In her seventies, my grandmother decided on a whim that she wanted to learn Sanskrit. I must have been in the middle school, so she asked me to give her my textbooks for that subject and thus began her pet project to start learning a new language from the elementary level onward. We all decided to humour her, thinking that this would at least keep her busy, but what we hadn’t taken into account was her tenacity. In three years, my grandmother learned enough Sanskrit to be able to read the scriptures on her own.

How many women have the zeal to embark on an experience purely seeking self-growth, young or old? How many of us are open to learning new things, picking up new hobbies that add more meaning to our life? Especially in the sunset years, couldn’t such an attitude add more meaning and happiness to one’s life? My aaji’s zeal to learn something new at an advanced age taught me a very important life lesson; there’s never a wrong time to learn and grow as a person.

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Most women are swamped with chores under the lockdown. The list just never ends, and just when you think you have ticked off everything on your checklist a new task presents itself, like that one greasy spoon that lands in the kitchen sink out of nowhere just ten seconds after you are done doing the dishes. “Where’s the time to focus on self-growth?” you may wonder. But then when did we ever have time for that? Did we focus on nurturing our hobbies, picking up a new skill, from which no one at home or workplace would benefit, when there was no lockdown to double our duties? I don’t think so. In fact, this pandemic has put into perspective for a lot of us how we may have let  opportunities for self growth slip by back then.

My aaji’s zeal to learn something new at an advanced age taught me a very important life lesson; there’s never a wrong time to learn and grow as a person.

Too old, too young, too busy, too exhausted, too distracted; women have numerous reasons to put learning and gaining experience on the back burner. I see this phenomenon more prevalent in women of my mother’s generation. For them, it is like their time and energy belongs to everyone but them. Women have been conditioned for generations to focus more on giving. Sacrifice is where we are told to find fulfillment. When you think that you are to focus more on keeping others around you happy, and fulfill their needs, self-growth begins to feel self-centred. But once women cross into their sixties, with their children settled in life and the duties as a caregiver somewhat transferred to their bahus, a crisis of sorts hits them.

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I have seen elderly women relatives in my family tackle this crisis in different ways. Some channel their energy in policing their bahu’s management of the household, some turn bitter and resentful, but the struggle to overcome the realisation that you are not “needed” and thus their life has little purpose continues to bother them. Very few, like my grandma, choose to keep the focus of their post retirement life on themselves. She raised four children, retired as a high school principal, and now that work and duties towards her clan were mostly done and dusted with, she decided to do as she pleased. She picked up a skill, being fully aware of the fact that only she will reap its benefits.

My aaji’s zeal to learn something new at an advanced age taught me a very important life lesson; there’s never a wrong time to learn and grow as a person.

But must living your life for yourself  have to wait till you retire? Why not start early? Why can’t a 30 something mom, or a 50 something school teacher set aside a fraction of her time for herself? While we love our families, nurturing ourselves must something no woman should feel guilty about, as it only brings more knowledge, confidence and sense of accomplishment our way. And eventually we will pass it down to future generations, just as my grandmother passed down this invaluable life lesson to me.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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