Resting on a bamboo arm chair with a well pressed shirt, flawless skin and a commanding voice, he calls out for his wife for a cup of water and there she stood, my grandmother, like a flash, as though she had read his mind. Their undying love and admiration screams for one of the most beautiful tales of love, witnessed by the nine wonderful children they brought into this world, all of whom raised tremendous families of their own. While there is much to talk about their love, this is about my grandfather or someone we refer as “thatha”.
As a grandson who grew up a 1000 miles away, my recollection of memories comes from my summer in the picturesque Nagercoil, my place of birth. Summer time was when all the grandchildren from far and wide conglomerated in my hometown, some reprieve and respite for our respective parents. Still, they were the best couple of months away from the scorching heat of Chennai. He was an unconventional grandfather, not the type who is going to put you in his lap and sing songs for you nor take you to the store and buy you precious gifts. In fact, he never did any such thing. His message was his life, and his gift was his being and his love simply surrounded all of us.
My grandfather’s home is referred to “Aachi’s house’ (Aachi stands for grandmother), also because it was she who held the little fortress together. Evenings call for great times as my aunts and uncles get together around the legendary table (legendary simply because of the ruckus each evening brings), raising a toast or cracking jokes or even making a weekend plan. While fifteen of them might talk at the same time with the sound decibels skyrocketing, my attentive grandfather shall bring order to the ordeal by a commanding and resounding phrase, “Enna satham”, translated as “What sound”, leading to silence for a brief bit before ruckus returns.
He was always a man of few words with a legendary past. He stood against norms, and walked the road less travelled, raised 6 girl children as an epitome of strength, and inspired them to create their own path. My wonderful mother was one of the beneficiaries of his visionary belief and the result was she become one of the first female physicians from the community. The stories I have heard over the years starting with his royal beginning followed by the tragedy with his father, killed by associates, greedy over his wealth makes for a story of compelling narration. Soon after my great grandfather’s demise, he was left with no choice but to leave his Zamin (royal palace) with his wife and no money, to exile into what has become my only recollection of hometown. From royal beginnings to owning a timber shop, he then built a workshop that stands tall today, run by my uncle and his youngest son, what is now a symbol of his greatness, and message to our family that he is still and will always be amongst us.
His last few years fades in my memory, rather deliberately as he spent in sickness and pain. Though pain and disease hurt his physical self, his resolve was untouched and his smile,unperturbed. Such was the majestic being that he was. Today, we are family of a few hundred and scattered to all parts of the world. As we come together to celebrate his centenary birth year, I feel both nostalgic and inspired. I am nostalgic with the memories of a childhood in the shadows of a great soul and inspired by his life and what he has left behind. He will forever be in our collective memories and for many like me and my cousins, he will stand tall, as an epitome of strength, exuding pride and honor, and yet beneath the commanding voice, his childlike smile, limitless love, undying spirit, indomitable will and his valorous life that holds this family together forever.
I miss you, my dear grandfather!!!!