Lessons from Nani

Being back at home has given me an opportunity to spend more time with family. Part of this family time has included speaking to my grandma in India. In our house, we call our grandma “Nani”.

Speaking to Nani has been wonderful. She’s curious, joyful, and concerned with how her grandchildren are doing. Especially me, since I’m the oldest and her favourite.

In a recent call, Nani asked me if I remember a bird named Titu. I asked her to retell the story. 

Trying to get her two-year-old grandson to stop using his bottle, Nani told me that Titu, a bird who was perched on our balcony, needed it for herself. Why did Titu need the bottle you ask? Because she was having a baby, and the baby needed it more than I did, a grown-ass two-year-old. I agreed. My mom still comments on how easy it was to get rid of the bottle and upgrade for a grown-up glass. I haven’t looked back since.

Hearing stories like this spurred my curiosity about Nani’s life. What other stories did she have to share? What was her life like? What was she up to when she was 24? 

Nani at 24

My Nani married my Nana when she was 24. The same year my Nana, who worked for the Indian Government, was posted to The Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal a few hundred kilometres off of the coast of Myanmar. These roughly 300 islands are known for their white-sand beaches and tropical rain forests. 

Nana’s role was to establish a formalized industry around local goods the island exported such as bamboo, leather, coconut oil, and garments. They lived on the beach in a house held in the air by long wooden beams. On Andaman, life was quite routine. 

They ate lentils and potatoes that they made on their kerosine stove. They spent their time exploring the south side of the island, walked the same trails, saw the same people and generally found contentment in the simplest of things. 

“Life was simple, yet despite its simplicity, life held beauty.” 

Nani’s advice could not have come at a better time. I’ve been feeling quite restless in isolation. The days are blending together, I’,m doing the same things every day, and without the ability to work from home, I’d be losing my shit. 

Although, I’m realizing now that my own life, which has been made quite routine, is not too different than Nani’s life at 24. She read, worked a bit, chatted with friends, and went for nice walks. She had a nice time, why can’t I?

During our daily routines, it’s difficult to find these simple moments. Paying attention to them start to shape our perspective of our days, bringing delight into our lives that can be grounding when everything around you seems confusing.

Pause for a second and take in the pleasurable moments around you. Read that book, call that friend, and maybe even listen to the birds chirping outside your window. They seem to be chattering more these days, don’t they? 

Maybe it’s Titu, dropping by to let you know things will be okay.

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