A Grandchild’s Eulogy to her Grandpa
“Yesterday night the world around me came crashing down. Within matter of minutes I lost everything I had. My dad is no more. Massive cardiac arrest. I am completely devastated. Just cannot imagine the world without him. Everything I did or attempted to do since childhood was for him. Life will never ever be the same for me”
I sat on the couch in utter disbelief reading this status put by my father in memory of his — trying to process the magnitude by which our lives were about to change. It is true, they say,
“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; When a son gives to his father, both cry”
and I was one of the many testimonies to the fact that my father had given more than his life to Grandpa or Papa (as I fondly referred to him as).
He was a man of exuberant vitality and an authority so irresistible that no one would question him. When members of the family were moving smoothly along their life courses, his nature was calm and genial; yet whenever something went out of place with anyone, he was surprisingly still genial as nothing gave him more pleasure than making the crooked straight.
If I was held at gunpoint and the only way to escape was to describe the true nature of Papa, I would happily plunge the bullet into my head. This was something I could never comprehend. He was harsh yet dulcet; strict yet mellow. He was so disturbingly honest and brutal that we sometimes felt that he liked being completely oblivious to the feelings of people around him. And just when u feel like labeling him as an authoritarian, he shows you a side of himself that feels for the poor. Papa’s way of liking was absolute and very clearly defined. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always easy to understand which side of his was dominant at a particular time.
The evening of July 27th, 2017 is the day I will never forget. Marked by an endless parade of meetings and work chores, I was preparing myself to go to bed when I received a phone call that changed everything. Chacha informed me about Papa’s demise. All I could hear was his loud cry of helplessness and horror and I remember my strength breaking from within, hearing him like this.
I knew I had lost someone close to me, but what I feared more, was losing someone closer — My father, my dad who is everything that he is, because of Papa.
I couldn’t even gather the courage to call him and find out if he is alright. My hands trembled as I dialed my father’s phone number. I wasn’t sure if he would receive my call but he did. A calm voice greeted me on the other end of the line, murmuring faintly, speaking to me as if I was the one in need of consolation “Yes, tell me”. It took just few seconds for my inaudible cry to turn into an outburst of tears. There was, however, no reaction from Dad’s end.
“Are you ok Dad? I am sorry. I am so sorry to hear this”
“I am fine. Can you please check and let me know the earliest flight from Pune to Calcutta? I am getting our tickets booked. I will let you know once it is done”
“Ok dad. I am not sure what to say right now but please take care and remember, we are all there for you. I LOVE YOU”
“Yes Beta. See you all tomorrow”
Was this normal? Was there anything more I should have asked? Could I ever understand what he was going through? — Probably not. Humans have different ways of reacting to tragedies. This wasn’t a tragedy though; it was an inevitable part of life that felt nothing less than a tragedy!
A long flight, few hours of sleep and exactly 9 hours later, I reached Calcutta airport where I was going to meet my parents. My mom along with my siblings had flown there from Mumbai, myself from Pune and Dad was supposed to join us from Delhi — where he was currently posted. His flight was scheduled to arrive after ours. 30mins and 2 cups of coffee later, we finally saw him. He walked towards us — tall and handsome, looking really confident. I wasn’t sure if he was ok — it’s hard to tell. How does one ever know?But I did know, about 20 seconds later, when he hugged my brother and wept in disbelief, unable to accept what had happened. I hugged my father from behind and we all wept together. We knew this was coming. We were dreading this moment but not as much as the one where we would see Papa — lifeless and gone!
Re-calling the moment when we saw Papa is harsh. I wouldn’t want to remember him that way. The entire glum atmosphere, my grandmother’s helplessness, his lifeless body covered in layers of sheets, lying in the coffin — it cannot be wrapped around in a few words. I saw what this man meant to all of us. It had been months since I last spoke to Papa, however, being there, looking at him, I could feel how attached I had always been. My entire childhood was marked by endless visits to our hometown where we played, laughed, cried and celebrated festivals together.
How could I not be attached? How could I not feel the pain?
Two days passed by. The rituals were going on and there was nothing much to do. For the first time in those two days, I dared to enter Papa’s room. There was a distinct smell in the room — the smell of an old man, the smell of a learned man; advancing slowly into his room, I saw his freshly washed and ironed stack of clothes. It broke my heart. I am not sure what came over me but I picked up a shirt and kept it with me; something that would remind me of him every single day. I then went over to his table. There were two things Papa was really fond of — books and books! Serving as a renowned English professor in college most of his life, he possessed an unmatched knowledge of the language. And what was more remarkable was his equally fantastic hold over Hindi. Just looking at his table filled with those books brought back fond memories of my childhood where we discussed countless plays, poems and stories. In fact, I believe I have inherited my love for literature from Papa. This was something that we always bonded over. I closed my eyes and sat down. Those good old days came flashing by, reminding me of those visits where we discussed several stories together.
Just a grandfather bonding with his grandchild…….
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;”
“You see — All the bad things that a person does is remembered even after he dies, but the good things are buried with them. This is the harsh reality; this is the only reality” — he told me, reading the famous Mark Antony speech from Julius Caesar. I wish there was some way I could tell him how this wasn’t true; that even after he is gone, the only thing everyone holds on to is — what a phenomenal person he was!
Oh how fondly he spoke of Shakespeare! Be it the famous Mark Antony Speech from Julius Caesar or Antonio’s verses from Merchant of Venice, we had discussed it all. Ranging from O’Henry’s and P.G. Wodehouse’s’ short stories to H.W. Longfellow’s poems, there was hardly any piece of high school literature that we hadn’t explored. Some of the timelines of his teaching days coincided with the years I was growing up which was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I fell in love with his interpretations of those stories and poems, each time, every time. The passion, the love with which he taught, made me fall in love with Literature.
His knowledge was unquestionable, his passion was undeniable and his teaching was one of a kind. He made you live through those stories.
With him, I have travelled the globe, hunted animals, drank the finest wine, sung songs, met people of different cultures, fought wars and realized the meaning of life; With him, I have performed miracles, sinned, conquered whole kingdoms, seen the beautiful green forests and the mountain tops all gold and crimson — all of this through the magic of poems, stories and plays that we read together.
The experience of that is so dear and personal to me — something which is easily irreplaceable. No amount of money can ever replace the comfort and passion that I felt in those few years of my life, and for that Papa, I shall forever be grateful.
I left his room and sat in the hall where everyone was just sitting and talking. The atmosphere was normal, people were laughing, eating. However, I felt a void. A void that couldn’t be explained, only felt. No one came storming out of the other room complaining how loud we all were. Every minute there reminded me of you. It isn’t easy to just mourn and move on.
After about three more days, I had to leave. As I carried my bags down the stairs and reached the gate, I looked back at the window of the hall. And this may sound crazy, but out of all the thoughts in my head, only one thought crossed my mind…………….
If Papa was alive, he would be sitting in the hall, staring at the mango trees in the garden…………
May you rest in peace, Papa.
How do you want to be remembered?
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