Yesterday was my ba’s birthday. Ba (pronounced just as it’s spelled) is Gujarati for grandmother.
I called to wish her a very happy birthday before heading to bed. I talk to my grandparents maybe once every couple of weeks, and see them every couple of years (they live in India). Regardless, I’m very close to them. They lived with us for quite a few years while my sister and I were growing up. And I’ll admit, when I was younger, I didn’t appreciate them as much as I probably should have. But now, I wish they lived five minutes away, so I could visit them whenever I wanted.
Anyway, I asked ba what dada (Gujarati for grandfather) had planned for her 77th birthday. She laughed and reminded me that birthdays aren’t something she celebrates. However, my dada being the great man that he is, did wish her first thing in the morning.
This conversation got me thinking about the differences between my life and my ba’s. It’s kind of crazy but despite all of the differences, she’s still one of my closest friends.
So in honor of my ba’s birthday, I’m going to share my thoughts from last night.
BA: She grew up in Ahmedabad, India, a large city in the state of Gujarat. She’s the second oldest of six and had to take on the responsibility of raising her younger siblings at an early age. Ba did graduate high school, which is quite an accomplishment for those times, but couldn’t attend college because of said responsibilities.
PARITA: I grew up in Pawtucket, RI in a quaint four bedroom, two bathroom house. I have a younger sister, and I personally took on the responsibility to teach her all about life…or least reading, math, riding a bike, shopping, etc. Unlike my ba, I graduated high school, went on to college, and eventually wrapped it all up with an MBA (degrees I know ba is so proud of).
BA: She got married at 24 and had her first child, my mom, at 26. She lived with my dada’s family and took on the responsibility of not only raising and taking care of her own children but also my dada’s nieces and nephews. And from talking to her about this experience, I know she had to put up with a lot of things during this time.
PARITA: As you all know, I’m getting married in June. I’m not 24. I’m 28. Also, I met Vishnu in college all on my own. We weren’t introduced like my grandparents. And after the wedding, we plan on living on our own. As far as I know, his brother is not moving in with us!
BA: She raised four very strong women. My mom and my aunts are some of the most capable people I know. At that time in India, you were looked down upon if you didn’t have a son because there was no one there to carry on the family name. I’m pretty sure my ba endured a lot while raising her daughters, but she never let anyone get to her. Her strength always amazes me even to this day.
PARITA: So, I don’t have any experience in raising children yet, but I know one thing for sure. When the time comes, I plan on doing it with that same sense of strength.
Now on to some silly things…
BA: She’s never worn a pair of pants. Every time she visits, my sister and I try to convince her to put some on, but she won’t. Did I mention that my ba is stubborn?!
PARITA: I can’t put on a sari without getting tangled up in it, while she’s an expert.
BA: She doesn’t know how to drive a car. And I’m pretty sure she’s never even tried. Not that there was ever really a need for her to learn.
PARITA: I was itching to turn 16, get my license, and roam the freeways with my friends. While ba has never owned a car, I’ve “owned” (I use that term loosely because technically my parents were the owners) three.
BA: She’s not a fan of cheese. In fact, melted, stringy cheese makes her nauseous. I think it’s because Indian cuisine doesn’t really require cheese of any kind, and despite her numerous visits to the US, she never acquired a taste for it.
PARITA: I could live off of cheese alone. I still remember making lasagna with my parents and being given the job of shredding the block of cheese. Let’s just say I ate my fair share before dinner was even served…still do!
Even though there are quite a few years and an entire generation separating us, my ba is still one of my inspirations. I love her sense of humor and her independent nature. And I am SO happy that both her and my dada will be able to join us for the wedding in June. I couldn’t imagine getting married without them by my side!
Happy Birthday, ba!!! See you soon!