GRANDPARENTS: Unsung Heroes of Modern Parenting

She knocked gently on her parents’ door, worried that she might disturb them
At dawn, she knocked gently on her parents’ door, worried that she might disturb them. She waited outside, lost in memories of her childhood when she helped her father build their family home brick by brick.
At dawn, she knocked gently on her parents’ door, worried that she might disturb them. She waited outside, lost in memories of her childhood when she helped her father build their family home brick by brick.

Rafiq, a retired private school teacher, celebrated his daughter Ulfat’s wedding with great enthusiasm. He emptied his savings to make it a joyous occasion. However, Ulfat’s in-laws turned out to be quite greedy. They subjected her to both physical and psychological abuse. Even speaking to her parents on the phone irritated them. Ulfat silently endured this torment without telling her parents.

Ulfat’s life took another challenging turn when she gave birth to Maryam, her daughter who was born with orthopedic disabilities. When her in-laws discovered this, they intensified their cruelty towards her.

One dreadful day, the family members attacked Ulfat, and her mother-in-law even tried to harm Maryam. Ulfat and her disabled daughter were thrown out of their home in the middle of the night.

Ulfat was so distressed that she contemplated suicide, but the innocent face of her little daughter stopped her. In the darkness of the night, chased by stray dogs, she found solace in her faith in Allah.

At dawn, she knocked gently on her parents’ door, worried that she might disturb them. She waited outside, lost in memories of her childhood when she helped her father build their family home brick by brick.

Eventually, her sister-in-law reluctantly let her in, and Ulfat tearfully poured out her heart to her parents. Her retired father, with comforting words, reassured her that they were there for her, with Allah on their side.

Despite the elders’ attempts, Ulfat’s husband insisted on divorce. Her in-laws agreed to take her back but not her handicapped child, leading to the divorce.

Despite Ulfat’s relentless efforts to help with household chores, her sister-in-law never accepted her. When Rafiq realised that the situation had become unbearable, he decided to move to a rented house with his wife and divorced daughter. One day, while Rafiq was reading a novel, he came across Robert Frost’s lines, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” Despite suffering from back pain, he set out early the next morning, wearing a belt tightly around his waist, in search of a job.

Carrying a bag filled with old certificates, he walked from school to school in the scorching heat, but all his efforts were in vain. Young people made sarcastic and hurtful remarks, but Rafiq remained composed. After nearly a month of trying, Rafiq was on the verge of giving up. In despair, he entered a nearby mosque for offering his prayers.

There, another elderly man recognized him. This person happened to be the founder of one of Srinagar’s prestigious schools. Witnessing Rafiq’s difficult situation, he offered him a job as an office supervisor.

Rafiq faced yet another challenge - the long daily commute to his workplace. However, his determination didn’t waver. One day, he saw a scrap seller with an old discarded bicycle in his cart, which he bought for Rs 400. Rafiq repaired the bicycle and added a large basket to the back so that he could safely carry Maryam to and from school.

His love and care for Maryam were boundless. While Rafiq’s wife took care of household chores, she also visited Maryam’s school during lunch breaks to deliver her lunch. One evening, Maryam helped her grandfather with dinner, and he spoke about his deep appreciation for his ailing wife. This experience taught Maryam about love, care, and the importance of strong family bonds. Gradually, their situation improved.

Ulfat pursued a BEd program through the Directorate of Distance Education at the University of Kashmir and secured a teaching job at a local school. Under the constant guidance of her parents and grandparents, Maryam mastered the foundational tools of learning.

She worked tirelessly, never allowing her physical disability to hinder her progress. The unwavering love, attention, and interactions with her grandparents provided Maryam with a safe and secure environment essential for her healthy brain development.

Supported by her grandparents, Maryam excelled in her studies and eventually attained a Gazetted position. Throughout her career, she continued to support many children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Maryam concluded her story by saying, “The sacrifices made by my mother and grandparents are an integral part of who I am.”

In many families, grandparents play an invaluable role as caregivers, offering unwavering support to both parents and children. They step in to care for grandchildren when parents are at work, provide transportation to and from school, and offer guidance and comfort during times of need. Increasingly, grandparents have become primary caregivers when parents are unable to fulfil that role. They willingly put aside their own retirement plans and often face challenges to their own health and financial stability to ensure their grandchildren continue to grow and thrive within the loving embrace of a family. Today’s children live in a vastly different world from the one those of us over the age of 50 grew up in. Their lives can be remarkably intense, with pressures to excel academically, navigate complex social cultures, and balance the demands of an all-encompassing media environment. These demands can impact a child’s overall health and well-being. This is where the pivotal role of a grandparent comes into focus, underscoring why grandparents are so important.

Throughout history, it has been seen as part of God’s plan that as we age, we become “sages” for the younger generations. If we are not actively involved in the lives of our grandchildren, it raises questions about whether we are truly fulfilling our purpose during this stage of life. Loving our neighbour extends to serving those whom God has placed in our lives, and our grandchildren are undoubtedly at the top of that list.

In a beautiful Kashmiri couplet by Ghulam Mohd Khuroo, it is expressed: “Nani Ros Bachee Gov, Paneh Ross Danieh,” which translates to the importance of grandparents being like a comforting shade and a refuge for their grandchildren.

Let’s offer a prayer for these remarkable grandparents, asking God to grant them the strength they need for each day and to help them find joy in the precious moments they share with their grandchildren. May they be rejuvenated in their role as grandparents, fully aware of the significance of their choice to raise their grandchildren.

Now, we invite you to share your cherished memories of your own experiences with grandparents or as a grandparent. Research has shown that 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren felt their grandparents influenced their values and behaviors in some way, and some of their fondest memories are linked to the time spent with their grandparents. What are some of your fondest grandparent/grandchild memories? Mail us at

(Note: Names are not real)

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

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