Most people reach a point in their lives where they decide to quit living life like a Frisbee. For me, it seemed like forever. If this were a “Pirates of the Caribbean” classic, my take-home advice would be an endearing Jack Sparrow’s quote, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” — and I’ll tell you why.

My Grandfather’s tragic death had left an indelible mark on my life. At 14, I had to brave the pounding waves of the unknown, like a sailor without a compass. Grandpa, or Pa Daa-Daa-Jee as I fondly called him, was the closest thing I had to a family member, the one in whom I confided and sought strength.

His wisdom was so profound that you couldn’t help but be in awe of him. I’d learnt so much from him that writing a 500-word essay on my discoveries would be microscopic; yet, he had more to teach. He had seen it all, so of course, he had a lot to say.

While reclining on his lawn chair beneath the mango tree, pipe in hand, Pa would tell me about his great exploits in the British Indian Army. His eyes always twinkled with delight as his voice echoed his stories. Sitting next to him, I’d occasionally shift my gaze to the nearby bonfire, which seemed to nod in agreement to his tales.

As with any other Grandparents, there were a few things Pa expected his granddaughter to do. You were supposed to go to school, play with other children, and smile at others. “Smile,” he said, “It will make you feel better about yourself.” Yes, I did smile — on the outside, at least. On the inside, I would retreat, my face flushed with embarrassment. That was my early life.

As I grew up nervous and shy around people, Grandpa’s demise became pivotal in creating a vocal, free-spirited, and innovative lady. It didn’t happen overnight. Despite relocating to New York on my American-based parents’ orders a year later, I felt dispirited as I had lost touch with my memory of him in Mumbai.

To avoid embarrassment, I would often repeat myself, which dented most of my relationships. This struggle would make me quiet or defiant in school — something I resolved to overcome in my early twenties. I was sick of being called a “Bombay freak.” I wanted to be seen and heard, but that wouldn’t happen if I continued down this unforgiving course. And then the day came.

One faithful morning, shortly after I had returned from a suspension, I was discussing the impact of conflict resolution on my life with my high school instructor when the conversation began to seep into my consciousness. A deep-seated hunger, coupled with my innate curiosity, compelled me to think differently.

I recognised anger as my go-to strategy for resolving disputes, which kept others at bay. The classroom became my battleground, and everyone, my enemy. I was still hurting from Pa’s death; it reflected in my actions. I craved to remain his little girl, never growing up because of my inability to handle issues affably.

As Mrs Eileen Evans continued, I realized what Pa Daa-Daa-Jee meant about smiling, a formidable trait that fosters long-lasting relationships. While alive, his words enthralled me; yet, I struggled to comprehend them. Now they shone like a beacon in the dark. At that point, I made a U-turn. Today, I can honestly say that I’m living my best life. Anytime I’m in a rough patch, I ask myself, “What would Pa do?”