I have been mentioning about my paternal grandfather quite a bit here. I thought of reposting this post, I wrote a while ago in my Facebook page.
I always tear up whenever I think about him. It hurts deeply. I jotted down as much as I remember about him since I don’t ever want to forget any of it.
Ayya -My sole oasis during my childhood – my safe haven! I couldn’t understand or connect with any of the elders I lived with except for Ayya.
What he did for me, nobody else ever did! He showered me with infinite unconditional love, trust & acceptance that never changed a bit, till his very end. He was so proud of me! I felt free with him – no indifference – no resentment – no condescension – no expectations – no judgements – no manipulations – nothing fake, nada! Ayya treated me with respect. He didn’t hide his imperfections with me. He shared many of his life’s stories with me. And he was always there for me waiting with a smile. He was always honest, real, kind with me.
Me & Ayya
As soon as I call my grandpa, “Ayya!”, I would get an immediate response back – ‘Namagiri’, sometimes -‘Yera?’. I am not sure if I could do justice explaining how much undivided attention he would give me each and every time and how graceful his voice and looks were.
I love to pass time with Ayya. We went to movies together. We shared snacks. Ayya used to tell me stories from his life – how he used to be outside all the time doing business driving around his huge moped; how we used to own a big antique car; how he held on to his money bag tight against his chest until his father showed up, when police confronted him once; how he had to fight for his inheritance, the home we lived. He used to tell me that he could buy so much with 2 Rupees and that now the times have changed. He would appear thoughtful!
Ayya was a really tall man – like 6 feet! He was not fat either – rather lean. Yes, he was so handsome 🙂 He wore white dhoti all the time. He mostly wore white shirts too – mostly plain with subtle designs. He always had a pleasing, welcoming attitude. He was highly devotional and patient. His devotion was unfeigned, deep like a yogi. He always looked peaceful and meditative. OMG His eyes were so powerful and graceful but then if you were so devoted and filled with love – guess it will show in your eyes! He always spoke looking at the person’s eye – in a mild tone. He was a very good listener. He never rushed anyone. His posture was always straight. He sat straight. His back was always pin straight! I have never seen him any other way. Today’s word is Cringe – He is on the other end of the spectrum.
Actually I remember one instance – I fell off the bike and scratched my legs very badly. He stooped down and sat on the floor in a corner, as I was sitting on the bench, and applied ointment on my legs in front of the whole family . He did couple new things here – he stooped down & sat on the floor (yep he never sits on the floor – he always sits on his rocking chair, unless he was dining) and had to look up and speak to me. That’s pure love!
He is a very content & happy soul – not a trace of jealousy. He loved sweet treats – he loved mangoes, raisins, watching movies & TV episodes, traveling. His family was his pride. He treated them all with great respect & love. I believe we were able to survive together for so long despite all the animosities because of his love & respect for us and ours for him. He loved taking care of us and buying stuff for us. Every Diwali, he traveled to cities nearby to buy silk clothes for all of us. I remember the tasty diamond sweets that he brings from Chennai Agarwal sweets. During such trips, he asked me what I wanted and he bought me Harmonica, piano, Gandhi’s life in pictures book, Gandhi’s autobiography, Abdul Kalam’s autobiography, first book of Harry Potter series and many many more. Even in the face of arguments within the family or even when amia complains and shouts or when dad or uncle grumbled, he kept his calm and smile. He tried his best not to intervene and let us resolve our issues. He wouldn’t even give parenting advices to sons or daughter in laws! It was amazing to watch him admiring & accepting his family as they were. He did his best to keep us all happy expecting nothing from us. His anger was very short-lived! He never cared being vulnerable in front of his family. He openly and innocently shared with us what he thought about everything. He lived his life enjoying every moment finding happiness in simple pleasures of everyday life. He cherished watching all his kids and grandkids grow up. He told his sons to do the same thing – to enjoy their lives! His life epitomized W H Davis poem –
“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. …”
A normal day in Ayya’s life
He was a very disciplined man. He followed his routine on the dot every single day. He woke up at 7. He would start his day with a prayer. I will always meet him as soon as he wakes up – the first person he sees since amia wakes up much earlier and since our rooms were right next to each other:) If I don’t see him first, he will walk to me, talk for some time and then only will continue his day. I always run to him smiling and bend down and touch his feet asking for his blessings. He would bless me wholeheartedly placing his hand on my head. He would say ‘Best wishes’. I am not a pious person – I never did this with anyone else. I did this with Ayya only on my own volition. I would feel instantly happy & peaceful 🙂 I will get his blessings again during the day, whenever I felt like. After his bath, he would meditate. He would apply coconut oil on his hair. He would roll up his shirt sleeves. He would pray in our altar. He would worship his parents’ big portraits in the lobby. Then he would walk to 3 temples near our home. As he walks slowly, he would observe the entire neighborhood – meet and greet people, wave or give them a Namaste – he will have a quick chat and continue walking. Then around 8:30ish, he will eat breakfast (mostly idly) & drink coffee, watching TV. He always sat on the same chair, at the very end of the family room. He would just sit in his usual straight posture, slowly chew and swallow the food, with one hand on his chin and observe everything silently with a smile. He had a good view! Then he would open his office which is at the front of the house. Once inside his office, he will pray again. On top of his table, he placed all pictures of gods and put a clear glass frame over it.
