First of all, I welcome you all humbly to my blog… “C’est la vie, mon ami”. No, don’t get me started on why I chose a name like that. It just came to my mind – I keep saying “that’s life” all the time anyway - and that’s not really to show off my French knowledge (which isn’t all that much anyway).
This one’s been long overdue. A lot of my friends had been after me to start my own blog (you know who you are, and honestly, I am grateful for the motivation :-) ) but for some reason I was cynical of the whole thing – up until now. In a day and age where every man and his dog are blogging (and twitter-ing, in fact), I kept wondering what’s the novelty? Moving into my first blog entry, I’d probably express some apologies first of all – my writing skills are a bit rusty thanks to lack of use. This one entry comes straight from the heart, thus is quite long. It requires editing as well, plus a good amount of patience. But I am sure you will bear with all the (little?) mistakes you may come across. Yes, yes, I know…enough already! Here we go.
Time for a little intro – that would greatly provide perspective on things:
Writing has always been my first love. I’ve published two books of short stories – one while I was in the 6th standard and the other during my 12th – both amateurish attempts, but laudable in their own way I guess considering the age at which they were achieved. I left school and came to do my graduation in Delhi and from then on my writing graph went spiralling downwards. Let’s just put it this way – my real life got more dramatic than my stories and yet I just couldn’t find the inspiration to write my thoughts down. Yes I know it’s self-contradictory, but well yeah…
My writing got limited to my personal diary where I recorded my thoughts and feelings and several incidents, plus work-related creations. After all, I was into the field of journalism. Yes, I know it gets even more ironic. A stint in London to finish my M.A. and I returned to India again. Nope, the creative juices weren’t flowing yet.
I am not even sure why I am giving this huge an explanation, but there you have it. I guess it makes sense that my first entry should be about someone thanks to whom it all began… my grandfather. This entry is a tribute to the man whom I owe my life, values and talents (well, whatever bit of it :-P ) to… for being the only one who steadfastedly believed in me in spite of all setbacks, who was always around to constantly light a fire from the spark of an idea I may have had. He’s my mother’s father – whom I call ‘Appoopan’ (meaning grandpa in Malayalam).
He passed away on January 18th of this year quite unexpectedly. He was constantly behind me, urging me to start writing again and I know it would have made him very happy to see me restart it. Possibly that is the only regret I have regarding his life. I couldn’t show it to him while he was alive. I am not sure where to really begin while describing him. He was known to be a difficult father-in-law, a benevolent but overprotective father, a self-opinionated husband... but I like to think he made up for all his flaws through his role of being a wonderful grandfather. Looking at him one would think, he looked gruff and serious. Only few knew he could be all mush inside; it was just that he was bad at expressing it. It was lovely to watch him around children, he had a way with them...
He was one of the finest lecturers I ever knew. The love story of his marriage to my grandmother has always made me sigh and laugh at the same. It was love at first sight for him, but he never told her about it. They were collegemates who lost touch with each other. Destiny made them bump into each other 12 years after they graduated. This time he was determined not to lose her again. He pursued her relentlessly, got her employed as a lecturer in the same college in which he worked, before finally proposing to her. His parents somehow had an aversion to the match, but he put his foot down. Love stories don’t get any better, do they? ;-)
He later rebelled against the management of the college for some reason before quitting his job. He went on to start his own college and reigned as Principal for several years, before he eventually sold it and moved to retirement.
The fondest memories of my childhood begin with him. I doubt whether there’s been anything he hasn’t really done for me… from teaching me to how to cycle and to drive, dropping me off and picking up from the school bus-stop, constantly motivating me, telling me an enormous number of bed-time stories, taking me for numerous outings, encouraging me to love experimenting with different cuisines, to believing in myself and standing up for what I believe in, patiently correcting my mistakes, for teaching me it’s alright to make a mistake once but stupid to keep repeating them, to learn from failures and to believe they are the stepping stones to success, to hold my head high in self-esteem, to have faith no matter what circumstances one may be in, for cementing in me a strong set of values, for being protective of me without restraining me, and most importantly - for loving me enough to let me go … I could go on and on. He was my Rock of Gibraltar when my parents separated. That was when one of my oldest friends entered my life as a little bundle of white fur… Jojy. “He’s here to keep you company so that you will never feel lonely and that nobody loves you,” he told me. Jojy licked my toe as if to affirm what my grandpa said. That was 12 years ago.
