When someone says “wisdom”, I think of a symbolic, feathered friend known as the owl. However, I do not picture baby owlets learning to fly, I see instead a majestic and mature owl soaring through the sky. After a lifetime of experience in our world, this older owl has much to share.

While owlets are out spreading their wings, wise owls patiently await their return, keeping the nest warm with love, wisdom, and tradition. The owls and their brood are living in realities separated by traditionalism and modernism. Their daily lives look different, but when they come together, the elder owls and the youthful owlets share something beautiful. The owls pass a torch down to the owlets, who spread the light of experience and tradition by applying it to their modern life, as they continually build upon the foundation shaped by their predecessors.

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When my grandparents visited me, after we awoke for morning prayers, the rest of the day would tell a different story for all of us. As I came downstairs in jeans and a sweatshirt, I was greeted by my grandparents who were dressed in traditional loungewear. They were enjoying chai and chapatis for breakfast while reading their favourite books. I brewed my coffee, grabbed my toast, and rushed to the train station, remembering my grandfather’s tales about travelling on a jam-packed steam locomotive as a student.

In my first class, I realized I had not charged my laptop. I opened my bag and spotted the notebook and pens my grandmother had given me. Initially, I had not seen the use for them with online schoolwork but, at that moment, I saw value in these items. I smiled at the irony of the situation. My grandmother kept saying that she wanted to see me get married soon, but I wanted to focus on my education. She had just helped me with the latter.

That night, we were supposed to order takeout and watch TV, but upon my grandfather’s suggestion, we told stories and enjoyed home-cooking instead. Hesitantly, I decided to bring up my essay on colourism. From a place of love, my grandmother had always recommended skin-lightening creams to me. I understood the time she grew up in and the impact of eurocentric beauty standards, so I took a respectful approach. At the end of our discussion, we had all learned something and my grandmother opened her mind to my perspective.

My home felt like a nest of owls with wise elders and young owlets, as I associate my grandparents with symbols of wisdom. As a modernist, I need my elders’ traditional views and practices so I can learn from their triumphs and mistakes by replicating the good and eliminating the bad, to move towards a brighter future. Spending time with each other opens our minds. This initiates a much-needed dialogue between traditionalists and modernists and in the end, we can only fly if we learn to coexist in harmony and value each other.