Sunday 16 June 2019

Reflections on 'hardship'

When I was 7 or 8 years old, we lived in Meerut and for days my mother slept with a kitchen knife under her pillow. Communal riots were common in Meerut and occasionally the entire city would be on edge due to an "incident", leading to riots. One night we sped across a handy connecting door into our landlord's house and huddled with his many kids and grandkids as a rampaging mob laid siege to the city. My father was away in Chennai and my mother was all alone with us. 

Last winter, S was away and at 4 am I leapt out of bed to find the burglar alarm going full blast and the back door thrown open. It turned out to be a false alarm but for several minutes, I sat on the stairs clutching a useless weapon (a heavy stone Buddha!), my heart thudding frantically in my chest, and cursing that I didn't have even half of the courage my mother possessed. 

Communal riots (not once but multiple experiences), 6.5 Richter earthquakes, accidents, life-threatening illnesses, deaths. When I think of all the bad stuff that my mom/parents have been through, I count myself lucky that I saw some of these happen when I was a child and not expected to behave like an adult or otherwise take responsibility for anything other than my own self.

My mild-mannered mother once took our landlord severely to task over some issue. I remember being astonished at her sudden bravery, and simultaneously proud that she was standing up to a bully who was taking advantage of her vulnerable single status (my father was working in the Middle East at the time).

It is not lost upon me that the hardships that many families faced as a matter of course in those days made the people involved stronger and incredibly resilient. Our grandparents and their parents did not have it easy, our parents may have had it somewhat better. As the next generation, mine had the advantages of a good education, a comfortable if not luxurious lifestyle and economic opportunities far surpassing anything our parents could have dreamed of. 

And our children have no conception of hardship. The experience of hardship is a half day spent wondering at the evil in man, at the Holocaust museum. The experience of hardship is volunteering at a homeless shelter once in a while. Not knowing what it was like growing up with frequent power outages, being bitten to death by mosquitoes, hanging on for dear life in public transport, having severe financial difficulties, no AC, and no telephones (what's that!) 

Yes, life is so good now. Yes, there will be hardships (who doesn't have those) but there are unlikely to be hard times.

I thought about this during a discussion in a Facebook group about our childhood, and how different it is for our kids. I commented that we hit the birth lottery a few decades ago, and so did our kids. Immensely grateful for the opportunities we had, and continue to have.


  1. Hi Aparna, I love your narrative style. One of the reasons I keep coming back :)



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