A missed lesson at school or college wouldn’t make much difference to your life. Rather more you miss, more you learn, because you get to see the world outside the classroom. The world is the true laboratory of learning, learning that comes from people, learning that comes from experiences. Remember the old man with a stick? He has got much more to teach you than those Ph.D professors. The old man is none other than your grandfather. I have been fortunate to learn enough from my father and I continue to learn from him, what I miss is the old man. We didn’t stay with our grandparents; the only glimpse of my grandfather was a few days in the summer holidays. Before I could get over the image of his as the head of the family, a person of authority and a person of discipline, he was no more. I never got to learn anything from him; I never got to hear his stories. My father was born in the sixties so the stories that he has got begin in the late 70s. I miss that bit of history of my family from the 30s-70s, the days of the British Raj, the struggle for Independence, the free India and more importantly the childhood of my father from the perspective that he himself isn’t aware of. Though I am very fortunate to be born with privileges that most people in the world do not get, but I am not lucky enough to know what a grandmother is, she passed away before I could see the light of the world. I don’t remember my time with my grandfather much, what I do remember are just a handful of things that he did. He used to eat his food in a fashion that was unique to him; his arm would be aligned to the surface of the table, with the elbow projecting out. In winters he would always have a vacuum flask with warm water, he would never drink normal water in the winter. In the not so old days earthen pots would quench the thirst, now those pots have almost been taken over by the PET bottles in the refrigerator. He would keep a small container of water with a small cup near the earthen vessel and everybody was supposed to wash their hands with that water before pouring out water from the pot. He would yell if somebody missed cleaning their hands. Organization and hygiene were his way of life. Papa often tells me about him, usually it’s about the modern/reformist of a person that he was. I spent my time playing with my cousins while he would be retiring in his room, at times I feel miserable to have missed his story, to have missed the lesson that he must have had for me. I wanted to know about politics, about social customs, religion, education and what not. He is not there, nor are the stories, what is there is a young man who has warm water in winters, a sub conscious memory that he has of his grandfather.
Many of you are fortunate to have grandparents alive and living with you, spend time with them, engage them into stories and experiences and engage into learning. They have what would take a lifetime for you to acquire. Don’t let them live a secluded life. And for me, I live on stories that I overhear from elderly people in the local trains.