Wednesday, December 11, 2013

THE TIME OF MY LIFE VI..Losing grandfather

Thatha’s seventieth birthday was a joyous event.  It was family get together which was significant in more ways than one for me.  Thatha was a real nice man.  After he retired, he and a few like minded friends had got together and founded the National Institute of Engineering at Mysore.  One of the four blocks of this premier college is named after him.  He was a superintending engineer with Sir M Vishveshvariah when the Krishnarajasagar dam was built.  Grandpa’s name, N Krishnaiengar, is etched on the stone entrance to the Dam, along with those of others who worked at that time.  Every time we visit the Brindavan Gardens, we stand before it and go on an ego trip.  Who said that the good that men do is interred with their bones?  It is carved on stone.  The first time I took my sons and showed them my grandfather’s name, they kind of took me more seriously!  How many of their friends could boast of such a lineage!!?
The entire clan descended to celebrate thatha’s birthday.  All his nine children pooled in to make it a grand affair.  In the evening, my uncle Satyan organized a family sports meet.  I have to pause awhile and write about my aunts and uncles.  Dad’s four sisters are a riot.  Full of verve they are excellent home managers and game for a good time.  Now past eighty and ninety respectively, they can out-talk any one at any given time.  Age has not withered nor has time staled their zeal and enthusiasm for a hot bit of gossip.  They are my mentors as I interacted with them a lot during my childhood and learnt different skills from each of them, in home management. 
The youngest of all, aunt Bhagya, was the first woman to graduate in the family, way back in the 40’s.  She acquired an Honors Degree in Child Psychology and has done wonders with her four children who are doing well in life. 
Going back to the birthday celebrations of thatha, the family sports event was uncle Satyan’s idea.  We had games for every age group, including aunts and uncles.  Thatha and grandmother gave away the prizes.  That night, we had a sing song session and Brinda was the star of the show.  I clapped in glee and was so proud of her.  At that moment, I caught uncle Satyan’s eye and it was mocking me.  ‘Is that all you want to be?  Just be a cheerleader’?  It seemed to say.  He took me out for an ice cream later and said, ‘you can do it kid.  Do something with your life’.  I was just over ten and something snapped in me.  ‘Swoosh’ it said and I knew life would never be the same.  May be it was the birth of the Guild of Women Achievers at that point!  Since then, every time I am faced with a situation I feel unable to handle, I remember his words ‘you can do it kid’.  However, I continue to be a cheerleader of women who achieve anything and never ever feel envious.  I strongly believe that every woman’s motto ought to be, ‘you can do it kid’.
Those halcyon days at 43 Nazarbad were soon to end.  One afternoon thatha was getting ready to go to the Engineering College Founders’ meeting as usual.  His Tonga (horse driven carriage) was waiting at the gate.  I helped him into his coat as he had a frozen shoulder and could not swing his left arm back.  He asked me to take it off and tell the Tonga driver to go as he was not feeling too well.  Grandmother was having her afternoon siesta.  In a feeble voice, he called me to his bedside and asked me to wipe his face.  He was sweating with rivulets of it flowing down his forehead.  I wiped and wiped and it did not stop.  I ran upstairs and called uncle Gopal.  On the way upstairs, I glanced at the clock and it showed a couple of minutes after 3 p.m. When I glanced at it later, it was the same.  The clock had stopped and it gave me a queasy fear in my tummy.  Ever since I can remember, that clock had never stopped because thatha wound it every day.  I ran to his bedside.  Uncle Gopal was wiping away the pouring sweat.I ran to wake up grandmother. She took one look at her husband’s face and said “go to Chandrika’s house and ring up your father”.  I ran as fast as I could and called dad at the office.  My parents had moved a couple of months ago to Mysore as dad wanted to be with his aging parents and take care of them.
 I will never forget my first introduction to death.  There was thatha lying on his bed, surrounded by grandmother, my uncles, dad, ma, my little sis Gay and myself.  He looked once at his wife and companion for over sixty years, patted my little sister  on her head, and closed his eyes.  It was the most majestic sight.  It is said that a person’s worth is measured by the way he dies.  If that is true, thatha must have gone straight to the angels.  I stood looking at his still face and the first thing I could think of was I did not have to help him with his coat.  It was hanging next to his cupboard and the sight of it, alone and desolate, made me break down.  My best friend had died, before my very eyes.