Wednesday, 18 June 2014

My son's grandfather

It was barely a year after my sister's wedding that her father in-law called me aside at a family gathering and sat me down. 'Humne tumhari poems padhi', I read your poems he said. After a brief moment of confusion about what he was referring to I felt a hot, red blush spread over my face. I hadn't given him any poems. I'd given my sister a bunch of poems which I'd hoped to publish as a book. Words and phrases came back in flashes to my 21 year old brain. These poems weren't meant for him. Among other scribbling I remembered there was one about two lovers tangled together. Could the earth please just split and swallow me whole right now I thought? I was ready for him to deliver a scathing speech on the rubbish youngsters write.

'Tum bahut acha likhti ho', you write very well he said. You have a talent. It's your duty to keep writing. I was stunned. Definitely not what I had expected from a 77 year old white-haired man who swore by Swami Vivekanand!

Over the years as I came to know my son's Baba, he became one of my biggest cheerleaders where writing was concerned. Every single time we met, he asked me if I was writing. During the years of my divorce, when I met him less and had virtually stopped writing, he insisted that I must write every day. He told me to read as much as I can, and I in turn tried to introduce him to my favored genre of books. He may not have agreed with them but he always read what I gave him and then had lively debates with me, providing counterpoints to my views. Everyone would stand around saying 'tumhari class le li Pitaji ne', but those were the moments I enjoyed most in my brother in-laws house.

As my son started visiting there more often he became his grandfather, his Baba. He laughed when my son made a birthday card with a blob of paint calling it kauve ki potty. He saw his willfulness before I did. He empathized with what I was going through.

I couldn't meet him half as much as I wanted to. And now that he's gone, I keep seeing him sitting there telling me 'likha karo'. His laugh was infectious. It's what I miss most. It's what my son misses most too. My son used to say 'bhagwan ji mujhse baat karte hain'. Now he says that his Baba talks to him from the sky, tells him he's ok up there, flying and free.

Many people talk of how well-read my son's Baba was. How learned and evolved. I don't doubt it. Yet what I always saw was a man with an incredible spirit, a love for life, a refusal to let anything bring him down. Someone with an innate sense of right and wrong, of fairness. A person who could empathize with everyone. A man who didn't judge anyone. It was interesting that he was one of the few people with whom I could be myself and feel that he saw me, for who I really was.

I wanted to write to him when our chances to meet reduced. I wish I had started sooner. I only got one letter across to him before he left and there was no time for a reply. I know that with time his memory will fade, no matter how hard I try to hold on. I figure the best thing I can do to honour him, to honour what he meant to me and my son is to write. To write everyday, to live my life honestly, to be the best person I can be. If I can be 1/10th the person he was, that will be my tribute to him. I am grateful that I had the chance to know someone like him. I am blessed that he was my son's grandfather, his Baba.