In July, I made my annual pilgrimage to Kottayam in the southern Indian state of Kerala to see my ageing grandparents.
They have aged dramatically since I had seen them last. It wasn’t just creaking bones, white hair and ill-fitted dentures. Their will to live had nearly depleted in the time I had been away.
They live in a town where everyone still waves at each other, but my grandparents don’t ask for help. They are strong-willed people, with a reluctance to rely on other people.
To me, they have become the image of an old couple living alone and still trying to come to terms with the loss of their way of life. Being told to swallow pills, to stop driving their cars, by people who they feel have no business telling them anything.
Their lonely lives are also a departure from a traditional joint Indian family where children and grandchildren take care of their elders till their final days. My mother and her four sisters have a scheduled rotation of visits, but it’s not quite the same as actually being there all the time.
I’m one of their nine grandchildren, and our lives don’t revolve around summers in their huge garden anymore. We’ve all moved to different parts of the world, more distant than ever before. Phone calls don’t quite suffice.
Their loneliness is jarring.
Unlike a lot of their contemporaries—65% of India’s elderly to be precise—they still have economic independence, and parts of their old lifestyle have been preserved.
I decided to document how my grandparents live and how their mundane lives have become a daily struggle. It has become a series of Instagram posts that evolved into a healing process for my cousins and me.
It has become the beginning of a long goodbye.
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