Saturday, 1 July 2017


On that afternoon, exactly a month ago, there was a strong, sudden gust of wind that brought with it little florets that danced their way down the skies and fell upon all of us who walked with my grandfather's body to the hearse that was to take him away. It was almost poetic, if not merely beautiful in a photogenic fashion. I walked with the rest of my family and all those hundred others, slow steps- tired steps- and I remember standing on one side of the hearse where no one else stood, and even in that chaotic moment, reminding myself to stand on my toes and ensure that I catch a glimpse of my darling granddad.
I remember my own mental instructions from that moment- I doubt I shall ever forget them- and I stared hard at that glorious face to memorize each detail before it left me for good. He was blanketed with wreaths and flowers from all those people whose lives he touched with his generous and powerful hand. He was a force unlike any you could possibly encounter; unforgettable and thoroughly dependable. I stood there, with silent tears bidding him farewell and praying that he was fine wherever it was that he left us to go to. His long, hooked nose that we all inherited shall remain to be my last visual memory of Dadaji, and I recall smiling when I saw it. That has been the saddest that I have ever felt in my entire life, and yet I had a smile on my face in that moment, and that has precisely been the role that my grandfather played in my life. He made me smile even when I didn't want to, he pampered me and listened to my childish opinions about his vast business empire as if I were a learned professional even when I still had milk teeth. I'd like to think that I was his favourite grandchild- he had five of us to choose from; but that's the thing about the way he loved us all. I could bet that each of his grandkids felt exactly as special around him.
I used to sit with him every single evening once he would return from work and he would tell me stories of his childhood, of life during the Second World War, of the struggles of having to cycle from Amritsar to Lahore on a daily basis to study and become a chartered accountant, of the suffering brought about by the Partition of India, of the time when he and my grandmom lived in Delhi and she owned just two sarees, of the time when he fled from a tea garden where his father sent him to work within a week of getting there, and my favourite story of this one particular food-stall in Lahore where he and his friends used to go to eat chhole bhatoore and then proceed to drink water from the neighbouring well (which he claimed had the sweetest water on earth).
He wasn't an ordinary man. His persona was gargantuan and he truly carved his name into the sands of time with a firm, solid hand. I don't quite know what my life without him will be like because there's suddenly a giant gaping hole in my heart which was his space to occupy up until now, but I suppose that's a loss I shall take a lifetime to get over.
I find that I keep recounting and retelling his stories to myself every day when I'm alone, and perhaps that's a subconscious way to keep his legacy alive in my mind until the time I can share it with my own children some day.
He has been the nucleus that has kept my family together all these decades, and yet the nucleus to his life was his dearest wife. My grandmother was the apple of his eye. I don't think there was ever a day when he sat down or remained seated while his wife would be standing, or ate a single morsel knowing that she hadn't eaten yet. What she chose and decreed was the law of the land as far as he was concerned, and he never once questioned her. It was the kind of selfless love that only the luckiest souls on the planet are privy to.
It has been a month since he left us, and yet, every time I've met my grandmother in this month, it has felt as if she possibly manages to have mental conversations with her deceased husband via some sort of supernatural bond that sixty-seven years of matrimony can perhaps lend you. She wears a look of a subtly hidden sadness on her face that tears through me like a whip, and yet she appears calm, almost relaxed knowing that his suffering has ended and he is now free. If there is anything that I had to pick and choose to adopt from my grandmother's character, it would be her grace and her tremendous strength. I don't think I have ever respected her as much as I do now.

Thirty days ago, when I bid him farewell, I looked at my grandfather's face for the last time and whispered a little goodbye to him. I kissed my hand, stretched on my feet, and transferred the kiss onto his forehead. It felt smooth and warm and I could have easily believed it if someone told me he was just napping. He was my idol, my inspiration, my friend.
I miss him every second of every day, and yet I'm not convinced that he's left me. I talk to him often and it almost feels like he's silently accompanying me in every little adventure/debacle I participate in. I think those who we love so fiercely can never truly leave us, and their memories light up our days and nights like an incorrigible flame that even the harshest of storms cannot dim.
His blood runs in my veins, and that is a legacy I'm honoured to have inherited.