Exactly one year ago, after my dinner at night, my mother had called me to say that my grandfather is probably no more. She used the world “probably” to lessen the shock it would have on me, because last time I had seen him he showed no signs of the plans he had in his mind. He was perfectly fit, an athletic that he was, walked upright and inquired regularly about my job, my faraway living and the delay in bringing him a great grand kid. How he would have loved to see the four generations of us sitting in the lap of one another smiling smiles from different ages! From different worlds separated by a lifetime.
I remember the days when I used to walk holding his hand. He was the tallest at home and hence I loved to climb onto his shoulders the most as it afforded me the maximum view of the world around me. It also gave me the thrill of maximum height from ground. When about to fall, I held on to his hair not realizing then how it must have hurt him. He would smile and say, “Don’t make me like your father”. He hadn’t lost his hair till he died. Before his afternoon siestas I used to sit hear him with a grain of paddy to pick and pull his grey hairs and massage his enormous body to sleep.
He was my greatest saviour. I hid behind him to save myself from my parent’s fury when I messed up with my homework or hit my younger sister. Or ventured into the kitchen and ate something I shouldn’t have eaten. No one dared pull me from behind him. It was a place where I got supreme protection from the vagaries of the world. In the loving cocoon of his arms I saw myself grow. In his stories, I weaved my young imagination.
There have been innumerable wintry nights when I had escaped from my bed and slipped under his blanket into the warm comforting feeling of his chest. I would put my legs on top of him and dig my face into his neck. He would curl his hands around me. On these nights sleep came to me stealthily through his body, crawling silently from his skin to mine and I would sleep stiller than death.
I wouldn’t let him go when he was to leave me for a couple of days for work. I would hold onto his fingers, legs, shirt, hair – anything I could lay my hands on – to plead my mother not to separate me from him so ruthlessly. I would scream and roll to the floor crying, tears making mud of the floor-dust. He was my life, then. And I was his life, all through his life.
I called him all kinds of names. Some male, some female. He had come to accept the naming and answered when I called out the weird names. I watched with rapt attention when he shaved or – even more interestingly – took out his test tube to check his sugar. I have ran madly several times trying to fetch his medicines when he felt pain in his chest. His heart was so heavy with all the love he had for me that it faltered. But, then, I too had loved him as much as one can love someone. I had learnt from him lessons to last a lifetime. Under starry nights, sitting in his lap amid wafting fragrance of mogra, I have been lifted off to different worlds, from magic cities in the sky to unknown depths of the ocean. His stories have spun my imagination. They have given wings to my thoughts.
We all go through the grinds of our days. Running, competing, travelling, worrying, trying to keep pace with a world that mostly seem to run faster than us. To hold our head above the rising waters of competition. I do, too. And in all these, we sometimes tend to forget or at least forget to acknowledge adequately people (such as our parents) who shaped our lives and made it what it is today. It was their sweat, their pains, their unslept nights that had kept fueling our lives. At the risk of sounding silly, I wonder, why so beautiful loving human beings ever have to leave us.
I don’t know if my kids would love their grandparents as much. They wouldn’t grow up with my parents. They will only get to see their grandparents in summer vacations. They are the children of a nuclear world. They would miss the love from many who could love them probably more than I ever could. Like my grandfather did to me. More than my parents.
When I think deeply in solitude, I can feel a gaping hole inside me. A hole from the realization that I would never be able to see my grandfather again. I will never have his comforting hug. As I write this with welling eyes, I see my grandfather sitting in his usual place – on the verandah in the morning sun – holding the newspaper, tea cup steaming beside him. I turn into a little kid, run to him, lift the flaps of the newspaper, part his legs a little and escape from the world. Into his lap. My face dug into his wrinkled belly.