I can picture my paternal grandfather – or Dadu – as I called him, without even bothering to close my eyes. I can see him lounging, a head full of grey hair wearing a simple white dhoti with a green or brown or blue border, and an equally white kurta, with his poite peeping despite the constant tugging.
Dadu would always listen to the radio. It didn’t matter to him that the news he listened to – in 4 different languages, at least 3 times a day – was the same, that the songs he heard – Shakira to Beatles to Kishore – were vastly different, and that the matches he cheered on were won by India or not.
Dadu taught me almost everything I know today. On my worst days, I could come running to him and he would solve everything by playing a game of crosswords or ludo, or we’d figure out the answers to a trivia quiz.
My grandfather would have turned 100 tomorrow had he lived, and let me tell you that it wouldn’t have fazed him even one bit.
There are many things I remember about him – his smiles, his jokes, his eyerolls (yes, it is hereditary, yougaiz!), his fragrance, and sometimes, even his voice. He always had the same routine, at least for the time I remembered him.
He’d wake up at 4 a.m., wake up my grandma, or Amma, to make her lock the door, while he stepped out to pick flowers. I never really understood his reasons for interrupting her sleep on a daily basis when he always carried a perfect set of our house keys. She told me it was a ploy to not let her sleep more than him, and I believed her. Dadu never rang the bell when he came back from his ‘hunt’ but Amma always knew when to get up and open the door for him.
My grandfather was an impatient person, except when it came to two things – my sister and his pujor ghor. The man, who ate lunch at a pace that’d scare most people, would turn his radio on to whatever music was playing, and spend an hour every day arranging the flowers he picked into neat piles on two extremely large trays, one for him and the other for Amma.
Another beautiful trait I remember him possessing was his headstrong nature. At the ripe ‘young’ age of 90, my blind as a bat grandfather loved venturing out to open streets riddled with traffic alone and without a cane. My mother swears that stressing about and praying for my grandfather’s safe return every day is one of the main reasons for her premature grey hair.
I never believed he was blind though, I always thought that he was just playing a long con on all of us. In fact, I still do.
You may hear about people inheriting property, titles and even jewellery. I inherited three things from my grandfather – his books, his natural arrogance and his cranky behaviour. Like I already mentioned, he has taught me almost everything I know – my love for books, puzzles, solitude, sarcasm and knowledge are all his doing. Dadu, I cannot thank you enough.
My grandmother passed away in 2003, 4 years before he did. Believe me, he didn’t shed a tear. Just flashed me his usual smile and said, “We were together for 56 years, you know. Soon enough, I will be with her.”
I inherited three things from my grandfather – his books, his natural arrogance and his cranky behaviour.
The next couple of years were hard on both of us – we were the closest to Amma, the three of us had shared a room – so the void was real. Did we crack, you ask? Nope. Instead, during this time I realised how important solitude and quiet was. While I was never a noisy child, these years taught me the importance of silence, the kind you share with someone. I learnt to share a silence with him, the kind of silence which comforts and caresses you but doesn’t overwhelm you.
One of my last memories of Dadu will always be of him napping during winter afternoons. He was a good looking man, and in sleep, his wrinkles relaxed, making him looking younger and more hopeful. There would always be a smile playing at the corners of his lips – as if he was seeing something that really made him happy. Tucked in his brown sweater with a grey scarf around his neck, I can almost see Dadu napping his winters away.
Funnily, I don’t remember shedding too many tears over him, probably because I remember him vividly even today, and was never scared of losing him really. I can still see him smile every time I buy a new book or start a new Sudoku.