Despite physical distancing, it’s still possible to connect emotionally and spread smiles with little touches of appreciation and generosity.
2020 is drawing to a close and I haven’t seen my grandmother in a year.
Although she has lived through the horrors of the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, the Malayan Emergency, and the 1998 Asian financial crisis, it could very well be a global pandemic at the age of 88 that becomes her downfall.
Needless to say, my friends, I am terrified.
“Take care of yourself okay, my dear,” she spoke softly into the phone when I called her up on her birthday. “I’m old already and have lived long enough. Don’t you worry.”
I didn’t want this to be her last words to me, nor my last memory of her face to be the faint memory of a dinner we had before the pandemic hit.
While I stay locked in the urban jungle of Klang Valley, she remains hundreds of kilometres away in the greener pastures of Perak and indifferent to modern day technology – which makes communication a touch difficult.
Convincing grandma that she needs to learn.
Age is no barrier to learning. The question you REALLY need an answer to is WHY would grandma WANT to learn to use a smartphone? Does she NEED to, or do you just WANT her to? There’s a difference.Internet advice from a stranger.
I knew I WANTED her to, but I’m also convinced that she NEEDS to. She’s a pretty independent woman who lives alone with a paid caretaker, so I KNOW she’d love to be able to see the faces of her physically distanced kids and grandkids.
“Baby steps is key, start with what she already knows,” came the Internet advice. Fair enough, she knows WhatsApp and thankfully that comes with a video call function as well.
“Ok nani, you know WhatsApp right?” I asked her on our next call. “Hmmm..?” came her noncommittal response. “Did you know we can actually see each other using the phone?” I continued and heard a squeak of surprise on the line. I knew I had her.
Her voice suddenly began trembling and I could feel her tearing up as my beloved grandmother sighed how much she missed seeing everyone’s faces. I assured her that we all miss her too, and the thought of her sitting alone, distanced from her loved ones is too much to bear.
Let the video call attempts begin
While the task may seem simple enough to an able-bodied millennial, the cloudy eyes of old age and joints swollen with gout make it an arduous task – coupled with the fact that the internet connection in the kampung isn’t always the strongest.
Attempt No 1 just gave me a black screen – turns out she had the phone up to her ear and didn’t realise that’s not how it’s done.
Attempt No 2 yielded slightly better results, but the angle was…. off. So all I got to see was the very top of her head and a generous view of the ceiling. She had also accidentally muted me and I spent three minutes belting out instructions to the ceiling.
I could tell she was getting frustrated. “But’s it’s going to be worth it!” I assured her during our next call. We had tried to switch on the video, but the faltering internet signal in her kampung refused to allow that to happen.
Nonetheless, she persevered and on one thankfully good day of internet connection, her face flickered onto my screen.
“Oh, my dear,” whispered my nani and I finally got to see her beaming smile.
A smile is worth a thousand words
No matter how many phone calls or texts we exchange, nothing beats seeing her face filled with happiness and love. This entire ordeal was proof that even if physical distancing means I can’t see that cheer in person, the internet still makes it possible for loved ones to be continually connected.
It was at this moment I truly understood the meaning of a Malay proverb that goes “senyum itu sedekah” or “a smile is a gift”. Spreading smiles, especially in this pandemic-addled year, is a seemingly small, but great gift of appreciation and generosity.
This is why Gamuda Land’s “Spread the Smile” campaign focuses on reminding everyone that joy, love and care can be shared even during this difficult period where physical distancing is the norm.
With technology and smart connectivity on our side – especially within the Gamuda Cove 5G Township – the property developer shows how we can stay emotionally connected, receive support from those around and touch hearts, despite being physically distanced.
So while it may be hard to find a reason to smile right now, it truly is a gift that keeps on giving. After all, a smile is the perfect embodiment of the ever-hospitable Malaysian spirit.
She puts the pun in Punjabi. With a background in healthcare, lifestyle writing and memes, this lady's articles walk a fine line between pun-dai and pun-ishing.