Skyping Grannies And WhatsApp Grandpas
Years ago, while looking through my parents’ wedding album, I was surprised to come across a ten dollar note stuck neatly amidst the sepia photographs.
“What’s a 10 dollar note doing in your wedding album?” I asked my mother and she went on to explain that it was a wedding gift from my grand Uncle in Miami and since my parents had no use for the dollars, they kept it in the album as a keepsake!
Travelling overseas has always held an attraction for the brave and adventurous but migrating was quite unheard of in the early 1900s when my grand Uncle crossed the seven seas. Coming from a small town in rural Maharashtra where job opportunities were very few, he preferred to seek his fortune elsewhere. I don’t know if he achieved his ambition but I do know that he became an American citizen, acquired an American wife and lived an American life.
Travel in those days was arduous, expensive and time consuming so there was no question of his coming back to see the family thus we never met our “Aunt Helen” or our grand Uncle. I don’t even know if his absence was felt by the family he had left behind or if he missed them, but I do know that gradually the distance between him and his Indian family became larger and larger and his letters fewer and fewer, becoming a mere trickle before they petered out with his passing.
Since then, many members of my family have gone abroad but the bonds have been maintained and even strengthened thanks to technology. Initially we kept in touch through letters first sent through sea and then air mails and then via long distance telephone calls. Telegrams announced the births of cousins, illnesses of Uncles and imminent visits of grandmas and grandpas. But what truly revolutionised communication were the PC and the Internet which surmounted all distances with a click.
The other day, while I was having my afternoon tea, I got a photograph of my grandchild playing on the beach, while they were at the beach in Goa, on my Android phone! Similarly, last year our family attended the wedding of a cousin in the US who had uploaded the ceremony on YouTube and we watched the Graduation Ceremony of a niece that was streamed live. There are several members of my family that have regular Skype sessions with those overseas so that they are up-to-date and familiar with their goings-on. So, the Internet has not only reduced the distance but has also made the interaction more frequent and enriching. Oftentimes, I find that I have a more meaningful exchange of ideas with my daughter through our daily phone calls rather than when we actually meet face to face.
Some Senior citizens who were familiar with technology through their employment have found it easy to adapt to this new form of communication but there are others who found it difficult to adapt. After several attempts of pestering the others at home to download letters from a grandchild overseas, or to show them the photos uploaded on a web album, many have decided to tackle the computer themselves. All of a sudden we find Grandmas switching over from knitting needles to Computer Classes and Grandpas clicking away on their keyboards.
So, today’s granny is no longer found playing Bridge at the Sunset Club or Grandpa scoring birdies on the Golf course, completely ignorant of what is happening in the world of their grandchildren. These thoroughly modern grandparents with their iPads and iPhones, Notebooks, Tablets and Dongles can surprise many a grandchild with a Friend request on Face Book or a WhatsApp in the middle of the day.
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through baby hood, toddler hood, adolescence and adult hood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood