• Saj

Unconditional Gratitude To The People In My Life And Tribute To A Remarkable Woman


Today, what is on my mind is GRATITUDE.

There is 75 of you. The majority, I have met in person. Some date back as early as 1999. Some I have known very closely. Some I am still getting to know, but I admire already for who they are at least from what I can see in this space. To me, people are the pebbles from "Shawshank Redemption." I hope you get the reference.

The prisoners collect rocks for Andy. Because he makes beautiful pieces out of them.

To me, rocks itself is beautiful. And you are those precious pebbles to me. And I am grateful for each one of you.

I will say this for you. A little story.

I started observing a long time ago. My first memories date back to when I was four years old, sitting in my grandmother's kitchen and watching her give great advice to someone who came to her for a problem. You see my grandmother - my mom's mom - is a tough woman. Growing up, I used to think that she was a *****. Let me say that my young mind was influenced by the way what some talked about her. But some reason, even as young as 7, I refused to believe what was told. When I looked at her, I saw a woman of tenacity, stubbornness, perseverance, and kindness. This is 1980's, In a small village in Kerala, which is one of the states in India.

I used to spend every second of every vacation in her house. You see, I wanted to connect, and it was hard for me to connect with people. My age and other ages. It still is. So I tried my best to go to my both sets of grandparents. One set fought for me to be with them, other didn't want me to be around them. I got my first rejection for who I was when I was 7. I did not understand it; I never told anyone. I chose to go to the one's who wanted me.

Not to deviate, that itself is a story topic, and I promise I will write about it. But today, it is about my grandmother. Growing up, I often heard this from my father.

Usually said to my mom, right after a "defiance" from me " It's all your mother's fault. She is just like your mom. It is the time she spends with her that is making her defiant." But it wasn't. It took me a long 34 years to realize that I am not defiant, or disrespectful, or rebellious. I am a human being with a lively personality. It took me the birth of my second child, who came out of my womb screaming who she is....... If I say this, you will not believe it. I did not believe it as I watched, and then the nurse has to reassure me that it was real, you know.... I was kind of under a lot of drugs :).

" My girl and I were wheeled out of the OR into a recovery room. I am half naked, ladies, you know how that is, she has a tiny diaper on 6lbs and 7 oz. She would not stop crying. And I am telling the nurse that she is hungry and they need to feed her. She said, she needs permission from the doctor, and she is waiting for it. So I asked her to put my kiddo on my belly, as kangaroo touch is the best to calm newborns down. You know what my kiddo did...... She crawled up to my breasts....... She was born 1 hour ago..... She crawled, pulled up using her body strength to come up 15 inches to where she was supposed to get her food. Can you imagine that? I have read about this after I returned from the hospital, I have read that babies are born with the knowledge of how and where to get their food. It is fascinating it, isn't it? What amazed me that, my little girl was not taking no for an answer. I asked the nurse go and get me the doctor or a bottle of milk. If my 1 hour old can be that stubborn, well her momma is going to be too. "

So, back to my grandmother. It took me till I reached my 30s to see what my grandmother is. She is one hell of a woman. She single-handedly raised her kids, siblings, her community; she was a pillar of hope and advice and backbone for women and men. She never turned away anyone who came to her doorstep for help. She has helped people who have backstabbed her before and knowing this fact. She was tough to so many. People talked behind her back, called her names, but when they needed a strong opinion, advice, viewpoint, helping hand, money, anything, they came to her. And she did whatever she could.

I have seen empathy at its purest from her. People will come all around the year; some want one meal, some want a little money, some wants a little rice or a coconut, some wants her time to tell her something. Oh, she complained...... She said things to their face. But none of them returned empty handed, and I watched in amusement that they didn't feel hurt or threatened or humiliated by her yelling at them. It came from a place of genuine love and care........ And to date, I do not know how she did it......

There is this one time.... I am not sure what age I was, maybe 11. I see a man, not sure of age, at that point of life anyone older than 20 was OLD........ lol.

He came to her and was talking about going to 'gulf' -meaning Saudi Arabia, and he needed some money to get his visa and passport. He was trying to get his family out of poverty. My mom's family was moderately wealthy enough, if you count the lands, they held at that time. My grandmom, she always had a stash of money hidden somewhere, but I think it wasn't enough to help this man. She took the gold chain right off of her neck and gave it to him. Ask him to put it on a gold loan as collateral and get the money and get the job.......... That is it. I remember how I felt. I wanted to ask my granny, "Are you insane?". But you see, no one can ask her that..... I told myself that my granny is nuts... Who do these things? What if he just never gets it back, what if he never succeeds....

