When my grandfather passed away a couple days back, strangely, it felt like the most natural thing to happen. He was very old and had lived his life well. He was the oldest among ten siblings and he practically raised all of them. He took care of his parents and everyone around him and is survived by three children and their spouses, six grandkids and two great-grandkids. He was hale and hearty upto two months back and his memory never left him till he passed away. That kind of a death, I say, is a privilege.
It is not to say that his life was easy. He did three jobs, starting as a milk delivery man at 5 in the morning, then working in the Bombay Port trust and ending the day at 10 pm after teaching English at a class. He saw the death of his son who was barely eight years old. Being the eldest son in a big family he had several responsibilities and many a times people thought he was too strict. With his brothers and sisters, his kids and with his nephews and nieces who came to stay with him. But I guess, that was the only way to do it as all of them turned out to be fine.
But for us- his grandkids, ajoba was adorable. He was a robust tall man with intense grey-green eyes and ramrod straight back. He could easily intimidate anyone, but his face lit up when he smiled. I of course don’t remember, but I have heard stories of when I was a 2 year old girl, I would go and scribble the cheques which he had kept for grandma to sign. It must have ruined his work, but he would laugh about it. What I do remember is that he would always take me to the park and buy me candy floss. Let me take one extra round on the ghoda-gadi and pet that horse before we went home. I still love the giant-wheel outside the park and I plan to take my baby to the same one where he took me, all those years back.
From among six of his grand-kids, I think I was his favourite. May be each one of us thinks so, that’s the essence of being a good grandparent. But I can say for sure that he was mighty proud of me. When I did my CA, he would tell everyone that I was a first attempt CA. Even to strangers. Sometimes when I was a kid, he would call me his baayo- that’s what he called his mom.
When my grandmother passed away four years back at the age of 77, grandpa thought she was too young to die. I wonder what he would have said about his age of 87, but I think he knew his time was up. When we went to meet him a week before he passed away, he held my husband’s hand for a long time. I wish he could have said something important, like a life lesson or so, but he was making jokes about the kind of liquid diet he was kept on. He sorely missed eating jalebis and cakes. He lived with diabetes for 47 years, but never a day passed when he did not have something sweet to eat. He worked hard, exercised till 2 months before his death and ate heartily. He lived well.
Someone told my dad to chant a particular mantra 1000 times for the next 10 days so that his father’s soul will get moksha soon. I hope my dad doesn’t do it, because I would like to believe that grandpa wants to come back to us, in one form or the other.
They say you die twice. Once when you stop breathing and the second, a bit later on, when somebody mentions your name for the last time. Grandpa will continue to live in our memories as long as we are alive and through stories we tell our children about him. About where we came from and where we are headed.