I often miss my grandfather the most during the nights when I stay awake late, just like how I am doing right now. It was around the time when I was in my 9th standard that I discovered that late in the night was when I worked at my most efficient and with best concentration and started remaining awake till midnight and studying for exams. My grandfather, then in his eighties, didn’t really have a deep sleep during the nights and used to wake up very frequently, check the time in the clock in the hall and go back to bed. Every time he woke up, he used to ask me to go and sleep soon.
My grandfather was very particular about punctuality in everything that he did. Even the time when he ate his food. While back then I did not understand what the fuss was all about, but today when I see many not sticking to any schedule when it comes to meal times, I understand the importance of eating of time. But he was so strict that he would not even adjust with a few minutes delay here and there.
If it was the first day of the month, he made sure that we had paid the fees to all our extra classes. If my sister and I took the fees with us and ca,me back without giving it, he made sure that he reminded us so much that we would indeed give it as soon as we entered the class.
When my grandfather was diagnosed with a high BP sometime in his middle age I think, he immediately gave up pickles and excess salt, checked his BP regularly and followed that till the end.
My grandfather was always up to date with all the news and all the latest trends. including who the current heartthrob hero was. He was always with a book in his hand.
He would always converse with anybody who visited the house. He could speak in Tamil, English, Telugu and Malayalam.
When we shifted from an independent house to a flat in an apartment, even though he was in early eighties by then, he continued to manage all the water and electricity maintenance, reminding the watchman to turn off the motor on time and being with the Electricity Board people when they took the meter readings. Today, all of us at home including my own children during vacations continue this work of his, with my mother having to do most of it despite the presence or absence of a watchman.
My grandfather had seen so much of water scarcity that he always knew the importance of water. Having worked in Electricity Board, he took an extra interest in conserving electricity too. He made sure that he passed on the responsibility to not waste water and electricity to my sister and me too.
Having been with my grandparents all through, there was always someone free at home for my sister and I to play with all through our childhood. Holidays were always synonymous with playing ‘daaya kattai’ and ‘pallanguzhi’ with my grandparents and listening to stories like ‘Prahlada’ from my grandmother.
Having grown up in Madras and lived most part of his life in Madras, he knew all about the city, all about almost every single place in Madras. He was the Google Maps in itself giving the directions to any place you wanted to. I only wish I had developed an interest in Madras back then and learnt at least a bit from him about the erstwhile city.
Till the last year of his life when age took its toll and he was lying in bed for almost the whole day, I never felt that an old person was there in the house since I could talk about anything from movies to what was happening in my class with him, just like I could with any friend.
We, as a family including my parents and my grandparents, could talk about anything and everything with each other. It is that freedom that I want to pass on to my children. The freedom to not close off your thoughts and emotions and express it just as it is to your family.