June 4, 2010

INDIA: Soul Curry - A final letter to Grandpa

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MUMBAI, Maharashtra / The Times of India / Life & Style / Spirtuality / Letters / June 4, 2010

Often, during my morning walks in the park, I can see a man in his 80s walking with his grandchild. The sight reminds me of my grandfather, who used to walk me in the same park when I was a child. An ideal grandpa, his presence made my childhood beautiful.

Like any other child, I used to love listening to stories. And my constant refrain was for one ‘that never ended’. Finally, one day he told me the story of a bird which picks up a grain of wheat a day from a granary in a village, adding that it would take years for the stock to finish and till then, the story would continue. That was the end of my persistence!

He had kept the child within him alive and every Saturday, when we visited the Hanuman temple, he would cajole me to have a plate at the panipuri stall. If I refused, he would tease me, “Oh, don’t behave like an old lady!” At 86, when his health started to fail, I would go alone to the temple and, passing by, could see visions of both of us laughing over plates of panipuri.

He believed in doing his bit towards social work, which invited a fair amount of admiration, as well as criticism. Disturbed at the wagging tongues, I asked him once how he remained calm. He replied, “In every field, there are critics and admirers. But, if you are true to yourself, you needn’t bother about these things.”

He knew how to deal with children. While he never liked pets in the house, I loved puppies and when I was four years old, brought an abandoned pup back from the basketball ground. The next day, I fed him in our garden and left for school. When I returned, the pup was no longer there. When I asked grandpa, instead of scolding me, he simply answered that, “his father came to take him away”.

He was extremely particular about his exercise and daily schedule. He woke up early and went for his walk at 5:30 am, following the same route and returning at exactly the same time everyday. The routine was kept up even in the monsoons, when he took an umbrella along for company. Often, I went along too on these walks, where he kept me involved by quizzing me on spellings, capitals of places, riddles, etc.

Once I reached second standard, I began writing a letter to grandpa every year on his birthday. He would read my letters with a smile. When I was in tenth standard, I gave him a gift, but he said he would prefer to receive a letter like each year. So, I continued. He, however, never commented and I sometimes wondered what he thought of my letter.

He died at the age of 87. When he left us, dad decided to open an old suitcase, which belonged to grandpa and occupied a pride of place on his table. Along with important documents, in the safest pouch, dad found an envelope. He opened it and called me to take a look. When I looked inside, I found all the letters I had ever written to grandpa kept in sequence and well-maintained. There wasn’t a single fold on the pages and even the first letter, which was 15 years old, was intact.

Tears welled up in my eyes. For a long time, I was overwhelmed. Thanks, grandpa, for giving me memories I will cherish all my life.

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