It was the end of my first semester of graduation and I was home for a winter break. I was studying in Kolkata, which was the first metro city I actually stayed in. I was a small town girl, so studying in a metro was a different experience altogether. Suddenly, the world felt bigger and I, too, felt like a big girl. I couldn’t wait to share my experiences back home.
At the first instance, I started to brag about my life in Kolkata to my Aita (maternal grandmother) of all people! Among other things, I exclaimed to her, “You know Aita, I watched that blockbuster movie at the theater and the ticket cost was one hundred and twenty rupees!” It was an expensive ticket and where I came from, a movie ticket used to cost around ten to fifty rupees only.
I thought Aita would respond in awe saying, What? Really!” But to my dismay she responded sternly, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Your parents are making sacrifices here to educate you, and you are wasting their hard-earned money on movie tickets!”
During the time of my higher education, our family was going through a rough financial patch. My sister being just one and a half years younger to me meant that our education expenses were double and simultaneous. But our parents never compromised on our education. While Deta (our father) had his steady job, Ma, too, tried to make ends meet by knitting and selling woollens, handmade handicrafts and later becoming an active insurance agent as well. They sent us girls to a private college in the nearest metro city. Our tuition fee and living expenses were not very high, but still we couldn’t afford it on our own. We took an education loan of a couple of lakhs of rupees which Deta repaid later on. Also, Koka (our maternal grandfather) and Aita took care of us in ways more than one.
As kids, my sister was always the sacrificing one. Even before we went away to college, she would hardly indulge herself. I, on the other hand, would not like to feel left out when my friends would make plans of eating out or catching a movie. I would indulge myself despite knowing that we couldn’t afford it and I should not be wasting precious money. Today, when I look back at my younger self, I truly feel ashamed of my immature behavior.
During my graduation, I was away from home for the first time. It was an exciting time of my life, tasting freedom away from the parental gaze. It was easy to get carried away by looking at fellow students, spending pocket money on fashion and outings. I did follow suit for a few months. And then my fateful encounter with Aita happened. And thank God for that.
Aita is a straightforward lady. She is strong, in will as well in spirit. She doesn’t think twice before calling spade a spade. She is not fond of indisciplined and rude children. So thanks to our polite demeanor, she adored us. She allowed us to tag along on her social visits and outings to the market. But she never indulged us unnecessarily and I feel that is the best thing she did to us.
So when Aita rebuked me on wasting my parents’ hard earned money, it was a tight slap to my conscience. With two sentences, she reminded me of my humble roots and put my attitude on the right track. I realised that there is no pride in fulfilling my own wishes and desires at the cost of my parents’ sacrifices; that pride was in making them proud of me and in taking care of their needs. I started working harder and tried to relieve them of monetary burdens in the smallest ways possible. Instead of fulfilling my desires then and there, I made a bucket list of things which I would like to do or possess. When I finally started earning, there was no looking back. It was time to take up responsibilities. The items on my bucket list started to get ticked off slowly. That list is still open though.
At an age, when it was so easy to drift away, Aita’s wise words of admonishment changed my life forever. A true turning point in my life. She changed the way I looked at things. At that moment, she made me a better person and a better daughter.