My daughter has to soon leave her current job and so she wanted to throw a party for her colleagues. My wife, who as an Army spouse has a lot of experience in organising small dinners, offered to organise one at home. But children these days have their own way. My daughter took her colleagues to a food court in a mall, followed by a movie in the complex.
This made me rewind a few decades back. My mother had four sisters and two brothers. My maternal grandfather was a leading auditor in Ooty, Nilgiris. So every year, once schools closed for the annual vacation, we would assemble at our palatial house, Narayani Nilayam, named after my grandmother, affectionately called Ootiamma.
It was not a small group. All members, including cousins, nephews and nieces, made a strength of not fewer than 60. We continued to meet for almost 12-15 years without any break. We trekked to unexplored parts of those mountains. And in the cinemas, we occupied no fewer than three rows. This ritual ended only when we got entangled in our jobs. Till today, I do not know how my grandparents and uncles managed to look after us for two months. The lack of comforts did not matter much, as our hearts were large. Sharing was the order of the day.
The control Ootiamma exercised was unique. No one including my grandfather could appeal against her decisions. The way she used to take care of each one of had to be lived through to believe it. When I went to attend the Army Attachment camp in the Madras Regimental Centre, I got admitted in the military hospital for typhoid. As soon as she came to know about it, she hired a car, came there, fought with doctors and got me forcefully discharged. The next one month, she took complete care to the extent of heeding the doctor’s advice of giving me eggs, never heard of in our orthodox families. Till I rejoined college, she was ever at my side. And this was not just for me. For all 60 cousins, she would have done the same thing. The escapades, exploits, good, bad and ugly moments of those times could fill many more pages.
We can still visit anyone when we feel like it. The thought that so many are there to support us is more than sufficient. And now we have a WhatsApp group. The modern generation must learn to develop such relationships instead of fixing monetary values for everything.
Lt Col (Retd) R V S Mani