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On Letting Go Of Old Things

Posted: March 30, 2013

Death has a way of stirring up emotions. Leaves from the branch of my father’s family tree had started falling quite sometime back but the death of a cousin a few days ago has set me thinking. This cousin was very much my senior – 18 years older to be precise. She led a good life, being well off and never really struggling to make ends meet. Her children made her proud and her husband was a very caring person.

I must have been around 14 years old when I happened to spend a few days at their place in New Delhi. I was impressed by the way my cousin and her husband went about attending to household chores, cheerfully dividing work between them. Their son was a well behaved kid unlike my brothers who were boisterous and unruly. But wait, why am I going into all this when the point I wish to make is very different?

For reasons best known to her my cousin bought a bungalow in Chennai and settled down in the city after her husband retired. Maintaining a bungalow in these days of unreliable domestic help is not easy. More so in one’s twilight years. Stuffing it with furniture and show pieces and worrying about their regular maintenance can be onerous. Discarding them at moment’s notice can be painful. But with more and more children settling abroad this is a dilemma faced by many of my generation.

With the mother gone and hardly any time in hand, my cousin’s children have a thankless job to do. That of giving away stuff. It is easy for me as an outsider to say that they could donate her belongings to old age homes and orphanages. They would also ultimately do it I suppose. But with every materialistic possession reminding them of the time and purpose of procuring them (like anniversaries, festivals) and speaking volumes of their mother’s zest for life, it may not be easy. Sentiments are hard to overcome if one’s parents are involved.

I am compelled to think of my future too. I wonder if I too should start simplifying my life to save my children of such a predicament. Not that I am a hoarder of unwanted stuff. But even without buying stuff I seem to have much more than I can ever use. Like the 4 sets of almost new steel Tiffin carriers. How did I get them? Well I got one as a gift on the occasion of the annual sports day in our college and two more that my son purchased when he was employed in Chennai for a few months (hardly used) and a fourth that my husband got from the credit society of which he was a member.

I have 2 steel pots (called kudam in Tamil) both brand new that my mother brought for my daughters. She was worried that I was not buying stuff for their marriages and thinking that I may find it difficult to buy everything at the last moment she would arrive with something or the other when she visited me. My daughters did not take a set of spoons with them when they left for USA. Huge steel vessels were never even considered. As for me, I have 24 hour water supply and do not need to store it. All I need to store are a few bottles of drinking water in the fridge during summer. My mother’s concern brings tears to my eyes. Having planned for our marriages she must have been appalled at my lack of concern. It was not possible for her to buy gold and silver for the grand daughters but steel ware was well within her purchasing power!

It is easy for me to give away stuff that I purchased myself. But those that were gifted to me are different particularly if it is my mother who is involved. However, I have now decided that I have to look for people who can put such items to good use.

Even if I find people who might accept steel ware and old clothes what do I do with the costly music systems and cameras? And all the audio cassettes? Good God! I can’t wait for summer vacations to come. If I do not sort out stuff and get rid of the excessive amount of unwanted items I may only burden my children with more work than they can handle. And who knows if they would be able to find beneficiaries to give them to. I certainly do not want my belongings to be trashed! Wish me luck in my mission.

Pic credit: di_ana (Used under a Creative Commons license)

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its

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