“I think we should all be nice to him.” I listened pryingly. “Give him what he likes to eat, speak to him what he wants to be spoken, thank him for all that he has done for us and try keeping him happy.” She completed. Choti Dadi had visited us thrice in this week. She is Baba’s youngest brother’s wife. “Time and tide wait for none. We would never know when a swift tide will transform into a foremost storm and take him away to eternity.” She added. Chachi and I sat there motionless. I looked at both of them and startled in disbelief. I could never believe was she meant. Chachi made a slight nod looking at Choti Dadi. No! No! It was impossible!
I felt a sudden urge of tears and stormed out of the room. September, a season of fall was in its midst, our garden looked dry and wary, the winds blew the leaf fallen on the ground to assemble at my feet. India usually experiences the extreme of all weather conditions but I never saw the autumn as a punishing proposition in the fourteen years of my life. The rustle of the leaves veiled the voices of despair coming from the room. I wanted to cry, cry out my soul. I ran into my living room. It was a room with well-furnished wooding floorings, walls full of the deity’s images and our family pictures with the smell of harmony hovering. I looked at all of our deities. In India, there are thousands of deities being worshipped each representing a meaningful mannerism. Lord Brahma, the creator; Lord Vishnu, the administrator and Lord Shiva, the destroyer making the Hindu Trinity. Baba used to say, We aren’t polytheistic but monotheistic with different representations. I did not care! Why can’t you do anything if you’re the god? I said looking at them.
With the moist eyes I began looking at our family pictures. Papa, mamma, dadi, chacha, chachi, everyone was there but my eyes longed for Baba. Indians give name to every relation. Uncle is called Chacha, aunt is called Chachi. Grandmother is called Dadi and grandfather… Baba. My child, whatever you may choose to call your loved ones, the feelings remain unaffected and unchanged. I wondered what would be a grandfather called in the other dialects of our country and the world. But that didn’t matter. Feelings would be the same. For, they are universal. They connect the world together, as Baba used to say. As Baba will say for at least next decade, I promised myself. I wiped my tears to notice my book laying on my study table. And all of a sudden I realised, I was in the middle of my mid semesters and I could barely recall what I had written in my previous papers and what I am going to write in the coming ones. But I have more important issues to deal with.
I walked slowly towards his room. He was breathing unhurriedly. His body ached for nourishment, the same nourishment he gave our family to cherish. I sat there noiselessly. He unfastened his eyes and smiled. “How did you know, Baba?” I asked holding his warm hands. “I know everything.” He said in a soft voice. “Hmm… What else do you know apart from my presence?” I was stroking his hands. “I know about your tears.” He said, “My tears? They do not exist.” I chuckled. “I wish they would never exist my child.” He replied. I broke down. “Hey! Hey! Listen to me, my daughter. Listen to me.” He apprehended. “No! I won’t! They said…” I felt a shortage of words, “Do you know what they’re saying about you? You know nothing.” He smiled, “I know everything. I know what people speak and also what they intend to speak” “Is there a difference?” I asked unknowingly. He laughed, “You’re still a baby!” I made a babyface.
I have never been a fan of the nuclear family system. I loved living in a joint family because I felt growing up with grandparents is a bliss. And I am proud to say that I am not just grown up but raised by my grandparents. The recollections of laying down on moist grass and counting the stars at night and Baba reciting me different stories of how he spent his childhood and the books he read and also the stories for our holy scriptures. “Tell me again about your college days, Baba” I would say and he would repeat it all over again. I learned about tolerance, acceptance, brotherhood, and destiny through his stories. He was a master storyteller. I would indulge myself completely in his stories imagining my own fantasies. Occasionally, he would like to take me to the nearby park and played hide and seek. I got Goosebumps every single time I couldn’t find him. I thought I was lost. And then out of nowhere, he appeared. “Baba…” I used to say and hug him. He used to live me up and I felt I could do anything, even touch the sky.
“Aren’t you going to get well? You’ve had enough of laying down here. Now, get well soon.” I made my point. “If you’ll laugh I will. But if you continue crying like this I won’t.” he coughed heavily. I gave him a glass of water, “Have it Baba!” “I will tell you a story…” he murmured as I helped him with the water. I sat patiently for him to begin. “I will tell you a story…” he was saying, “But before that you have to do what I tell you.” I nodded. “Go for a walk”
“Go for a walk and tell me what you see.” I could scarcely understand his words but I went outside. Why does he want me to go for a walk? I walked out of my house gate. I walked on the street. I saw children playing, their mothers shouting and talking and pedestrians walking past me. This is what he wants me to see. I continued walking. There were people shouting and laughing and doing their stuffs until I was stopped by a dead leaf fallen over my head. I waved it off. I noticed there were uncountable leaves fallen on the ground. The leaves that were the pride of the tress once have been shed off. They were the ones who made the place look green and lively. But they weren’t alive anymore. They were themselves dead. I looked at the trees. They looked lonely as if missed their loved ones who have been with them through every thick and thins, in rainy days and in sunny weekends. They were always together. I felt sorry for them.
Then a sudden and impulsive realisation shook me. This is not forever. Nothing is forever. Soon, the new leaves will come and the trees will become as lively as they were before. And if these old leaved wouldn’t have fallen, the new leaves would never get an opportunity to come. This is what Baba wanted me to see. This is it!
I rushed to my house, running. I stood silent before the gate. It was the time of dusk and it felt like the time had stopped. I heard Dadi weeping. I knew why. I didn’t know why. I knew… Deep down I knew. Baba had told me. He had. He had for the last time. But why he had to die in the middle of the story. In the middle of the story….