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A Tribute to The Forgotten Teachers: Grandparents

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Loving grandfather with his grandchildren

Growing up, was easy as we were lucky to have grandparents. When I was young, I used to think learning must be the most dreadful activity one could do. As a young girl, I wanted nothing more than to play games and watch television. But, as much as I hated learning and anything to do with school, there were some teachers who would make me look forward to their classes every single day.

Their passion for passing down their knowledge was prominent in each class they took. In my opinion, to be a teacher is one of the most noble professions there is. However, we often forget that, one does not have to be working at a school to be a teacher of a particular specialty, and when appreciating teachers, we forget the first teachers we ever had, the teachers who taught our parents everything they know, who in turn passed down that knowledge to us, our grandparents. 

From my early years to now, I have picked up and given up on a handful of different hobbies. However, only recently I had taken up embroidery, which is a much too delicate art form for my extremely clumsy self. But, I’m lucky enough to have my mother guiding me through the intricate patterns of the strings.

Thus, while embroidering on a t-shirt it occurred to me how many of these hobbies my mother had the patience to guide me through, all of which she had learned from my grandparents. They might have learned these skills from their grandparents as well, thus preserving these specific skills from generation to generation. 


Photo: Aziza Ahmed

[ A Tribute to The Forgotten Teachers: Grandparents ]

The first ever memories I can recall are from warm, sunny mornings with my dida, my paternal grandmother. As the stress and anxiety of being an adult consumes my mind more and more everyday, the memory grows blurrier. But I would like nothing more than to go back to those days.

I had not started school yet then, thus while everyone was away at their offices and schools, I would peacefully spend my mornings with dida and dada, my grandfather. I remember sitting on her bed, the sun shining through the windows, hardly any noise throughout the neighborhood, other than from the occasional vegetable seller passing by.

She would teach me the Bengali alphabet, while she had her morning tea. When I got hungry, dada would cut up fruits, and even peel the skin off apples and mandarins for me. They had a way of bringing people together. Dida used to take me to visit neighbors for afternoon tea, and there would always be people over to see dida and dada.

Our house felt more alive, but after their passing, it seems like people are now further away, even myself. They had practically raised my sister and I, as well as my cousins. Dida raised us with discipline, while dada was a quiet man whom I had never heard speak with a raised voice. They passed away when I was very young, but there was so much more to learn from them. 

[ A Tribute to The Forgotten Teachers: Grandparents ]

Sometimes, my mother used to leave me at my maternal grandmother’s, which we refer to as ‘nanu basha’. We would stay there for several days during summer vacations, or during weekends. While my mother was at work, I was under the care of so many grandmothers. In the morning, choto nanu would ask me what shaped paratha I wanted for breakfast. I would ask for the most unconventional shapes, but she would make them for me anyway. Later, I would spend time with nanu and nanabhai downstairs.

She was the best at massaging my scalp, while I rested my head on her lap. My nanu’s are the most talented group of sisters I have ever met. All the sewing and embroidery techniques I have learned from my mother came from them. I would watch bokhala nanu make little dolls, while she watched her serials. It was hypnotizing watching her make them in such a short amount of time.

One of my fondest childhood memories is when my mother would sew clothes at bokhala nanu’s, and I would help her turn the sewing wheel, while my grandmother worked on her own things. Those were the quietest mornings, with just the sound of the sewing machine and the chirps of birds outside.

In addition, mejho nanu and nana are the most talented artists I have come across. Their house is filled with artworks painted by themselves, and I have yet to sit with them and learn all their techniques. Each of my grandparents are highly skilled in so many different things.

My maternal grandmothers were like a little production team, where each would contribute in making dolls that would be bought by stores like Aarong. One would stuff the body with cotton and give it shape, one would sew the dresses and make accessories, and one would paint on the faces. They have made everything for us, from carrot halwa, that only nanu knows how to make perfectly, to clothes, to embroidered bed sheets, and anything you can think of. 


Photo: Farhana Fabin

These days, life seems to be moving a thousand miles per hour. As I try to keep myself afloat in all the responsibilities and obligations that come with growing up, I find that I hardly have time to learn things that are not related to my academic career. But sometimes, it is important to stop and think, and to invest time in acquiring all the skills you can from past generations.

It makes me wonder how my grandparents had their careers, while they raised their children and grandchildren, as well as learn all the skills they have. Our time here is so fleeting, people are here one day and gone the next. If one is lucky enough to have their grandparents around, spend time with them because there is a lot to learn from them about some of the things that make our culture so rich and beautiful, that would otherwise be lost.

[ A Tribute to The Forgotten Teachers: Grandparents ]

Author: Tasnia Naureen 

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