Professor Krishnamurthy, aged 76, has had five decades of professional experience in civil engineering teaching, research and consultancy in India, USA and Singapore. He continues to be active as a safety consultant and trainer. He has three grandchildren – Ramani, 26, Muralidharan, 22, and Saradha, 16.
This is your “Thatha”, your mother’s father, sharing with you my thoughts (and some of your grandmother’s) about your future.
You may have grown up but you will always be “grand” children to us. Although you are so busy, you visit us every few weeks. You visit your father’s elders also regularly. This is great, because nowadays extended family get-togethers with extended family are a low priority in many homes.
I am happiest that despite our large age difference, we actually enjoy being with each other. Once, a cab driver, listening to our excited chatter, said enviously: “You so lucky, lah … My grandchildren don’t even say Hello to me!”
That set me thinking about grandparents being sidelined in many families. The recent trend towards nuclear families was perhaps inevitable. To compensate, we elders must reach out to keep the youth at the bargaining table so to speak, before relations are broken off completely. I think I have done that quite well. I read books you bring me, and I attempt riddles you set me – even if I cannot solve them all!
My mother’s father made me read newspaper editorials to him. I had to learn Sanskrit at home. In high school, English classics were forced upon me. I suffered through all those at the time. But they turned out to be my greatest assets! Even now I wade into books that look forbidding. I urge you to do likewise: read beyond current best-sellers and lightweights. Watch “educational” TV channels. Learn how things work, how nature operates, and how people in various lands cope with perennial challenges.
Above all, I want to affirm to you and through you to all youth, the importance three themes in life: identity (“Who am I?”), history (“Where did I come from?”), and destiny (“Where am I going?”) at three levels: family, community, and nation.
First, know your family.
A couple of years ago I returned after a gap of 63 years to Myanmar, where my father had worked, to find my boyhood roots. I wrote my experiences down and gave a copy to your mother. She rejoiced in discovering her grandfather whom she had never met. You too must learn about – and from – your ancestors.
Second, know your community.
Our culture holds many precious values that are timeless. Rejecting them without careful examination would be short-sighted. Discover your ethnic identity. It is a vital glue to keep us together.
Our traditions, laced with a heavy dose of religion, sustain our way of life. Try to reconcile them with your modern ways. You may have to listen a little harder and seek a little farther, to discover what lies behind the façade of ritual and edict. But believe me, it will be worth your while.
Third, know your nation’s history.
I had some personal knowledge of the Indian independence movement, and I learnt the value of freedom from foreign yoke. Singapore, this tiny dot on the globe is your legacy, your responsibility. Don’t take its success for granted! Think of what you will contribute to it.
The world is changing so fast that it is spinning out of control, with terrorism, AIDS, etc. You cannot insulate yourself from these anymore. How will you cope? How can you help? Reflect on these. You have an obligation to.
We grandparents can be your best resource, with half a century of personal experience, all yours for free! The more you talk to us, the more memories we can leave with you. – and these may be pointers on what you should be leaving for your grandchildren. They may be our best bequest to you.
Some grandparents, like me, are professionally or socially active. Active or retired, we know our jobs are done. We are just waiting … and only you, grandchildren, can make the wait more pleasant and meaningful.
This letter is republished with permission from the National Library Board. Letters From Grandma and Grandpa (2008) is an initiative to create opportunities for youth and seniors to strengthen ties, enhance understanding and appreciate each other. Singapore grandpas and grandmas share their stories from the past, their hopes for the future, their love from their hearts, and their values for the soul. The letters capture their thoughts and feelings on important values, such as family and heritage, respect for the elders, generosity, love, courage and responsibility.
First published on 28-03-2012.
Categories: Letters from Grandpa