Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

126. Role Reversal

Traveling by Air Conditioned compartment or train is not an option I enjoy – especially when I am traveling towards a new area. But this was a routine travel – watching scenes through window was tagged with dust, cold wind, sporadic rain etc. So, I had accepted the AC ticket without grumbling.

But when I entered the compartment I was happy like a child; realizing that I had a window seat. Now next few hours I would not need a book – I could just sit, watch and relax. In 3X2 seats arrangement, I had the last seat in the row of 3, which was the only problem. Every joy comes with some problem, ‘better not to taint the joy’, I told myself once again!

However this window dream was over within next few minutes, when a young man – 17 or 18 years approached me. He asked, “Aunty, would you please mind giving up your window seat?”

This is what generally happens to me. I hardly get window seats, lower berth and whenever I get those, someone makes a request. Generally when someone requests you something, there is always a reason. People are generally reasonable. So, I smiled and moved to the aisle seat.

What surprised me was there was no young brother or sister following the young man (for whom he might have made the request I thought) but his grandfather, who might be 70+. The boy carefully held his grandpa’s hand, made him occupy the window seat, confirmed that he was comfortable. Then the young man smiled at me and said, “Grandpa likes the window seat, so I requested you. Thank you so much aunty.”

I smiled and then pulled a book from the bag and started reading.

However, the grandson-grandfather conversation attracted my attention. I could not concentrate on reading. So, closed my eyes and tried to have a power nap.

“Are you ok? Now don’t make movements. Seat comfortably. Would you like to eat something? No, not that Vadaa Paava – that would be bit spicy for you. I have something in Tiffin for you. Ok, let us ask the vendor if there is something else….” The conversation was amusing because all this was said by the young man to the old one.

Then the grandpa asked for music. The grandson switched on his mobile. He turned to me and said, “I am really sorry aunty, but this has to be little loud. Grandpa cannot hear properly until I put it full volume.” I smiled and said, “Never mind young man.”

After few minutes, the grandpa wanted to talk to his son (the boy’s father) and complained to him about the grandson not allowing him eating the food he cherished. The father must have spoken something to the son; the son tried to explain and then smiled. He assured the grandpa that next time the vendor comes he would have Vadaa-Paava.

The grandson asked him to drink tea, made him eat biscuits, asked him to take a nap, reminded him of going to the toilets.. ..everything that generally an elder would do for a child. I was amazed with the sensitivity of the boy, the tremendous sense of responsibility he was showing and the love he had for his grandfather. The grandpa was apparently enjoying all the attention.

When the grandpa had a little nap, the boy and I spoke to each other for a while. The young boy was telling me, “Old age is like a returned childhood. When I was young, I used to trouble grandpa a lot. I never listened to him and always made him run after me. To look after me was physically tiring and mentally stressful for him. Whatever he offered to me, I was never satisfied and always demanded something else. My grandpa loved me and never complained. Now it is my time to take care of him.. and I am happy to have this opportunity. Our roles have just reversed, that is the only change, and everything else remains the same!”

Role Reversal – that were the exact words I was thinking about. How we can take those ‘Role Reversal’ moments when they actually arrive – makes us happy or unhappy. Role Reversal is not easy – it means giving up power, giving up authority, giving up center-stage etc. Role Reversal also means – taking up power, owning and using authority, being responsible, being able to take decisions, being at the center and all that. What we do today gives way for tomorrow – so one should not be surprised with the change of times. To play our Role perfectly today will automatically prepare us for the Role Reversal. Maybe that is the way of Nature to show us ‘FULL’ circle of life!



  1. refreshing to see the respect/care shown by the youngster towards an elder..

  2. Savita,Nicely catched emotions.These days i am experiancing same old age syndrome.As taking care of Mother in law i realised its just like a childhood. Like ur observations

  3. The post was pleasure to read!
    contexts are various, but role reversal happens throughout the life...
    It is like the law of conservation isn't it?! What you give comes back to you. And what you've got, you are presented with an opportunity to return.... and these are not physical things, but small gestures of love and care....
    What a wonderful barter!

  4. Lovely post, I am so glad that even these days one comes across such wonderful young people who are caring and not impatient

  5. Thanks Deepakbhai, Preeti.

    Nishikantjee, glad to note that you liked this post.

    Anu, yes, you rightly pointed out - this role reversal is more subtle and not merely physical. If we understand it at proper time, we would not grieve about pain, sorrow, illness, dependence etc.

    Ritu, I always believe that there are good people everywhere, every generation. One needs to have a bit of luck (like me) to see and experience it!

  6. Very interesting presentation of a very good theme. How many of us really opt for role reversal? Many times, we take things for granted. In an age where 'gratitude' is a rare gesture (or conduct), the young adult - grand father relationship depicted by you is really a refreshing and soothing one for the mind!! Keep blogging!

  7. A nice slice of life- and some mellow wisdom to go with it!
    Great! Keep it up..

  8. Was so nice of you to give up your seat for the old man :) you have captured the essence of the conversation beautifully. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful travel story :)

  9. sibi, such experiences always refresh me and that is the reason I choose them to share with others! :-)

    Sachin, :-)

    Raindrop, one cannot help but listen to such conversations while traveling together :-)

  10. a very very refreshing post... nice to see youung folks taking care of elders in such a fashion! I wish more people were like that!

  11. Aashishjee, thanks. I am sure there are many more such people :-)


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