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My Grandfather - PART 2

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

“The biggest addiction in life is to make people happy”, he told me once. Whenever I encounter the scent of sandalwood, mind opens up those buried memories of my maternal grandfather. We never saw his glory and not sure if he had any with respect to the materialistic possessions. But on the spiritual side he was probably the richest. This is what my dearest maternal grandfather was to me – a kind hearted, soft spoken man who endured a great deal of life. I was a little grown up by then, in college, to vividly remember his life with my grandmother and hence developed a deeper bond.

He did have a job for a while and then left it to take up agriculture. Those were the days where family, extended family and relatives played a larger role than pursuing one’s own career and taking care of immediate family. He was too good a man who could not learn one thing - to say NO when needed. People have taken advantage, meddled his financial sources and left him with nothing. May not be intentional, but situations didn’t certainly favor him. His five girls were his assets and he did manage to settle everyone without a penny in his pocket.

I remember vaguely, when I was in primary school, one day my mother said that her parents are coming to our hometown for good. I couldn’t contemplate the reasons at that age. But could clearly see my mother pulling up herself to take their responsibility and hoping to provide them a stress-free life. We as kids were happy to know that we need not travel only in summers to visit our grandparents, who till then lived in a different town. We could visit them whenever we wanted and play to our heart’s desire.

My grandparents’ house was a place of joy to us. From helping my grandmother in her kitchen, listening stories narrated by my thathamma (my grandfather’s mother) to having loads of fun with grandfather. My thathamma always worshipped her gurus instead of Gods. She would share with us interesting stories of how she saw God for real, how ghosts do exist and how it is important to have a teacher in life. My grandma always discouraged us from listening to that stuff. She was a woman with modern thoughts and didn’t appreciate girls taking back step or being too emotional with these wild fantasies of aspiring to see a God or a ghost. She trashed those beliefs and encouraged us to pursue higher education leaving aside generations of orthodoxy.

One of my aunts use to live abroad. Whenever she brought chocolates and gifts, my grandpa hid them and gave us surprises throughout the year. Seeing smiles on our faces (me and my sister) was his greatest joy. My mother was the eldest daughter and saw her parents’ struggle to have a happy life. At the peak of his financial troubles my grandfather left the house for a while and happened to meet his guru inadvertently. He told me he was made to take a trip up north the country, with a stranger, whom his guru suggested. He didn’t exactly share what happened in that trip. But a person who was an atheist till then changed his course drastically, came back as an ardent worshipper of the higher power. He embarked on the spiritual journey and made his otherwise rocky life, a very peaceful one.

My mother had to assist my grandmother in that tough period when her father was missing from their lives, taking care of her sisters. This took a toll on her subconscious self, carrying that helplessness and fear. Even after everything was settled and her parents led a good life, she had this constant sorrow on back of her mind that they didn’t deserve to suffer the way they did. Like blessing in disguise his daughters are all loving, caring and took excellent care of him. He once opened up to me saying, ‘you know many people mocked at me for having five girl children and no money, but now when I have nothing, they proved to be my biggest support system. It is my kids and you little ones that drive me every day with courage.

He was a selfless and charitable man. He never compromised on his morality and even with the little he had, he helped so many people. He was the first person to instill this sense of spirituality in the entire family. We are far from being religious but close to the higher power in whichever way we can. He went to extremes many times by carrying as many as 72 dead bodies of strangers from prince to pauper, to assist in their funerals. Nobody who approached him for help turned back empty handed. He never blamed anyone for his position and always did his best.

Every weekend I use to pedal to their home to exchange yummy food between our houses. He was very fond of food and pestered my grandma to make things more delicious so that his grandchildren and my father (his eldest son-in-law) relish. My dad was their favorite, they loved him and it is with my father’s assurance that they left their home elsewhere and came to settle in our town. He taught us many lessons by sharing his experiences both good and bad.

He used to say, “my dear never hurt anyone by word or by deed. We cannot always take back the damage we may do to others. A good word and a kind deed will go a long way and protect your family”. I still remember how he sat in his cane chair for years, counting beads on thulasi mala and chanting sahasra Gayatri, struggling to push his lungs to catch the breath. He put that protective veil around his children and grandchildren. As days passed by, he started showing health troubles. He was an asthma patient. In his early seventies he fell sick due to lung disease. All my aunts geared up to situation and gave him the best medical treatment out there with the help of one of my aunt’s husband who was a doctor.

He was later hospitalized for treatment. I packed my bags after completing my intermediate to go visit him in my aunt’s place. Right when I was about to board the bus, we received a call informing he breathed his last. I was so young then; this fact came as a shock to me. I have seen people die before but his departure left me in desperation. It took months for me to recover and start moving on with my life. I always dreamt that they will see my success and that I will provide my best for them. Little did my younger self, realize how distant a dream that was. Now when I think of the past, I see a great man there who stood strong in a life full of hurdles, smiling.

I always believe success plays a less role in life. If you work enough for it, it does embrace you. How we fare in the times of troubles, how beautifully we come out of them without losing ourselves is what I define real success as. Here he gave us a life to look back to and learn from, a personality to aspire, a character to imbibe and a guidance that keeps protecting us from where ever he is. I wrote this small poem reminiscing him after he left us.