Grandmother died in 1987. She lived forty five years of diabetes, had her foot operated on for gangrene, could do Surya namaskar despite a missing knee cap, saw her favourite son’s dead body, yet , never lost her spirit. The last time I met her, six months before she passed away, she knew it was coming and gave me some of her pearls of wisdom. I held her hand for the last time and sobbed. I owed so much to her that the bad memories had faded long ago. Well, I have tried in a humble way to immortalize grandmother’s contribution to the development of a woman who is committed to ‘making a difference’.
GRANDPA THE GRAND OLD MAN
Since this phase of my life has a lot to do with my education and other activities that went
with it, I am going to rewind a little to another significant influence that shaped my life to some extent.
During school vacation, I went to Secunderabad to be with my parents and grandparents. Grandpa doted on me. I could ask for the moon and he would try his best to get it. He was a very successful government attorney and became the Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh. A highly respected member of the Bar, my grandpa, NS Raghavan, was a tall, handsome man. With sharp features and a charming smile, he looked as distinguished in his snow white dhoti and shirt as in his suit he wore to the court He carried an ivory handled walking stick.
Grandpa was an unassuming man. He had to cope with a very sick wife he loved and extremely flourishing legal practice with no sons to succeed him. He would keep telling me to become a lawyer and if he had lived long enough, I might have done just that.
Every theatre owner in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad was either a client or friend of grandpa and he could walk in any time to see a film, with best compliments. But that was not his style. Since I loved Hindi films, he would take me, much to the surprise of everyone at home as he hated watching movies. My aunt Chinnamma would wait for my annual visits, so she could get a chance to go with me. I loved her and fooled around with her a lot, making her laugh. It was tough for the poor kid who was deprived of her mother’s attention. I was also very close to aunt Rama who was seven years older. She gave me Mills & Boon Romances to read and we analysed them. We went to all the weddings grandpa was invited to and saw all the movies running in town. Her close friend was Indu, sister of M L Jaisimha, the debonair cricketer. The first time aunt Rama took me to their house, I did not know who she was. Just then Jaisimha walked in and I told Indu her brother resembled Jaisimha a lot. She laughed and introduced me to him. I was about eight and he ruffled my hair. My day was made and I became an ardent cricket enthusiast till Jaisimha stopped playing! Years later, when I interviewed him as a journalist, I told him about my crush and he actually blushed.
When I heard of grandma’s death, I was heartbroken. I was in Mysore and thatha broke the news to me. I went to the idol of Lord Ranganatha (my family deity) which grandmother had set up for my exclusive worship in a little glass box. I used to pray every day for grandma’s recovery and now she was dead. I felt let down by God. I vowed never to pray to Him for having taken away Chinnamma’s mother. For months I would go nowhere near the glass box till thatha noticed it and asked me why I was not praying. I told him and he explained to me about the process of life and death… how everyone had to go one day. He said grandma was better off with God than suffering the way she was. He said I should thank God for being so merciful to her. That was my first lesson in God’s mercy in everything that happens.
Grandpa never got over his wife’s death. He missed her presence. He seemed to have lost his will to live. He was only 57 and at the peak of his career. He was the principal government pleader and the house at any given time, was flooded with clients and hopefuls. He had no time to eat his food .My parents persuaded him to come to Mysore after he had a heart attack, for rest. He could not get over his loss and try as we did, to get him out of his depression; he succumbed to it and died shortly after. He was just 59. As we drove his body to Secunderabad, I kept thinking of Chinnamma and wept for her. She ran up to me, hugged me and said, ‘I am an orphan’. It was the most heart rending moment and as I write this, my eyes brim with tears. At least for her sake, grandpa should have fought his loneliness and lived.