I was 15 and had just passed my 10th grade. It was the same old cruel summers of Delhi. He was in hospital - admitted following a severe heart-attack. We all used to be in hospital pretty much all the time...grandma, papa, ma, chacha (both), chachi (both), bua (both) and all us kids
I, being the oldest grandson in the family, was somewhat between the kids and the grown-ups. May be because I was his first grandson, or because I had spent that school session staying with him, I had come closer to my grandpa, than any other kids
I was at home that evening - with Sharlie - my younger sister and Saurav - brother, when I received this phone-call at our neighbors'. It was Ma. She sounded a bit tired. She asked me to come to grandpa's house with Sharlie and Saurav.
"Why? Is everything okay?"
"Yes, your grandpa is not feeling well"
"So, let's come to the hospital then"
"No, come to the house"
"Okay, we'll be there"
The hospital was at a good hour-and-a-half journey from home, and we had to board a bus that left half-past every hour
I couldn't understad why she called me to the house, instead of the hospital! Apparently my mom had spoken with the neighbor aunty when I came to the phone. And the aunty 'knew'!
We all locked the doors, and started off. An hour and a half - the bus was running on time, like everything else does! Everything.........
We had to board a rickshaw to reach the house. We did. On reaching close to the house, I noticed a few clusters of people here and there - talking.....men and women.....
"'Well, this is usual"I thought, having no idea of what I had lost. Sharlie and Saurav were even younger to even know what's going on. Well, we reached the gates....
"Why these tents?"
(In India, when they mourn a death, they make arrangements similar to that in a wedding - tents, food, chairs)
"Is someone getting married?"
yes, I was that naïve!
Had to climb stairs, one floor. A distant voice of people....weeping? Why? Who? I heard my grandma....crying. I had never, ever heard her cry before. What's going on? Is everything okay? Its surprising how oblivious we are to death, unless we see one.....or, even after we see one??
By the time I reached the living-room, and saw people sitting on the floor - wet floor. Wet with melting ice. Ice, trying to keep a body from the shameless summer of Delhi, that evening.....
"My grandpa's body?"
I couldn't face all this, I wasn't taught how to face all this. Why didn't he ever say he was going to die? That he will die one day? Why? Why do grandpas seem to be bigger-than-life? As if they'll always be there?
I was so not ready for this. I had just started to come close to him. There we so many stories left. Untold! War-time stories, his Police job. Partition of India...... What about those stories?
No, really what about them?
Alas, he was gone. And gone were those stories. All we were left with was a 6'2 frame lying on a bed of ice - waiting for those 'distant' kins, who had to travel to pay their last rites to the passed-away. Cotton buds stuffed in the ears and the nose.
I will always remember his favourite words from Geeta:
कर्म किए जा बँदे, मत कर फल का ध्यान
जैसा कर्म करेगा, वैसा फल देगा भगवान
यह है गीता का ज्ञान,
यह है गीता का ज्ञान
(Action is all thou shalt do, O man!
Without worrying about the effect.
As thy action is, so is the effect)