Lessons From Grandmother

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Sometimes it takes a journey to where you’ve come from to know where it is you’re going. Swathi Ram has this Perspective.

The morning after I arrived in Tiruppur, my mother’s hometown, I awakened to a villager ringing bells and yelling in Tamil, “Pears! Pears for sale!” I dressed hastily, assuming that I had overslept, and drifted to the kitchen where the voices of my aunt and grandmother mixed with the clinking of pots and pans. A glance at the clock was startling -- 5 a.m. Seeing my grandmother already at work cooking with my aunt, I realized not only was I in a different geographic location and time zone, I was witnessing the lives of women who lived on an entirely different clock than I.

In the kitchen with its wafting scents of spices and soft popping of oils, I learned how my grandmother was unable to pursue an education and dedicated her life to her family. Outside, the village came to life as vendors with sun-weathered hands and women, toddlers in hand or astride strong hips, bargained energetically. Countless lives so different than mine intermingled before me compared to the more streamlined life my parents work tirelessly to give me.

When I came home my 5 a.m. wake up calls ceased. But my life and perspective were irrevocably altered. I was struck with insight into my own capabilities and invigorated by family’s strength in India. I understood that every day spent dealing with life’s challenges are an opportunity given to me by the hard work of my parents and their parents before them. The sense of continuity was both grounding and liberating.

My months in India taught me a rhythm of life that stayed steady even in turbulent moments. When overwhelmed, I take a breath. I think of my grandmother who dedicated her life to her family. As she so capably did, she would encourage me to set my shoulders, raise my chin, and exceed expectations. It is impossible to understand the scope of the sacrifice my grandmother made for our family, but I do recognize her resilience. Her example is legacy in which I take great pride, the will to persevere, and the joy contained in a single early day.

With a Perspective, I’m Swathi Ram.

Swathi Ram is a graduate of San Jose’s Notre Dame High School, now beginning studies in statistics and computer science at the University of Illinois.