I stayed with my grandpa all through my schooling years. When I set out for my graduation years in Delhi where my dad worked, his heart was heavy but he made sure I left the place smiling. He wrote letters to me offering pearls of wisdom regarding anything and everything under the Sun. I kept visiting him once a year and his life centred around me during those few weeks. In 2007, just before I was about to leave for London, he fell victim to a massive heart-attack. My biggest fortune was that I had been in the house at that time and was able to immediately get him to the hospital. He was taken for emergency by-pass surgery the next day and within 24 hours, he was sitting up in bed yanking away the ventilator indignantly! “You have to go to London. Your time isn’t right now to stay here and worry about these things!” he persisted. I marvelled at his attitude and thanked my lucky stars to have been born to someone who cares about me so intensely – possibly even more than my parents.
Needless to say, he outlived the bypass surgery successfully and returned to his normal routine. I heard from my mother how he would proudly narrate to visitors, stories of how his granddaughter “the heroine” saved his life by driving him to the hospital in the nick of time. I returned from London in June last year to Delhi. In July when I came down from Delhi to Kerala, he gave me a surprise and arrived at the railway station without letting me know beforehand. It was pure joy to see him standing there like nothing ever really happened to him in the first place.
Little did I know that was the beginning of my last few months with him. I was with him for 2 months. Then I returned to London for my graduation ceremony. When I returned to my home after attending it, he was thrilled to watch the photos and the DVD of the ceremony. I got embarrassed when he got a photograph of me in my graduation robe framed and kept in his living room, where he would frequently point it out to visitors and elaborate. Someone once pointed out to me, “the credit belongs to him. Let him enjoy it.” I was silenced. True enough.
I am not sure how far sighted he was or whether he had any premonition. When I said I wasn’t immediately looking for a job, I wanted to take a break in between to learn French from Alliance Francaise, he was insistent that I stay with him instead of returning to Delhi. “I don’t know when I will see you again. Stay here for now. Atleast you’ll be here for 3 months,” he told me. Am I glad I obeyed him!
On January 17, I was out of town for a childhood friend’s marriage. The marriage was the next day. On some impulse, I telephoned him that night. He was fine. He had just had his dinner and was watching television. I spoke to him at length about my stay and my visit to my friend’s place. I said I was returning the next day and shifting in with him the following week (I was staying with my mother in her flat in the same city). His 85th birthday was due in 3 days. He sounded mighty thrilled, and we went on to make plans for what we’d do afterwards. Finally as I was hanging up, I noticed for an odd moment that we both said ‘Goodnight’ at the exact same moment, not a beat earlier or later. It might as well been ‘Goodbye’. An hour later, we got a call saying he had suffered sudden cerebral haemorrhage and had to be admitted to ICU of the nearest hospital.
Numb with shock, we set out immediately. By the time we reached the next morning, he was in coma stage. But I somehow felt he was waiting for me. He was hanging on, his body working fine until then – although mentally he was in coma stage. Moments after I went inside the ICU to see him and came outside, he suffered respiratory arrest and was transferred to the ventilator. His heartbeat started to dip. By then doctors advised us it was best to let him go. His one whole side had become paralysed and there seemed no possible scope of recovery. At 3pm, the doctors showed us the steady lifeless flat line of the heartbeat recorded on ECG. He was cremated that night.
Today it turns a month since his 85th birthday. A lot of people were kind to us, offering words of comfort and shoulders to lean onto. But the most memorable words came from one of my former teachers, “Look at this way. He lives through you now. The values you have imbibed from him stay with you for the rest of your life. Whatever you do, will be him making you do it…”
I went through different stages of shock, denial, anger, frustration and deep sorrow after his death. There are times I desperately miss his (physical) presence, his sense of humour and his ability to effortlessly see a situation from my perspective without having to explain a word to him. But today I am at peace because in one sense, I know his presence is always with me, watching me from above and guiding me.
This is a tribute – to the most irreplaceable loss of my life. May you rest in peace…
P.S.: More entries to follow. Once I develop my blog a bit more, that is. You can keep your hankies away, though. They won’t delve as much into the sentimental stuff...I hope! In the meantime, I am cheerfully awaiting the bouquets and brickbats… in no particular order! :-)