Ayya took care of the accounts and would write them all down in big ledger notebooks. His handwriting was OMG so neat and big and bold. He used fountain pen not ballpoint pen. He also kept eraser, pencil and a long scale. Oh he was so neat! He would listen to radio as he worked and kept glancing at the street as the day went. Yep he had a good view. He would appear pensive-looking. If someone visits or calls, he would attend to them or if he sees someone he knows on the street he will smile & wave at them and chat with them. He might snack in his office and will drink buttermilk on hot days and will close his office only during lunchtime around noon. He will walk to a nearby mobile store – a cartvala to buy snacks to eat with lunch. And after lunch and watching his favorite TV episodes, he would take a nap for an hour or so, mostly upstairs in his room or sometimes in the lobby. Then he would bath & pray again. He might go outside in his Sunny as part of his work or to buy something or will resume working in his office turning light on, if it gets dark. He will make business phone calls or chat with relatives. He will wear lemongrass oil to ward off mosquitos:) Then after supper and coffee, he would watch TV, eat supper, spend time with family, make phone calls – mostly to his daughter or sister. Then he would visit the same temples again. Actually before leaving he will check with me if I need something and buy me biscuits or chocolates or stationery. He will walk back home and ring my room bell to give me snacks and then watch TV and have a light dinner mostly yogurt rice & go to sleep around 8 after checking and locking all doors.
Some random memories of my Ayya
*He visited my college hostel and used to call & chat with me when I was in hostel. Those were some of my most pleasant memories. When I was in Chennai hostel during my internship, he took me to a good restaurant for a grand buffet. The food was delicious – that’s an understatement! And I ate chatting with Ayya. That made the food and the experience even more memorable!
*It so happened that one day my Aunt complained in front of the whole family that he married her off at an early age. He calmly accepted that he was wrong then! He also told me ‘ we will always take care of our children, wont we?’
*Once he recounted how when he visited uncle when he was in college, a girl friend of my uncle came and cheerfully greeted Ayya. He told me that it doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or boy – friends are friends:D
*He used to tell his sons – ‘Risk Endugura?’ He just wanted them to be happy and content.
*He came to my bedroom to check up on me once when I had fever. I remember feeling so good.
*I love to watch TV and sleep in his room. I remember him waking me up by turning on Lights and calling out ‘Namagiri’. No one says my name as beautiful as he did!
*I remember how happy he was when I got good score in tenth standard. He kept exaggerating to everyone.
*When I sing, Ayya would listen so intently and deeply with a smile on his face, shaking his head slowly at times to the tune. He would look so peaceful like a yogi and also he would beam with pride. I took music lessions in the lobby adjacent to his office. Ayya was a happy camper!
*When I performed on stage, he would sit proudly among the audience beaming!
* He will look proud and happy when I wear sarees and half sarees. I remember amia telling that they went to a shop and Ayya picked a saree and held it with him saying ‘ This is for Namagiri ‘ 🙂
*I remember him telling me to become an IAS officer. I realize now how correct he is. I so want to help others.
*Understanding my interest in writing, he suggested that I first choose a title before I cook up a story!
* My money was stolen from my bag in Chennai hostel. I was upset . Ayya empathetically acknowledged my feelings by saying it will be hard to lose one’s money. Nothing more. No lectures or blaming or shaming.
*When they started looking marriage alliances for me, he proudly and eagerly oversaw it. He gave me his honest opinion calmly about it all without forcing me into anything. I showed him a boy’s pic. He was like he looks good but he looks like he may soon lose his front hair! For another guy, he mentioned that it will be convenient to see often since he lives closer. No one else was concerned for me and gave me objective opinions like him.
*He helped people in our community. I remember him helping a girl in our street to continue higher studies.
