Today morning Didi called up at around 6 am. She’s the elder and the more mature one in the family. And the favourite. So she was told first. Dadu, my grandpa was no more. 3 days of illness and he was gone. Poof. Never to be seen, never to be heard.
He was 92. And as the call from Didi slowly sunk in, I realized I was not in pain. I was sad, yes definitely but I was definitely not melancholic. Dadu you see was a superhero in our eyes. He was driving all around Calcutta even when he was well above 80. When he was 70, he took my cousin’s bicycle and went for a trip around our locality while Mom kept pacing up and down, angry with her Dad for behaving like a child. But I know for a fact that secretly she was super proud. I mean who wouldn’t be proud after having a cool dad like that.
He was from a different generation of Bengalis. Probably the last of our Golden Generation. True he was born in a colonized India, yet to gain independence. But he was the generation that saw a new country being born. And probably that made him different from all the rest of people I know.
I surprisingly have none of the qualities that made him an amazing superhero. But from him I have learnt how to live life to the fullest. I have learnt how to be the most devoted husband and a doting father and a loving patriarch to a gaggle of grandkids. Whether I will be one I do not know. I hope I do.
We Bengalis are no longer known to be very entrepreneurial. He was one. Tried, failed, picked himself up, figured out what else he should be doing and did it. He could have tried again and succeeded but he chose family. I remember as we were growing up, on a Sunday morning we would suddenly hear a car honking on the road outside our house and it would be Dadu having driven over because he was missing his daughter. And he got us the potato fritters we so loved. So Didi and I attacked the fritters while mom behaved like a kid seeing her dad.
One of my cousins had married and moved to the US and she had this strange love of Mutton Samosas, (very Calcuttan I know!) So when she came back for the first time Dadu had ensured that the Mutton Samosas were waiting for her when she landed. Every. Single. Time.
My mom was his favourite. She tells me how they would play with their dogs together. How she would wait till Daddy came home so that she would no longer have to study and how on a moment’s notice they would just take the car and head down to the Maidan on an evening trip out with family. Because for Dadu it was all about living in the moment.
In between he ensured he and his wife (with or without the kids in tow) travelled everywhere. Last few years they have not been able to travel; but in their 70 years of marriage they have travelled all across India. Grandma keeps reciting one of the ancient hymns of the Vedic texts which the ancients believed made the water in their palms represent the holy rivers of India
Gangge Ca Yamune Caiva Godaavari Sarasvati |
Narmade Sindhu Kaaveri Jalesmin Sannidhim Kuru ||
Anyway, her sense of pride was that together they had seen all the sacred rivers of India. They always felt bad about missing out on visiting Indus (now in Pakistan). I hope Dadu wherever you are you can see all the rivers from up above.
He loved Grandma. Actually, I am sure he still loves her from above. Their love is what makes me believe in life, family and love itself. I have seen the silent admiration for her in his eyes so many times. In fact, I think the sense of admiration for his wife never left him. She’s a poetess, can break into a Tagore poem anytime. She’s written so much, it’s probably hard to ever replicate. And he preferred to stay in the shadows. But as we grew up we realized what a powerhouse of talent he was.
Have you ever seen the BBC production of Merchant of Venice? I think Dadu could have done a better Portia or Shylock than any of the accomplished actors. When he recited “Quality of Mercy” we listened, in stunned silence travelling from his house in North Calcutta to the court in Venice.
One of Tagore’s best work is his version of the dialogue between 2 mythical characters Kach and Debjani. And when Dadu and Didima performed it, you could sense the power, passion and love. They completed each other like few I have known.
I met him last in December. His food intake had been controlled and my o my, was he unhappy about that!!! Poor grandma and aunt of mine had to be strict. But he wouldn’t listen. How could he! Like all true Bengalis he ensured that he never scrounged on finding the best quality of food. I sometimes believe if he was born in today’s age, he would have been a food critic, albeit a benevolent one. I blame him a lot for my love of Mishti, he made my taste buds that way.
So I came to office today and am here still reading my research reports, giving my POVs on packaging because I guessed that’s what he would have liked me to do. Live life as if there’s no tomorrow. Do what you love doing.
There’s a quote by Pope Paul VI (I guess) Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.
I think Dadu could have very well written it. Love you Maharaj!