Wednesday, February 22, 2006

6th June, 1992

I clearly remember the day when my grandpa passed away.

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 - 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)


Shipra said...

You are right its hard to bear the loss of a loved one. To lose someone you love is to alter your life for ever. The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes.I could feel that in your words.

Neptune said...

Read your blog. Its interesting to see the varied topics you can write on....
I can understand what you would have/ do feel. Even after years have passed, if you think of the loss of a loved one, the pain seems as fresh as yesterday.

Had found this on the net, and could identify with it instantly...

Keep my memory with you,
For memories never die;
I will be there with you,
When you look across the sky.
I will be there in the clouds,
In the birds that fill the air;
In the beauty of a fragrant rose,
You will find my memory there.

You will feel me in the tenderness,
Of a tiny baby's touch;
You will hear me if you listen,
In the twilight's gentle hush.
When your hearts are heavy,
And you feel that you are alone;
Just reach down deep inside of you,
For your heart is now my home.

I will always be with you,
I will never go away;
For I will live on in your hearts,
Forever and a day.


Yours Truly said...

Lovely poem! Read your blog. Keep writing. Also lovely pictures of Sikkim...

shy said...

I m in tears..jus like on that fateful day of summer in ’92… bt donno whether u hv ever known ‘our’(i.e. Shobu’s & my) side of story... As we knew we were going to see our ill grandpa and were sure he’ll be alright very soon, that day in bus we were gaily imagining that it’d be great if some day our whole family i.e. Chachas, Chachis, Buas, ‘Uncles’ and all kids wud all become Nirankaris(i.e. followers of the same Spiritual Guru, whom we follow..or try to follow..or do we??!) and how smart our broad-shouldered, freedom-fighter, retired policeman Pitaji wud look in the uniform of Sewadal (i.e. volunteers’ group responsible for discipline etc. during Nirankari satsang programs). Goes without saying the thought was mine, as Shobu was too young even to ‘think’. Donno why, but he still seems to be too young for nearly everything!
Having reached there it took me too long to grasp what had actually happened…yeah much longer than you, brother. Neither the crowd nor the weeping had given me any clue. First thing on my mind was to look for a place to keep our baggage. I clearly remember, though, that I had made it a point not to greet anyone present all this while. No I wasn’t all that wise was u who had warned me against doing so while we were still at home. And u had a wiser explanation too: “Why, after all, do we greet our elders?”─ “Because we seek their blessings.” ─ “So do u think wen Pitaji is so very seriously ill, any of his children or Mataji wud be in a mood to bless u?” ─ “Well,…no…maybe u r right.”
Conveying ur ‘golden words’ to Shobu was as usual left to me. And believe me it was always as tough a job as it is today. Don’t remmbr now how I had convinced the curious kiddo.
After securing our bag(s) to one corner of the bedroom, I followed Big B to the next room. Actually it was the first room wen we entered the house. But for some unknown reason I had ignored it in the first place. Passing a smile to each person I came across while making my way to ‘that’ room (c’mon, how cud I do even without smiling to them? I remember ‘don’t greet’, but u didn’t say anythin about smiling). For quite some while I cudnt comprehend why my gesture was not responded in the same way?!
Mom led me in…I cud see my granpa lyin on ice with cottonwool stuffed into his ears & nose…Chachu massagin his feet as usual. Many ladies sitting around them. Why is granma not lookin at me? If she’ll not look at me, how will I SMILE to her?? And hey, is she weeping?But why?...‘He’ maybe in a very critical condition but I m sure he’ll be fine..all I cud gather frm the scene was that he was severely ill & lying on ice, ear buds etc was some sort of therapy, which will ease his pain (I was seeing a dead body for the first time in my 13 years’ age!) why weep??
Standing still scanning the room looking for at least a single person to welcome my SMILE, my eyes meet with those of Chhoti Bua. She pulls me to her lap and says “Beta Pitaji..” and breaks down. Only a dumbo wud not understand what the matter was..But since I was always a dumbo, I did not. Mom ame to rescue and made me turn my body so that I face ‘him’..and the-e-n g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y I start taking ‘it’ into me…
Now I know what the matter is, now I know I need NOT smile, I must cry.
A few hours of weeping and I realize that I don’t see the kids..this is so unusual..they always used to be around…where are the kids? Gudia’s granny says that on a friend’s advice they have all gone to the temple to pray to God to grant their grandpa back. A ray of hope! I too believed that was gonna happen…
Next thing I remember is that later that evening I had all the kids sitting in a close circle around the ‘other’ room. I was explaining to them that the thing called ‘life’ we all have inside us can be compared to a drop out of a huge sea…and death is jus like that drop goin back home…Babaji’s Gyan that we had learnt by attending Satsangs. But today while writin this it seems funny to me..i mean cant help wondering whether the kids ─ Gudia, Lucky or Saurav cud make head or tail of those BIG words of mine? And this reminds me I see Shobu for the first time after reachin there…He may also have his side of story to tell us, but I don’t have any memories of his where-abouts.
It also comes to mind that those days I only used to have one good/better/best dress for goin out (I am sure you and Shobu also mus be in a similar condition..even our parents for that matter).. But my case was special because this one and only dress was a bit gaudy-looking (golden-yellow blouse with black skirt that also had golden stripes on it!). Shortly after our reaching there mom had scolded me for wearing that dress for coming to that occasion…
‘Passing’ thought: U said u were never prepared for this..i think we can never be prepared for the irrevocable loss called death… Should never even try to teach our kids to face this..this is the way they learn..the way we did..(that is to say if we did). Tk cr!