*Whenever we traveled, he sat in the front alongside the driver holding onto the handle and would never sleep. He will keep talking to the driver during the entire journey.
*When we traveled without him, he would ask us to be very careful and would call us to check if we reached safely.
*Every December he will mail off Diwali and new year greetings to all relatives.
*On the night he died, I was shouting for attention from upstairs and everyone were talking, he asked them all to stop talking saying ‘ Namagiri is saying something. Please listen!’.
*When Ayya wasn’t responding, Amia called us. I saw him lying on his bed. I sat next to his head. I tried to pump his heart but amia moved my hands away- she didn’t know. I didn’t know much either. Doctor confirmed that he passed away. And just like that he was gone while asleep! I couldn’t believe that he was just there lying dead on the floor while everyone gathered around. I hated everything. I started questioning about how people can die? When someone who genuinely loved you passes away, how can I accept his death as natural and move on? From here till the cremation are few of my worst haunted memories!
*After he passed away, we found his diary where he wrote how much he missed amia when she was away for delivery and stayed with her folks. My heart melted reading it – he lovingly referred to Amia as ‘Banu Banu’ in the diary. I once remember him coming downstairs after he had went to sleep, to check on Amia, see if she was alone and if she needed company. He never told Amia how much money he carried in his pocket. He asked her to buy whatever she wanted!
*Till his death, he never expected anything from no one – lived off his own earnings, took care of his family and loved them heartily.
*I prayed to him when I wanted to get pregnant. I wanted a boy and wanted to conceive on exactly Feb 14 (Crazy, I know). I figured the elders won’t bother my parenting too much if it were a boy rather than a girl. Personally, I am not biased. And yes, both my wishes came true. Only on Feb 14, I bought the test and it was positive. My husband couldn’t believe it. He wanted me to test again next morning. It was positive again:) Hubby was dumbfounded when the doctors confirmed it was a boy just like I said 🙂
*He once told me that I was his most precious granddaughter! Actually I remember quite well this incident. Feels like yesterday. This happened in Ayya’s office . We were both standing. Out of the blue, he said those words looking into my eyes. I didn’t do anything to deserve it. I smiled looking down and left. Didn’t even thank him. Wish I hugged him. I wish I reciprocated how I feel like a princess because of him .
* Never even once I have seen him say to us – ‘ I have done so much for you’ or ‘I am the oldest – I should be right – listen to me’. He is beyond all this. He is amazing. He was always looking to do more and more for us. I remember him telling ‘We will always take care of our children – wont we? ‘ He was always listening – spoke rarely and slowly – no silly advices or fault finding. He loved us and our dogs
I believe he was a hasty youth, didn’t continue his education & got into family business really young. He changed and matured over the years. He accepted his faults, didn’t succumb to regrets and moved on! He tried to live the best he can each and every day. And he did one hell of a job! He was always alive, present & savoring every moment of his life with his family. He always loved his family like anything. He really loved us all above himself – his wife, his children, his grand children, his life.
Can never say goodbye
I know you didn’t expect anything. But I wish I respected you more. I wish I learnt a lot more about you. I wish I had told you how much you mean to me and tried to share my feelings with you 😦 If this had been a paper, there would be tear spots everywhere! I can’t expect anything more. I was deeply loved and treasured! I just want to live the rest of my life making you proud, enjoying it all and doing all that I want to do.
When everything was confusing around, as I grew up and changed, you were my constant – you were always there – your love was just the same. I miss you Ayya! Ayya, heartfelt thanks for everything. I am so much like you Ayya. Dhyan is a miracle to me. I don’t expect anything from him. Watching him grow up is my utmost pleasure. I am excited for every new day – thanks to him. I rejoice learning more and more about him every day. I want to support him become whatever he is destined to be. I want to give him unconditional love, trust, respect & acceptance. I want to be calm, patient & kind like you, especially with him. I want to be Dhyan’s oasis!
I want to love myself and be happy with myself as much as you did. Bless me Ayya! I need you! You are my God!
Dedicating this post to everyone below. I remember all every little thing that you all did for me. Those memories will be cherished for eternity! Thank you!
Humble and hard working nag ore Avva , lively and proud patty vathiyaar, straightforward and brave coimbatore thatha, responsible and simple madukkur bethanaina, bold and expressive Salem avva, calm and caring Kadiri avva who I met with only twice who asked me if I was doing okay saying ‘Cheppamma’ with motherly love, beautiful avva who used to live near us in Karur and taught me prayer songs, always smiling neighbor thatha who was friends with ayya and many many more!