It had been two years, and I was still unsure how to address the situation with her. He was the only man she had ever known. He had been the love of her life. I had seen their relationship start. We were still in school then, and she was amongst my closest friends. Then came college and their love blossomed. Finally, despite all the ups and downs they got married. And then came a time when they were not together.
So a year ago, two years post them not being together, I sat with her not knowing how she was. I had met her on and off but had never spoken about this. I guess old friends don't need words to understand one another, and she probably guessed what I was thinking. So she spoke about him first and then I gathered the courage to ask her if she felt cheated. Her response was of gratitude, "Sweetie I am glad for all the years I got with him. What would I do if I did not have those years to experience his love and how great an experience being with someone as generous as him can be! Do I have a regret, maybe a small one. But then I see other women around me who are letting their marriages and relationships suffer because of egos and not wanting to compromise. They are being so short sighted. They have a chance to build a better tomorrow, only if they could give in to small things that don't matter in the long run. But even if I want, I don't have that opportunity any more. No one comes back from the other side of life! This observation is more painful than my one my tiny regret."
This conversation has been etched in my memory ever since, not only because her positivity is inspirational but because I agree with her. There is incredible merit in evaluating adjustments for relationships that matter, and that is a personal view that as the days pass is only becoming stronger.
I lost my maternal grandfather when I had just entered my teens. I have always been saddened by the fact that I could not get to know that incredible human being better and spend more time with him. The last opportunity that I had to meet him, I lost, because I was busy studying for my exams. Academics was my oxygen those days, but today I realise that one grade lower and I would not have lost much in life. So six years ago when the opportunity came to move back to India I decided to take it up.
Appyrichvictor, a well wisher and a dear friend, called me post this decision and expressed his apprehension. In his view I was taking a step back in my career for which I had worked hard. In some ways he was right. But I wanted to move back to India for my parents and grandparents. I even joked with him that the move would make me richer as I would save on rent and utilities. Staying with my parents would take away my independence, I was told by many people. My answer to them in jest was that I was going to take away my parents' independence! Eventually, six years later what has happened?
I got to spend time with my paternal grandfather before he passed on four years ago. There were many evenings when I would scramble not much but thirty minutes to go sit with him or lay my head in his lap. Some of those evenings he would hold my hand tight, so tight as if asking me to be just there. Those largely quiet evenings got me closer to him. They showed me his will power, his tolerance for pain, his love for lemons, his total adoration of his two oldest children, his affection for me and his strong desire to see his family happy.
I recollect a meeting I had with the head of credit of a large private Indian bank. At the end of the meeting, seeing my last name the gentleman could not resist and told me the story of a Mr Bagrodia who was heading a textile company when he had just started working. The company's financials were in trouble and so as a youngster he had refused the loan renewal for this textile mill, only to be reprimanded by his bosses. Till Mr Bagrodia was there, the bank's loan was in good hands. I left that meeting feeling proud, humbled and glad that I had moved back to India. I feel blessed to be his granddaughter.
No amount of career progression would have enriched me, with my own lineage, as this incident did. No amount of money can ever repay those precious moments, when with my head in my grandfather's lap, my inner child rejoiced. No amount of experience in London could give me contentment that I feel, everytime I think of how just the day before he left for the hospital for the last time, my grandfather bid me goodbye. He did not say a word. He just looked at me and held my hand. And then he left it and looked away. I remember walking to my father and asking him to leave everything and go sit with grandfather. A fortnight later he was watching over us from up above.
Moving back was a difficult decision. Adapting to a different work culture was difficult. But all change is and all adjustment is, especially when it involves letting go of something. The criteria that I use is what do I stand to gain by letting go. If the potential reward outweighs the opportunity cost, the plunge is worth it. I may have taken a pay cut in moving to India. My international experience may have been cut short. But I earned the love and blessings of my grandparents. I basked and continue to in the love of my family, and just that experience is priceless!
I had just started working in the UK when my niece, the first of the next generation was born. I will never forget that afternoon when I got the call. Oh how I wanted to see her! WhatsApp and face time did not exist then. So I had to wait for an email. By the time the email came, I think somewhere I had decided to travel to India and spend some time with the little one who had stolen my heart even before she was born. I had just decided to move into my own tiny apartment and the landlord wanted deposit money to hold the flat for the fortnight I planned to take unpaid leave. A month's rent when I was repaying a loan was a lot of money but I went ahead. I loved the apartment and I would not get these days back with my baby. If I had to have both I had to find a way.
I will never forget the little doll in her peach polka dot frock, lying on the bed, as I walked towards her. The first time I picked her up I knew she was my heart. Every night she was in my arms and I walked and sang her to sleep. Today, as she is about to enter her teens, we sing that song together and have a laugh. She still cuddles into me to hear a story and she calls me up without any hesitation if she needs help with homework. This love and bond are invaluable. For the loss of a little pay, I accumulated a lifetime of memories and a special bond; and I will repeat my decision if I had to.
At dinner I saw a woman ushering in a huge change and taking a leap of faith. She is nervous and scared; but she is filled with excitement and hope. At dinner I recounted an old friend's story to new friends. At dinner I relived some of my decisions. At dinner my belief was reaffirmed.
As I am concluding this, I reacknowledge how right she was in making her statement - we can create a better future only if we accept that for a short while there maybe some adjustment needed. As I am concluding this, I am smiling in the understanding of the validity of her joy - which is just as palapable as mine on my decision of moving back, despite all the perceived giving up I supposedly did. As I am writing this, it strikes me that though we feel the pain while sowing the seeds of change, by the time we reap the harvest, those adjustments are forgotten and only the gains remain. And just for that glorious bountiful golden harvest, the initial effort is worth it!