A few days into the summer of my ninth year, my mother announced that I was visiting my grandfather who was living in an exotically named district near our city. This was because both my parents had conferences that overlapped their solitary schedules and I had no school to spend my most of the time in (even though school is less pastime, more boggling my mind) so I had no choice but to comply with her demands. The reason I am telling you this so peculiarly is because I never remember going to my grandfather anytime before. I didn’t realize the reason until my thirteenth year, but that’s as trivial here as ink is to the pixelated world ( in which I’m quite sure you are reading this in). My parents and I have always lived a typical city life. They both have corporate jobs and I go to a catholic school, where I’ve learned more English hymns than Hindi ones. If you think I couldn’t stay away from my parents, yes, I was capable of that; cities like ours have infused such a superpower in children like me that we’re immune to distance. I am right now in my seventeenth year for such age references must have arisen questions as to my current age. Sweet seventeen, as they say. Ugh. Anyway. My grandfather,(who I’ll be calling daadu from now on), and I hope you have already inferred from the description that his wife, my grandmother, has been long dead and hence I do not describe ‘grandparents’, were the proud owner of a huge mansion that ages ago they had refused to give up. They were right in doing so perhaps; daadu had given more than a decade of his six-decade-long life till then to the same, catering to everything from its fundamental perspectives like bricks to every room in his house. His home was his great pride and there’s no doubt that it was about thrice the size of our own home – only the home’s verandah could shelter one and half of our rooms. I must say this here, because not mentioning this would be unfair, unjust and quite a mock for my grandfather – the house was a grandeur of its own time and had lived into the same reputation years later. What can I say? My grandfather was popular among the localites for his absolute brilliance. Of course, if you may think that I did not know my grandfather at all, but you’re wrong – I had quintessentially heard a lot many stories about him told to me by my father which reeked of everything a human being can be brilliant in. He was humorous, witty, humble, kind, faithful, loving and whatnot. He never had had a bad habit. And he, like his house, had lived up to his reputation too. So, when my mother told me she was going to drop me off, I was quite okay with it. Two days later, I was packed and ready to go. My mother was to accompany me to my grandfather’s house and then make leave as soon as I was settled. My grandfather welcomed me like all grandfathers do: warmly and heartily, and he was old like all grandfathers are, and looked like the others did – with papery-thin skin lined with veins which were more prominent than his muscles, and a little stoop in his posture. My days days with my grandfather passed quickly as they always do in summers for a child like me and I never really remember how me and my grandfather got attached in a bond that I didn’t realize then that I would cherish forever. Perhaps it was the absence of someone to hold onto in both our lives – I was a socially awkward teenager and he was, well, he was old, or maybe it was just a grandfather-granddaughter thing. His voice, that I remember so well, oh. I am quite sure that he had had a baritone voice in his younger and more carefree days. Every night for the entire summer of my tenth year as far as I remember, we slept under a sky full of stars. He would recount to me his oldest days that even my father would have been fascinated to hear and whisper in my ears fables and tales that he told me he had heard from his grandmother who heard them from her grandmother who had heard them from her grandmother and so on. Daadu would make shapes out of the stars and spell them out for me. He would tell me about how my grandmother went about gracefully through her chores and I listened earnestly, lost in his words, drifting in sleep sometimes. In the day, he would take me to bookstores and teach me games that I never knew could even exist. I was awestruck with the pace of the life in daadu’s hometown. In the city, nobody cared to smile at you and here, it almost startled me when people, when they saw me with daadu, smiled warmly at me and asked me how I was doing and how I felt there. I replied politely to all of them. Soon, all my daadu’s neighbors and acquaintances and even his loyal servant Shyam grew fond of me, so much so that there was never a day I wasn’t presented with a chocolate to devour. It was magic, I believe. Even silence sounded poetic with daadu as we lay under a different but same sky day after day. He would push the swing in his verandah for me, harder until I squealed in delight. When, after a time span of two months, it was time for me to go, I held on tight to daadu. I didn’t want to go back home to a place where people moved as fast as they could, never stopping to collect stories or memories that they could narrate to their children and grandchildren. They were going to be terrible grandpas, I had told daadu. In reply, his warm eyes promised me something – a good luck perhaps – and I hugged his fragile frame for one last time and departed with my mother. And then, it was countless days to count down to the next summer and the summer after and after. It was as if my heart belonged with my daadu’s love in his huge house and giant heart where the people were quite different from here. The summers were as quick to pass by as long my school days were. And then, one day, just a week before the summer of my fifteenth year, I was reduced to a pool of tears as my mother extended to me the news from my daadu’s home, my own home, that he had breathed his last. There was nothing that could console my mourning heart. My daadu, my lovely old daadu, had sighed his last in his lovely old mansion, lonely, lying beside his dear wife’s portrait. I was violently struck by something – calling it grief would be calling it nothing – perhaps a shock but at the same time, I was furious at my daadu for leaving his ‘dear friend’ in a world full of terrible daadus. And here I am today, in the summer of my seventeenth year, glancing at a portrait of my daadu dearest, writing this, and still wishing nothing except one thing, every day of this awful summer. I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop. I wish I could go back beneath those infinite stars and countless hours of happiness. I wish I could go back to my daadu hugging me in his papery arms that felt warmer than a bonfire and to his stories that weaved around me like a magical enchantment. You see, people tell about their grandmothers often, but my tale is of a bond unnamed that was found between a seventy three year old and a nine year old that couldn’t be put into consideration for comparison with any other bond. In the summer of my fifteenth year, it seems now that I lost and entire halcyon, an entire epoch and countless days that made me serenely fascinated by everything. And now, now it seems as if those summers were a mirage and I can only reminisce with my grandpa in my soul wearing his impeccable and precious smile reaching the flecked brown of his eyes, holding his arms wide open for me to jump in.
Song of the day: Save Me by BTS (okay I’m getting obsessed with them!)
QOTD: Always take the opportunity to tell people how you feel about them before it’s too late.