connection between celebration and food, it is a custom to eat choddo shaak as well. This day was given a new lease of life in Bhooter Bhabishyat through the celebration that accompanied the song Amra Choudhary Palacer Bhooth.

By the time I learned of Bhooth Chatudashi, my paternal, as well as maternal grandparents, had passed away. I did know my maternal grandparents well enough but wasn’t too close to them probably because I never got to spend much time with them. However, things were very different from my paternal grandparents. I was their first grand-daughter and remember being pampered a lot. My thamma would make me feel special. I have childhood memories of sitting for her daily pujo and the songs she sang to me. I quickly grew up into a rebellious teenager and began disregarding her love for Rabindra Sangeet and gentle demeanor. I never got to redeem myself as I soon lost her to Alzheimer’s. Witnessing her lose herself a little every day was so painful that I still find it difficult to even watch someone suffering from the disease onscreen. I grew up learning that she had a way of making people feel cared for and was immensely loved at the padha and her workplace. Despite being considered somewhat a genius in her chosen +field of veterinarian science, arrogance could never touch her. Now as an adult every time I listen to  Rabindra Sangeet, I long to tell to apologize to her. I was fortunate enough to have my dadu around for a longer period. When he got to know that I was appearing for C.L.A.T., he painstakingly made a list of all the existing national law schools back then. When he heard that I am learning Spanish, he began learning it himself. When he heard about my first boyfriend, he wanted to know all about him. You get the drift. He would get deeply involved with anything and everything I would be doing. The first piece of cloth I had barely managed to paint during S.U.P.W class was treated by him as a treasured memoir. Now that he is gone, I feel anguished about not having taken out enough time for him and never having painted anything for him. I like to believe that my grandparents can sense everything I would like to tell them. This post is going to be about paying homage to grandparents we have all come across in fiction.

I have always had a certain fondness for grandparents, both real and reel. There is something especially heartwarming about tales based on children raised by their grandparents. Sometimes when I was around nine I came across Heidi on Cartoon Network and watching it daily soon became a nightly ritual. I had started watching the series midway. Therefore, I was thrilled when I began reading the book by Johanna Spyri, the following year. I continue to be fascinated by the Alp mountains and have fond memories of Heidi’s first meeting with her grandfather to date. It is hard not to be moved when a lonely bitter man’s life changes for the good when his orphaned granddaughter comes to stay with him. Inspired by The Sound of Music, Parichay directed by Gulzar is based on a similar premise. While growing up I was only aware of Gulzar’s legacy as a lyricist and poet, probably because by the time I started watching movies, he stopped making too many. I must say he is a darn good director as well. Father and son disagree with the choices made by the latter regarding vocation and marriage. The son is eventually forced to reconcile with his father in light of his impending death to ensure that his children are taken care of. The father doesn’t make it on time and tries his best to make amends to his relationship with the kids. How the grandfather and the children eventually make up forms the rest of the story. Then there is Laurie’s grandfather Mr. Laurence from Little Women penned by Louisa May Alcott, who might be a strict disciplinarian but his kindness extends even to his neighbors, the March sisters. Mike from the series, Suits has a grandmother who believes in his abilities and pushes him to reach his potential, even when he doubts himself. Bennett Landsmann’s grandmother from Doctors authored by Erich Segal deserves a special mention for going to the extent of giving up his son for adoption to the wealthy Jewish couple assisted by his father during the war just before he passed away, to ensure that he gets the opportunities, she is not in a position to provide him. The bond between Justice Lakshmi Narayan Thakur and his grandaughter Bonita  Thakur from Anuja Chauhan’s The House that BJ Built . is one of the most quirky yet endearing portrayals of the aforesaid relationship.

Now we shall be having a look at grandparents who unflinchingly helped guardians raise children. Dadi as she likes to refer to herself, from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is my favorite in this category. I loved the chemistry shared between dadi and Anjali. Paa is the heartwarming tale of a child suffering from progeria raised by a single mother and grandmother. No matter how awkward the questions asked by Auro are, his nani always has a satisfactory answer. Later in the movie, we also get to witness the affection with which he is received by his dada. While both of these movies focus on the gentler side of grandparents, Ferrari ki Sawari stands out for his depiction of a seemingly khadhoos dada, who is just trying to protect his grandson from the heartbreak he went through in his younger days. Bawarchi and Student of the Year beautifully highlighted the importance of having a grandparent who has your back while being raised by relatives after the passing away of parents. The latter is of personal significance as one of the characters converses with a grandparent with diminishing memory regularly in an attempt to revive her fading memories.

In a society such as ours, where honor killings have become an acceptable norm in certain communities, movies such as Bombay and Sooryavansham, where it was the birth of grandchildren which eventually made both sides of the families accept the marriage, end up assuming even greater significance in the history of the Indian film industry. Then there is Baghban, where the grandchildren gave the grandparents the courage to cope up with the maltreatment meted out to them by their sons.

Although the aforesaid relationship in Hum Saath Saath Hai and Vivaah wasn’t the focus of the story, I adored how the respective grandparents pampered the children. We shall now be discussing movies that don’t focus on any issue as such but just the bond shared between a grandparent and a grandchild. Princess Diaries showed us that our grandparents are not only capable of grooming us but of appreciating things we usually believe they are too old to understand. Rules: Pyar ka superhit formula proved yet again that our grandparents know more about matters of the heart than we usually give them credit for. Portrait of a lady is a poignant autobiographical piece written by Khushwant Singh about his paternal grandmother. Detective Nani showed us the uber-cool side of a nani while Chillar Party proved yet again how handy can advice is given by grandparents be. Hope Aur Hum is pleasantly reminiscent of the stories we heard from our grandparents and the games we played with them. Posto and  Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge successfully reminded us of all things bright and beautiful that we learn from our grandparents. Bhootnath and Sonar Pahar endearingly depicted the relationship of love and affection that develops between lonely elderly people and the children they got to interact with.

The last section of the post is dedicated to those fictional grandparents who courageously took a stand for their grandchildren. Antarleen and Teen followed the poignant journey of respective grandparents against those who perpetrated violent crimes against their loved ones. While Pardes boasted of a dadi advocating for the love marriage of her granddaughter and Toilet Ek Prem Katha features a dada who stood by his granddaughter who decides to walk out of her marital home due to a lack of a proper toilet. Kapoor and Sons reminded us that no matter where do we run away to live a life on her own terms and conditions, your first home is always where your family is. Last but not least I would like to pay a tribute to Pushpa Pande from Battle for Bittora, who knew that making an identity for yourself is way more important than getting married at the so-called right time. Here is wishing that more grandparents become like her.

[1] https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

[2] https://thewire.in/culture/why-do-people-the-world-over-celebrate-the-dead-in-autumn

[3] https://holidappy.com/holidays/El-Dia-de-los-Muertos-or-the-Day-of-the-Dead-Hungry-Ghost-Festival-and-Other-Ghoulish-Festivals

[4] https://indroyc.com/2015/11/09/todays-bhoot-chaturdashi/

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