Sunday, April 7, 2013


Torches. He liked to keep them handy by his pillow. His wallet filled with a wad of money notes under his pillow or the mattress. Boxes filled with biscuits and rock sugar and chivda by his beside. His phone book filled with names of people from his daughters to the cable guy. A bottle of Sprite on the stool before him. A book or two next to his pillow. He wrote letters to the Governor and the President and made us all wary. His oxygen tank and other breathing aids surrounded his bed 24/7. A few years before it was different. Slight changes. Steel boxes filled with khara mixtures and sev. Plastic ones filled with potato chips and dry pakodas. A tape-recorder for listening to the FM radio in the mornings. He used to walk around a little on the balcony outside his first floor house. His very own house. Occasionally calling out to the pan shop guy to his left or the juice guy to his right or reprimanding the college boys and dog walking uncles for smoking. A few years before this he would be seen doing a lot more. He loved getting out the hose pipe and washing the balcony and the stairs and the compound on the ground floor. He’d occasionally be seen getting into the auto with his youngest daughter. Most times to buy books. Every morning after shower there was a ritual done in the kitchen before the small mantap. Every morning without fail. A couple of years before this my most vivid memories are of him running after frogs after the rain with a bucket. I don’t see frogs now. I used to play vehicle counting games with him on the balcony while we waited for my parents to return from work. He used to smoke. And I hid his cigarette packets. He always took my side whenever my then college going Aunt told on me. He rode a Bajaj Chetak. I was 7, probably. I remember being thrilled at the fact that he okayed me to sit sideways and ride with him. I once stole 10 rupees to get a chocolate from the local milk parlor. My mother saw me with it on her way back from work. He took the blame for it. Said he had given it to me. He never questioned me about it. I never stole after. I used to head upstairs and sleep by his side. He used to make up stories for me. Suvarna Sundari - I think was the protagonist ‘princess’ character of most of his stories. He once took me to his then ‘office’. I can still picture it. A large room, barren, with a few desks and 2-3 people at them. Was it in Chamrajpet? I cannot recall. Not a spiritual or a religious person myself, he was the only one to teach me shlokas and such when I was little. I remember the black telephone with a round dialler. I remember his favourite black cane chair.  He always, even the last time I met him and spoke to him, chided me for not keeping a bindi. But I was the only person with whom he was lax about it. I’d like to think I was his favourite.

My Grandfather. He had his flaws. But he was one person I was never afraid of. The only person to ask me straight out if I had made love with my previous boyfriend. The only person with whom I discussed death and how I wished to be disposed off. Oh, we spoke on it pretty lengthy. He subscribed to Readers Digest and The Week. The many, many letters to RD in the hopes of winning the jackpot! He loved Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and movies with other such actors. I remember getting in touch with a guy who did torrents of old flicks and requesting for a list my Grandfather had asked for. He read Clive Cussler, Lee Child, James Patterson, Tom Clancy, David Baldacci and a host of other authors. He prided his James Hadley Chase collection. He cooked as well. His signature dish was benDekaayi mudh-palya. It was yum every time.

Over the 24 years of my life, I knew him and knew of him in stages and phases. He used to call me MS 2 - Maddi SambraNi 2. He was perceived to have weakened over his last few years, but he was strong as well. He spoke well in English and like he'd say, there is no bullshitting about it.

I am the only grandchild to have known him this closely. I miss him already. I shall miss him more over the years to come.