A year later, God and Universe works in mysterious ways. I was there on my summer vacation. And this man walks in again. With tons of gifts, and her gold chain. And gratitude in his face...... That, I will never forget. And the joy in my granny's face..... She showed me what true compassion is, without ever saying a word. She never once told me that I need to help others. She never had to. She lived it.

She had her flaws, lots of them. And she was stubborn..... But now I understand why. She had to be. She had no choice, but to become a tough, hardened woman. It was survival in a patriarchal society, to raise her children, her siblings, to take care of her mom, her step-siblings, and community. She never got any validation, and she didn't need it, or she ever expected it. She was loved... Oh Boy!!!! She was loved and respected and feared too..... No one dared to touch anyone under her wings.... I used to think of like a mother hen.... Not sure how many of you have watched a mother hen hatch her young and raise them till the day she intentionally makes them leave her. My granny did the same.... She forced people out of her to make them independent. I grew up watching her; she had made so many mistakes that were held up for her for so long. But now, looking back, she was learning, she was making mistakes because she was trying and not giving up. She could have become an ordinary housewife, but instead, she became a lighthouse...

A very authoritative one.

She didn't know how to read or write till she was in her late 40s.... So she learned then. How amazing is that?

A woman, from a village, learned to read and write, setting aside her pride and made it a mission to learn on her own. I used to feel sad that people look at me and say that they see some of her tenacity in me..... It was used as a derogatory term, and I was upset for long three decades for it. But now, I think I am proud if I am 1% like her. My little girl is. I see my grandmothers spark in her. And you have no idea how proud and how happy it makes me. I want to take my little girl to my granny and show her that my granny has a family line with her stubbornness and spirit passed on to.

As you can see, I am very proud of my grandmother. I did not realize her value till I started fighting for my life. For last four years, I have thought of her ore than once a day. Especially when I started writing towards a book, I thought of my Granny. MY first book will be dedicated to her as I believe my bravery, however time it has taken for me to come out, is planted from watching her actions. She is a great woman, a warrior who fought in silence, even when she screamed, even when her voice was drowned, she won most of her battles. I love her and admire her knowing all her flaws and yet accepting and acknowledging that her good is many times more than her flaws.

She is an unsung hero for me. And she is my biggest inspiration.

Before I end, I want to say one more story about her.

Just to give you a picture of a woman with strength. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late early 40s, I believe. Not sure as I have heard only stories.... This was when I was one year old, I believe. I will fact check it and update the story. But right now, I want to say as I heard.

My mom was 18 at that time. They went to doctor together, and the doctor sent my granny out and told my mom the news. According to my mom, she couldn't bear the thought. And the doctor had said that they need to do the surgery immediately. I do not have a lot of details, which I will collect later for my book, as this story is something that had given me strength since I am 14. According to my mom, she fell apart, she came out of the doctor's room crying, and my granny knew.... My granny sat next to her and consoled her daughter saying that everything will be ok.

Granny told her doctors that she is going to fight this and she will be ok as she needs to be alive and well for her kids and her siblings and her mom and her step-siblings need her. So there is no way she is losing this fight. This is the early 1980s in India. Cancer treatments are scary. They did a mastectomy, chemo too I believe. And then followed by countless visits to doctors. Later, my mom tells me, that the doctors were amazed by my granny's willpower. They even mentioned that it is her willpower and desire to live for her loved ones that played a major part in her recovery. She fought, she fought against cancer because she had people dependent on her........ Now that is inspiring, isn't it? As far as I am told, she never wallowed in self-pity or ask "why me?". She just fought battles and kept going.

And this story, I never asked many questions about it as I was scared...... I did not want to hear about that fight, as I am scared. But now, I want to know. I want to know all about her. What I have is memories of her in so many different situations like this.

Don't be mistaken for her for an angel with white wings. Even though she had fought her battle, she also fell into the trap we all fall. Forgetting what we did to survive and end up telling others to take the easy way out. But I do believe that it comes from a place of love and hardship. Who wants anyone to go through tough things you have gone through.

One day, I am going to tell my grandmother's story. About her tenacity, her perseverance, her darkness, and her light.

I genuinely love and admire her for who she is. For everything she is. And I am a proud granddaughter. She is the strongest woman I have ever met in my life.

So my dears, even if I do not know you fully, I have seen some part of you that is strong and beautiful and worth collecting. Thank you for letting me part of your life. Thank you. Today, I say my gratitude for the kind, genuine people in my life. You make my life special.

Thank you, God and The Universe.

Thank You, All Of You.

I love you all, From my heart.


Luv

Saj

#Gratitude #Love

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Sajatha Jaffer  |  sajatha.jaffer@gmail.com

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