Every girl has a first love. A guy they do stupid things for. My first love was my Grandad. What was the first stupid thing I did for him? Well I was chased by cops all the way from Security Clearance to the Airport entrance. It was when I was leaving for Dubai for the first time. At the ripe, old age of two I was set in my ways and such a big change definitely did not go down well with me. After clearing Airport security my parents and I were about to enter the Air India lounge when I decided to make a run for it and see if I could go back to my grandpa. Lets say I was probably Usain Bolt in the making back then. Cops and Air India Officials could not catch hold of a two year who managed to run all the way back to the entrance where her grandad was still waiting. After a bit of a struggle the shamefaced “kid-chasers” finally took me back to my parents who were not allowed to leave the lounge. This is one of the most popular story’s in my family and often used to prove the fact that I am a complete nut-case.
As I grew up in Dubai I always looked forward to July-August when I would come to India and meet my grandparents. Grandpa, or Aba as I called him, would wait for months in anticipation and make plans to entertain my brother and me. A holiday in Mumbai meant long rickshaw rides around Bandra and hopping on to random double decker buses for the thrill. Akshay and I were pretty easy to please back then and Aba loved to oblige our whims by taking us around in Rickshaw’s for hours.
I still remember the day that we finally shifted to India for good. It was the 1st of May in 1996 and also my 10th Bday. Aba and Aji (Grandmom) had thrown me a huge bday party to cheer me up and make me feel welcome in the city. Even 15 years later I can still remember that Bday and the amount of efforts they took to make it special for me.
Us 5 grand kids referred to Aba as Hitler. For as far back as I can remember, he was super strict and made it a point to give us occasional lectures on the way we conduct our lives. I still remember the first thing he said to me when I told him about my new job and the package I was being offered – “Its okay to be excited about the pay but I will be extremely upset if you don’t save at least 20% of what you make”. Not that I am doing a very good job of following his advice.
The reason I respect my Granddad the most was because he was a righteous man. He had a very strong set of principles and swore by them despite all odds. He brought up his kids in an extremely middle class environment despite the fact that he worked for the Government and was being offered bribes on a regular basis. He could have easily given his kids luxuries that they had only dreamt of, but he chose not to. And for that he is the man I want to be like.
In the past few years Aba’s health deteriorated rapidly and I saw him go from a determinedly self-sufficient man to being dependent on his daughters. That was the first thing that made him lose a percentage of his strong will. In 2011 I saw him at his worst health ever. Walking became a nightmare and medicines and injections became a part of life. Every single phone call from his home or from the servants caused all of us to lose a heartbeat. Life went on; one day at a time.
Thursday 3rd November was like any other day. Weekend was just a day away and everyone was in typical “almost Weekend” mood. Like everyday I picked up my lunch box and 12:30 and was on my way to the terrace when I saw my brother calling on my cell. Never in my wildest days did I imagine that phone call would be the worst call I have ever had in my life time. The only words I remember from that call are “Aba passed away”. What Akshay spoke for the next 5 mins I am still trying very hard to remember. All I remember was picking up my wallet and leaving.
Some people claim they had a prediction that the day wasn’t going to be good. My cousin couldn’t get herself to go to college because she was feeling low. Was that a sign? I don’t know because I didn’t get any such sign. I went to work thinking it was going to be a great day and left wishing that this day had never happened.
I didn’t talk to Aba everyday and certainly did not get to meet him frequently. But I knew he was always there for all of us. There are so many small things about that house in Bandra that are strong memories of him. Friendly fights with him for the TV remote, Listening to him play the Tabla every morning and afternoon, sneaking out junk food from his secret stash etc. In the last 13 days since we lost him I have always walked into his house and felt a sense of deprivation whenever I saw the TV switched off and his favorite Radio lying abandoned in the corner. I have seen him go from a strong and scary man to a handful of ashes in a pot. I don’t have any poignant words to describe this feeling. I just remember feeling hollow like an important part of me got taken away against my will.
The house in Bandra will always be “Aba’s place”. Whenever I go there to meet my Aji I feel him watching upon us and feeling proud of us for keeping her as cheerful as possible. After that 1st day this happened I never cried. I prefer to remember him for all the fun memories than just the day we had to say Goodbye.