The Other Kind Of Growing Up

It happens to all of us at some point in our lives. When you suddenly realize that you are growing up. Every scenario that you see around you suddenly starts looking different. There is no particular age for this type of maturity. It can happen at the age of 9, at 19 or at the age of 29. This is the part of growth no-one in your family will ever warn you about, because they were never warned themselves. But it will have this imprint on your heart and mind, changing your perspective forever. Nothing will seem as innocent as they did before; everything around you becomes tainted somehow. You stop taking people for granted and acknowledge their company more, you start appreciating every little moment of joy you come across. You always live in a constant fear that all the good things that you have right now, you might lose them. And this fear will turn into reality.

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You want to take every good time you spend with someone and keep it hidden, keep it safe, so that nothing can ever take it away from you. Because that’s what you start dreading. Someone or the other always seems to be out there to snatch away everything from you. However, we fail to realize that they are not the ones who we should be looking out for. It is we, ourselves. This growth, this sudden maturity always comes at a price, such a huge price, that no-one is ever willing to pay. And this doesn’t only make us grow, it bends us too, breaks us.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with this. There is no guide book or long lengths of advice that you can blindly follow to cope with this. You will see this inescapable truth as you see your loved ones, your close ones, breaking down. You will see them changing into different people, right in front of your eyes. They usually do so when they try to survive whatever has happened in their life, but the worst part? They never change back to who you knew them to be. And you yourself realize that no matter what they do now, they can’t. They have matured, they have grown up, and they have already been broken. If you try very hard, you might show them who they were once in a while, but nothing you ever do will ever be able to change them back.

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I went through something similar myself last year. There were series of deaths in our family. That included the death of my great-grandmother, whom I called Diya.

She wasn’t that close to my sister and me. I hardly ever mentioned her to my friends, but most of them knew her. She was one of the sweetest and strongest people I have ever known. A solid heart of gold, she had. It was amazing how she was capable of feeling compassion for each and every person she knew on this planet (including out moody driver, and that’s saying much!). And that’s how everyone, including myself, want to remember her, as the perfect blend of love and strength.

Everyone was like a little kid to her. She was my mother’s maternal grandmother. But to me, she was the tears in my eyes, every time we return from her house after a visit. Seeing her tearing up, every time she came out to the verandah in her loose nightie, shaking vigorously, just to wave us a goodbye, I couldn’t help myself. She had been requested many a times to remain inside and not strain herself so much, but she wouldn’t listen to a word. No matter how ill she was, no matter how she would be feeling that day, she will come out to say goodbye to each of us separately.

It is no surprise that I can still hear her voice in my ears, saying, “Have some ice-cream with these! Don’t tell anything to your parents!” while shoving two 10 rupee notes in our hands, just before we leave. Every single time! She didn’t talk much, when we all came to visit her, apart from the occasional enquiry about someone who wasn’t present. She would just sit with this beautiful smile on her face and look around at us, as we talk. She used to keep saying that this moment when she is sitting among everyone, seeing everyone chat, hearing everyone’s stories, that was enough to lift her heart. She couldn’t possibly ask for anything more. It is impossible to forget how she would turn into a shy little girl every time anyone would want to click a picture of her, but end up flashing the cutest toothless smile for the camera each and every time.

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I don’t want to remember how she was in the hospital, counting her last days, and whenever anyone would go to visit her, she would beg them to take her home. I don’t want to be reminded of all the awful ailments she had to go through, and how much she had to suffer for so many years. I don’t to remember her like that. I want to look at her pictures, see her smiles, which clearly showed how overjoyed she was, and remember her exactly like that. The kind of grandmother every little kid in the world deserves. And that’s who Diya was. And will always be in our hearts.

Her death was what seemed to open up a whole new world to me. The world seemed to be a harsher place, now that I know I will never be able to see her cute smiles, hear her asking us when we will come to visit her, or asking us to have one more sweet or one more slice of cake.

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Our world will never go back to how it was when she was with us. It will always be this harsh place, and it will get harsher as we lose more people in our lives. So all these memories that we get to make with our loved ones, these are the only things that will last. Each and every other thing will change, will break. And we will slowly get hardened to it, and accept them as a part of our lives. No matter how hard we try to “never grow up”, we inevitably fail.

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