Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Circle of Life

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My memories of my childhood evoke only emotions of joy and happiness. And the nostalgia that goes with it. I had the privilege of a happy childhood thanks to my parents, grandparents and uncles.

An integral part of those  memories are mental images of full-of-life, vibrant grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, neighbors, neighbour’s neighbours and who-have-you. All in their prime of life.

The insatiable and inscrutable desire to "grow big" was also an integral part of childhood for all my friends and me – in whatever terms the notion of "big" was defined in our teeny brains back then.

So grow big, we did. My cousins, friends and me. And then off we went to college, for post-graduation, for our jobs. Chasing our dreams and aspirations.

In my case, my dreams and aspirations brought me back home.

I returned to join the family business after a 14-year stint away from home. Needless to say, it was – is – a H.U.G.E transition for me – I switched not just my "job" and my industry, but I also transported myself across timezones, geographies, economies, cultures and pretty much darn near everything that defined my world.

As I settled in, I was thrown off-guard by something I always knew and was always conscious of, but never prepared myself for.

The circle of life.

I was prepared for culture change, for generation gaps, for differences in mindsets, for unaligned perspectives and priorities. But the circle of life, I was not prepared for.

Pretty much all those full-of-life, vibrant grandparents, uncles, aunts, neighbours, neighbour’s neighbours and who-have-you had moved on in age. Many of them had even moved on from this world. And why wouldn’t they? From being a little toddler myself back then, I have my own toddler now, so it’s only natural that time has moved on for everyone else too.

Yet, it’s not as if I visited home for the first time in 14 years – I’ve been meeting these folks almost every year. But somehow, my mind’s eye was not seeing what my physical eye was transmitting.

Until now.

Just as I was struggling to settle into my new environs, the realization hit me that the circle of life was in full play. Even before I could attempt to take that in my stride, I was knocked back even more when I accidentally ran into the funeral procession of a friend’s father.

I had grown up, but apparently, wasn’t ready to grow up.

Of course, much of my immediate circle is still full of energy, but the signs are beginning to show.

What brought me to the brink of this emotional churn though, was the passing of my maternal grandmother this morning. At the ripe old age of 88, my maternal grandmother breathed her last.

All my student life and almost through to graduation, I had this rather uncommon privilege of having all my 4 grandparents alive – their individual and collective influence was the lynchpin of my value system and character over & above everything my parents taught me.

As I reflect upon the lives my grandparents led, I feel like a dwarf - whatever I may have achieved, I don't think I can make the kind of sacrifices they have made all through their lives. In particular, my grandmothers - both of them. While my paternal grandmother was compassion in its purest form, my maternal grandmother consistently and unflinchingly subjugated herself, her wishes and her interests for the greater good of her family.

Today, with her passing, it dawned on me that life was beckoning me to prepare for the journey ahead.

To traverse the circle of life.