My granddaughter, Ayesha, turned one on 22nd April. Shobhaa Her first birthday had been meticulously planned by her parents, down to the last customised cupcake. My daughter, Arundhati and her husband, Sahil, were devastated when the lockdown was extended and it was certain they’d have to cancel the party.

Shobhaa

A party where four generations would be celebrating together and blessed the little one. How fortunate was little Ayesha to have her great grandparents, her grandparents, participate in the ceremony. But lockdown-parenting and grandparenting is all about thinking of Plan B swiftly and putting it into place.

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The DIY hustle

So a lovely DIY, intimate party at home, with friends and family joining in on Zoom was organised. Every resource was pressed into action as Arundhati scoured the limited possibilities on offer, managed to source flowers, ordered a beautiful cake and dressed up her tiny darling in outfits she already had in the closet. The décor was improvised with whatever was readily available inside drawers and kitchen cabinets. The rest of us shot home videos, with Ayesha’s cousins holding up handcrafted cards.

As for me, I timorously called up a friendly, neighbourhood top cop and pleaded for a police pass to just see Ayesha at the gate of the building, blow her a kiss or two (face mask and gloves firmly in place), pass on a small gift through the gaps in the gate and come home—minus the birthday hug. Ayesha’s brother, Aryaman, was pretty excited at the thought of celebrating his baby sister’s birthday with Nani and his ‘chhota maasi’ inside the compound of his building—for that’s exactly how and where our sweet little ‘party’ happened. I remain indebted to my cop buddy for making it possible.

My daughter Radhika and her son Sudhir are out of town but I met my other daughter, Avantikka and Pramod’s three kids, Anasuya, Ahiliya and Adhiraj, all too briefly during this difficult period and refrained from grabbing them, by checking myself just in time.

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The new role

Grandparenting in sections of urban India is no longer a hands-on experience with vast and limitless emotional investments involved. Grandparents have become semi-distant, busy folks who show up on special occasions and are sometimes asked to hold the fort, while young parents do what young parents have to—work, travel, party, etc.

This is a global phenomenon. The old inter-dependency has been replaced by admirable self-sufficiency. Nothing wrong with it—these are just the realities of today. I am a proud, full-time working grandmom, myself.

The thing about this COVID-19 period in our lives is the realisation that we will have to irrevocably change the way we interact, think, behave, eat, drink, sleep and work. Our most intimate relationships are right there, staring at us from a gigantic platter. Do we even know one another? Can anyone or anything be taken for granted from this point on?

A microbe has forced us to question and re-evaluate our deepest emotions. Some of the truths that have bubbled up to the surface for the very first time are not particularly pleasant. That’s the downside. Conversely, the most unexpected people have come through—and shone brilliantly during any and every COVID-related crisis!

My faith in old-fashioned human values has been restored many times over, and I have embraced the ‘new normal’ wholeheartedly. This is going to be the world order my grandchildren will be raised in. Perhaps they will be sensible enough to undo most of the harm we have inflicted on ourselves and the planet.

There are a couple more ‘bachalog’ birthdays coming up soon… and my saved up hugs and kisses are ready.