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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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  1. Excellent piece Hip Grandma! It is nice to see you thinking in a very opposite way like my mom or mom-in-law thinks. They keep each and every thing properly wrapped and on the upper shelf of the cupboard for some special days. Crockery, Porcelain dinner set, good cutlery and even mixer grinder doesn’t get used in their daily life because they should be used in some ‘ special occasion’.They think of special occasion as huge gathering they have seen in their childhood, but they are still to come into terms that today those occasions are limited. We are moving towards an individualistic societies, where kids fly away to outside of country or in another state of India in search of prospects. Parents become very proud of this but they don’t foresee the fact that they might need to learn to enjoy their regular days by themselves. They fall into the waiting trap for their children and grand children. Also they keep collecting all the things that enter into the house with great vigour, seldom giving them away the older ones (alarm clocks, torches, ball point pens etc.). When I go home to see my parents, I find all the books which we have read during school are kept properly in the study area. We don’t need them anymore, my parents don’t read them too. But they feel may be my daughter will read them. How to make them understand that science changes so fast that mother’s chemistry book will be redundant to her daughter even though she choose to study the same.

  2. Chandrima: I was amused to know about your mother and mother in law. I too have crockery that I have not used for years. Reason? I cannot give them to servants to wash and may need to do it myself. Moreover they are delicate and cannot be used on a daily basis. As a result they occupy a safe corner of an upper unreachable shelf adding to my list of disposable items. However, I think I must use them even at the risk of breaking a piece or two. Five years down the line even this may be an onerous task and I may have to switch to disposable cups and plates.

  3. Yes, you are right, one of the other reasons for my mom is also that those fine things are to be cleaned by her only. I have learned from my mother’s habit of never using the fine things in daily life. I use them all from the very next moment I owe them and enjoy them as much as I can! I always had a mobile life so I have learned that if I don’t use my favorite cups to drink tea today, tomorrow I might not get a chance to take them with me in the next abode I will be residing. I wrote a blog on this topic while I was returning back to India after a decade of expat life. http://www.blog-e-zine.blogspot.in/2010/10/floating-with-flow.html
    I guess life is also same, we need to keep floating with the flow and for that we cannot carry so much baggage on our shoulders (be it things or emotions) that we cannot float anymore. We need to let many things (and emotions) go!

  4. Chandrima:went through your piece. Echoes the feelings I am likely to have if I ever leave Jamshedpur.

  5. You know the first thing that came to my mind after reading this is “this person is very courageous, she is not scared to think about a day when she may not exist”…!

  6. Thanks Gauri. I have reached an age when I need to prepare myself at least mentally. After all death is the only event that all human beings face whether it is one’s own or that of a loved one.

  7. It is very difficult to let the old things go as we are emotionally attached to them. Even when we think about them or see those things, we tend to go back to old memories and try to experience the same feeling that was felt when receiving those things for the first time. Thanks for writing this piece of article……..it made me remember of some great moments…..

  8. Roops5577: true but we only add burden to our lives by clinging to unwanted things. Letting go of emotional baggages is as important as letting go material belongings.

  9. Mam, Wonderful thoughts… Yes I am trying to simplify our life by letting go of things I no longer use in day to day life however precious or expensive it is.. It is much easier for me to clear my stuff rather than for my child

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