August 8 1992 will be etched in my memory forever. It was the day I lost my guiding light, my idol and mentor- my grandfather. Ever since my mother gave birth to me, on that fateful day in 1978 it has been my grandparents and aunts who have brought me up. I was left with my grandparents because of a complication I developed to the BCG vaccine. I had a big boil in my left armpit and my parents could not take me with them to Calcutta. My mother left me with her parents hoping to come back and take me with her in a year. For nearly a year I was rendered immobile by the boil in my armpit, nobody could lift me or carry me around; my grandmother tells me that I used to cry all the time because of the pain. My boil finally broke and hell broke loose. I was a very naughty child, breaking and smashing everything that was in my way. My grandparents and aunts got very attached to this incredibly naughty child.
When my mother came back after a year to take me back, my grandfather told her that he would bring me up as his 11th child (my grand mom bore 7 daughters and 3 sons). After a lot of deliberation my mother finally gave in to his requests and left me behind in Salem. I called my grandfather appa and my grandmother amma. They were my parents. To this day I have never felt like calling my biological parents as amma and appa.
My grandfather was a very charming, sweet and an incredibly wise man. He recognized the evils of caste system and treated everyone equally. I observed him with great interest in my formative years. Everyone seemed to respect him so much. My grand mom used to tell me stories of how my grandfather would occasionally eat meat on social occasions with his Muslim friends. He spoilt me with the best chocolates in town. He never forgot to get me chocolates when he came back from work.
My grandfather was a mining engineer. The entire household would be up and awake at 4 AM! He used to leave for work at 5, my grand mom would wake up at 3 AM every day to make him a delicious breakfast and pack his lunch before he left. My grandfather was my alarm clock; he would kick me out of bed, before school. By the time I reached my 3rd grade he had retired from his work and his full time job was to get me ready to school. My school started very early and he would keep yelling my name at 5:15, I would keep tossing and turning in my bed acting like I never heard him. He would finally lose patience at 5:30 and give me a big kick! I swear he would kick me out of bed literally. After kicking me out of bed he would go straight to the kitchen to help my grand mom, cutting all the vegetables for her while she bickered about “issues” or complain about some mischief I did the previous day. I would go to the kitchen after brushing my teeth still half asleep and lie down on his lap immediately. He would cool my steaming cup of “maltova” down while I slept a little bit extra on his cozy lap.
I will never forget the advice my grandfather gave me when my father took me to Coimbatore for the sacred thread ceremony. I detested the idea of wearing a sacred thread and was fighting with my father, telling him that I would never attend the ceremony. My grandfather took me aside and told me that I could remove it as soon as I came back home ( I never went back to my parents, they used to visit me once in a while and suddenly tell me that I had to come with them for such ceremonies, I always disliked my father because of such things).
I also cannot forget Thursdays, for it was saibaba day and my grandmother used to make delicious sweets as prasadam. On one such Thursday my grandfather gave me a beautiful surprise. I was in my 7th grade then and was involved in a number of cycling expeditions in and around Salem. I was using my uncle’s old bike then, it was nearing its death and cycling was becoming a pain. It was a Thursday morning and I was leaving to school on my rotten bike, my grandfather stopped me and asked me to show him my bike. He took all the time in the world to have a close look at it and then suddenly realizing that time was ticking by, sent me packing to school. I came back home after school tired and excited to find out what my grand mom had made as prasadam. My grandfather was waiting for me at the gate, he told me that my grand mom had made delicious gulab jamoon and that I had to wait outside till she finished making it. I was surprised at this because I was never stopped outside the house for something like a gulab jamoon, I pushed my grandfather aside and ran into the house straight to the pooja room, there in front of me stood a brand new all terrain bike. I was yelping with joy, hugging and kissing my poor grandfather, nearly strangling him.
I want to end here before I break down remembering the last few years he was with me. Those memories will never fade. I was in my 10th grade when he left me forever.
Appa, I don't know where you went, or where you are, but I will always have you in my heart...
I love you pa...