It was yet another summer and the most important time of the year was our long Indian summer holidays. Almost all of our holidays were spent with our grandparents from both sides in routine manner with few exceptions when some grand outings were planned.
But this particular vacation was around two years back and I still remember this visit to my paternal grandfather’s house in the suburbs of Kolkata, because as fate would have it, this would eventually turn out to be my last meeting with him. My grandfather was a retired army officer and years Indian Army had made my grandfather a very tough person mentally, which worked as miracles in his long and phenomenal fight with cancer. Though, I always knew in addition to his mental strength he had other superior virtues like clear conscious, dignity of soul and magnanimity which got its due recognition in army’s highest corridors. Silver and Golden stars on his shoulder and chest in grandmothers old photo albums still reflects the marks of a distinguished service and numerous episodes of courage and adventures.
He was very fond of me and called me Princess because I was her only granddaughter as both my elder cousins are boys.
In our ancestral house there is a big pond as was common in bygone Bengali homes with lots of trees and bushes. Both my grandparents were fond of our so called garden. Few years back our earlier neighbor had left town and sold his house to an aggressively ambitious businessman with a hunger to strive for his extras.
One day morning our new neighbor saw my grandfather planting two Deodar tree saplings on both sides of our main gate, which still stands tall today as one of the many testimonies of my dear old “Dadu”.
Almost by contraries our new neighbor also got same kind of tree saplings and planted it exactly on both sides of his gate too.
My grandfather gave barely adequate amount of water to his plants and didn’t always give his full attention to them, while our neighbor interested in better returns use to give a lot of water to his plants and looked after them too well.
My grandfather’s plants were simple but looked good. But our neighbor’s plants were much fuller and greener.
Normally, between the months of April to May, especially in south Bengal we have these short but intense thunderstorms called “Kalboishakhi”. Apart from bringing certain damage to life and property, Kalbaisakhi or the calamity of Baishakhi also brings a welcome sudden relief from the miserably hot and humid climate of this region. One late evening during such a bout of Kalbaisakhi we had sporadic rains with strong winds, which continued right throughout that night.
Next morning along with my grandparents I came out to inspect the damage to our garden and saw our neighbor was there in his garden too, but looked upset as his plants were uprooted. But, our plants were not damaged and were standing firm on its ground.
Our businessman neighbor was both surprised and curios to see this, he briskly came up to my grandfather and sheepishly asked with a touch of embarrassment, “We both grew the same plants together and I actually looked after my plants better than you did for yours, and even gave them more water and manure. Still my plants came off from the roots, while yours didn’t. How is this possible?”
My grandfather had his signature duchenne smile on and said, “You gave your plants more attention and more water, but because of that they didn’t felt the need to work themselves for anything. You infact made it very easy for them. While I gave them just the adequate amount of water and let their roots do the rest in searching for more. And because of that, their roots went deeper and that made their position stronger. That is why my plants survived.”
With a contrite look our new neighbor disappeared as quickly as he came but it made me realize then that though my grandfather was strict with me on many occasions even during our vacations with his do’s and don’ts, I became aware that anything easily got or given can go off that much more easily only and we will not understand the hard work it takes to earn those things, rightfully.
Still after a rainy night when the sun is clear and bright the next morning it reminds me of my grandfather’s advice of guidance in giving paramount the actual giving itself.