For these grannies, age is just a number

HAPPY PHASE

For these grannies, age is just a number

Who says old age is all about loneliness, extended hours in front of the idiot box,
endless waiting for some routine activity to turn into an exciting event, or hoping kids would share more of their time? Increasingly, grannies in Maximum City, Mumbai, are ready to strike out on their own and take the advancing years head on.

Independent by choice, cheerful and active, these ladies have opted to step into their sunset hours with quiet dignity, looking after their own affairs — in fact, lending a hand to others in time of need. Coming from the upper middle class families, they are financially secure, have their own homes, and their children are well settled, leaving them with all the time and resources to make an impact on the social and cultural circuit.

Nirmala began running her home independently after her three daughters settled down overseas — while two of them are in the US, the third has dropped anchor in the UK. She talks with them almost daily on the phone, and when she falls ill, one of them is ready to come and be with her. But she prefers to be with herself. “I can eat what I want, watch whichever TV programme I want, and go out if and when I want to.

All my life I listened to my husband and daughters and had to adjust my time, my hobbies and my reading to suit theirs. I love my children and grandchildren, but now I don’t have to worry about keeping the volume of my radio down when my grandson is studying, or having to cook if my daughter is out working. I eat, sleep and read when I like. I am the queen of my house. And I am happy,” she says.

Sunita also decided to be on her own after she lost her partner many years back. “If I need them or they need me, we can always visit each other,” she reasons. “I love my home, which is full of memories of happy times. So, why should I shift permanently to another house, however good it may be? I have enough help, a car at my disposal and no worries about money. Besides, I have my medical insurance to fall back on if I fall ill and am hospitalised; my children will not have to bear the cost,” she adds.

Not comfortable with the idea of leaving her life and friends in Mumbai, Meenakshi, too, did not agree to move to the UK with her sons after her husband’s demise. She was not ready to cut off her roots. She had inherited a lot of shares and other savings from her late husband but knew nothing about investments or finance. So, gradually she picked up the threads, learnt about the stock market, bought and sold shares and invested in various companies. She lost some money at first, but as she gained experience she metamorphosed into a successful share broker and started advising others on what to buy and when to sell.

Jaya, on the other hand, simply converted her love for dressing up brides into a useful vocation once her husband passed away. She took it up professionally, becoming an advisor and coordinator for bridal dos. With both her daughters in the US, she spent some time with them when they were expecting, but came back home happily. And it proved to be a prudent life choice. “It was nice to look after an infant, but the weather there is so dull now and the television programmes are so boring that I longed to be in Mumbai and catch up with the daily soaps back home,” she laughs.

On their own terms

While there are some grandmothers who take up hobbies with a vengeance and make them a part of their everyday routine, others enjoy get-togethers with like-minded people. Many volunteer their services as part of committees, which organise Ganeshotsav, get-togethers, competitions, fetes and the like. For these socially-active seniors, weekly bhajan singing in local temples is a routine affair and they attend social functions like marriages, engagements and parties with much gusto.

Wary of gossipmongers, the women are always cheerful and smiling, helping others in need, and often even engrossed in matchmaking! They do have their aches and pains, of course, but most take it in their stride and talk it out amongst themselves. Nonetheless, they do not neglect their annual medical check-ups and take the prescribed medicines without fail.

And when one of them passes away, others attend the funeral and the related rites, sing bhajans together and sympathise with the family. For instance, when Devaki, who had started bhajan mandalis in a temple near her house, passed away, three groups from different localities in Mumbai came forward to sing bhajans as part of her post-funeral rites.

Those who have a group of their own like to have a good time with each other, often organising pilgrimages or picnics to up the fun quotient. Sushila got to visit Nepal twice and Haridwar and Rishikesh several times with her friends. However, after she hit 75, she decided to take things slower and opted to volunteer during the Ganesh festival. Lakhs of people attend this 10-day festival and volunteers are required to manage the crowds, help in cooking and serving, singing bhajans, and decorating the deity. Many lively grandmothers happily do it every year.

There are plenty of Nirmalas, Sunitas, Meenakshis and Sushilas who have shied away from being dependent on their families and, when the occasion arises, have tried to make their lives useful for others. They are tech-savvy, efficiently using the mobile phone and the Internet to stay connected. They choose to live life on their own terms, are empowered and wouldn’t barter their freedom for anything!

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