The sad news reached me on wednesday afternoon and I somehow managed to reach home that night itself. There in the drawing room was a huge ice box coffin. My grandfather. My dear old Achacha, who could not bear even the slightest of cold temperatures, now waiting for hours in an ice box for all his children and grandchildern to come from different parts of the world; an irony... for him the last years of his life was just that..... a big situational irony...
I didnt feel sad when I looked at his face, I saw a small smile lingering at his lips. He seemed so much at peace; like he was ready for it and was not sad about anything he left behind.
The time had come to pay our last respects to him and we all bowed to touch his feet. All of us; children, grand-children, everyone who knew him. When my turn came I saw his toenails, I had promised to cut them for him the next I visited him but not like this. I gave him a kiss after that on his head; his full head of bright white hair not single black spec anywhere. I wanted to comb it for him. I wanted to hug my acahcha but it didnt feel like him anymore, I just gave him a small peck on his cheek. The cold stiff cheek that seemed to have now replaced the soft warm 91-yr old loose skin on his face. Only at the time when the Pujari came to do his last rites and packed his body in a white cloth did I feel a kind of suffocation, the tears which just did not want to come out. The cries that got stuck in my throat. The welling in my heart. And then finally we could not see him anymore when the flames slowly started to lick his body packed in a white cloth.
Now standing here looking at his ashes, the only worldly remains of a person who lived for so long on Earth; again I am not feeling very sad. He lived his life as a strict and orderly army man but when old age caught upto him those were just the things that he could never manage to bring about in his house. He was not a forceful character; but one that you grew to love more and more over the years and just never forgot. Inspite of his sarcastic sense of humour, fetish for cleanliness and distinct way of dismissing everything he did not like, he was an easily lovable man.
I opened his telephone book to dial a few relatives to convey the sad news. Long back, he had a beautiful even handwriting, which I had seen once in some old letters he had written to my mother. Later on he took to typewriting, only to return back to handwriting when he was unable to sit straight for too long in front of the machine. But by then his alphabets had been reduced to just a few wobbly letters confined only within the telephone book. Every time I flipped through the book I used to think about the beutiful even hand in those old letters, as compared to the scrawls I saw here.
As I woke up next morning, I lay in bed thinking about the silence that surrounded me. One of the habits which he maintained upto his dying day, was listening to the All India Radio(AIR) English news at 5am every single day of his life!! The fact that for the last 5 years he has been hard of hearing has never deterred him or made him change that habit, one that never failed to get really irritated faces from his sleepy headed grandchildren who were used to getting up "early" in the morn at around 10am :-D Maybe he just wanted to hear the crackling noises, or maybe he just wanted to start the day on a note of optimism thanking the people in heaven that his day wasnt filled with war, misery, poverty, and blackmail. Everyone was taking bath and getting ready for the "beli puja" (puja to give offerings for the dead persons soul).
Today, was the Asthi-Sanjayanam (scattering of ashes). Even the last few molecules of proof of a 91-year long life were also to be scattered in the sea. After that was the last feast, given in rememberence of the man who passed away. The people who came to share in our grief was served breakfast; just a typical kerala breakfast. A craving for Chinese food was my grandfathers one major weakness; but had to adjust to eating my granny's typical kerala cuisine. It was nothing short of being mouth-watering but he just never developed a relishing taste for it. Would he have preffered to have a plate of mixed fried rice and chicken 65 in place of the Dosa which was being served now? A puzzling thought to have passed my mind at a time like this.
Looking back at the house now, i can see the empty leanback chair (charu kasera) on the front sitout without my snoring Achachan on it. I am not mourning for him, as he will always be there alive and well in my heart always... goodbye Achacha. I will cut your toenails for you in heaven someday! Promise!
Now I'm on the way back to Bangalore. Back to my regular "BUSSYY" lifestyle. Only to end up as ashes scattered away at sea and maybe have my granchildren blog abt it someday!!!