I was sitting on the platform waiting for my train to arrive. I was heading off to Gaya (Bihar), where, I spent significant part of my early life with my Nana and Nani.
I felt the hustle and bustle around me. People from all walks of life and of all age group converted the station into ‘museum of people’. One could spot rich, poor, old, young, teenager, infants, male, and female from all different corners of India. One could not help but notice their differences in appearance, language, attire and body language. The air was filled with different frequencies of sound and in that indistinct chatter one could make out the tinkling of cold drink bottles, cry and wails of deserving infants, gossips of various flavor, loud call of self-employed entrepreneurs selling anything and everything under the sun, sizzling of the mashed potatoes for the spicy aloo chat (Indian street food) and announcements meant for the passengers, to name just a few. There was a mobile book store near-by and it had various novels and magazines. The mosaic that the books formed depicted all hues of life- child care, self-help books, career, entertainment, politics, romance, thrill, adventure, crime etc.
An elderly man was sitting beside me. He was holding Akhand Jyoti (a monthly magazine published in Hindi which deals with various issues of life and other matters concerning life in a spiritual light).
I had hardly seen anyone with this in a long time. This instantly transported me back in time.
*I am a small kid and I am swinging as my Nanaji (maternal Grandfather) gives me an occasional push. Meanwhile he chops the vegetables while my Nani (maternal Grandmother) is cooking in the kitchen. The swing is in the aangan (courtyard) and I can see the kitchen window. Its exhaust fan is spewing oily and spicy smoke into the aangan
and the aroma spreads and takes over me. The swing, the smell, my nana-nani and me – this combination feels a part of the best wonderland I could ever imagine.*
I am still swinging on my seat when I was rocked back to reality as the elderly person asked me what time was it. I looked around and I began to feel a noisy seclusion. I put my head back and closed my eyes.
*There was echo of laughter all around me. Amidst that I spotted my Nanaji’s ever smiling face. He had an aura of exuberance and a lilt in his happiness which refused to fade away. His presence was as soothing as it could ever be. He radiated calmness and peace.
Nanaji is sitting in the drawing-room of our house donning his usual lungi (Indian dress for men that one wraps around ones’ waist). He is watching news and I sit behind him, itching his back. It was so much fun that I looked forward to it and sometimes there was fight among us siblings to scratch his back. During the ad-breaks, he was asking me to itch a little upwards or sideward. I got a feeling that his back was a jungle and he gave directions to traverse it: childhood imagination! Then I would travel uphill and message his head, if he allowed me. After sometime, he lied down diagonally on the bed and I rushed to give him a pillow under his head. Soon he would doze off and snore.
His loud snore was very reassuring to me. During my Xth board preparations his snores, somehow motivated me to study and gave me company through the night.*
I opened my eyes and found the beggar poking my legs, for alms. I handed him few rupee.
A chana-wala passed by. I bought it. It was mixed with sliced onions, green chilly and a dash of lemon. As I took a mouthful I recalled my nanaji’s fondness for sprouts and salad for lunch and dinner. He would not mind it even for breakfast. He was a big food enthusiast and even I am like him. His passion for food somehow made him a passionate cook and his delicacies were always a treat for my taste buds. Over the period of time he maintained six hand written cook books.
I remember inviting a school friend for lunch. After the sumptuous meal she was all praise for shahi-paneer and she was even more surprised when I told her that it was prepared by my nanaji.
I saw the elderly uncle engrossed in reading Akhand Jyoti. Nanaji had lifelong subscription of this magazine. I remember as a kid the reading the lines that had been underlined by nanaji.
It was a treasure of knowledge and wisdom and gave different perspectives of looking at things. One line that came to my mind at that instance was ‘Karm avinashi hai, uska bhog to bhogna hi padta hai.’ It means, “ The deeds that we do never die and forever stays with us, and according to our deeds, good or bad, we will definitely face its consequences sooner or later and nothing can prevent those consequences.” These lines though subtle, will always guide us on the right path and before treading the wrong path we will restrain ourselves and employ caution.
I gave a cursory look all around and found a glimpse of nanaji in every person. I guess this was due to his versatile personality. He was a kid with his child like innocence. He would instantly become a kid in a kid’s company. He would enquire about his/her likes and dislikes and display a playful nature during such interactions.
With women he would talk about domestic issues and occasionally give them cooking tips and secrets with pleasure.
With his old bunch of friends he gave a glimpse of his youthful days that would defy the superficial friendship that many of us have today for fulfilling personal ends. With students he would become mentor and guide them, simultaneously, also learn from them about the new career opportunities available for the present generation.
He could readily mix with anyone from any age group and instantaneously strike a chord with them and share a brief but meaningful relation with people he came across.
He was an epitome of love, care, sympathy and gratitude.
I always saw him with a smile on his face which hardly escaped his lips. When he was sad he would jot down his feelings in his personal diary and rarely share it. He wanted us to enjoy each moment.
What living is all about; I learnt from him. He was always bursting with enthusiasm and positive energy. Life is: each new day that comes our way, he truly symbolized this. But this never meant comprising the future, when today is taken care of; the following days fall into place. His advices were crisp which will never leave me for as long I am on this planet.
Growing up with nana-nani is a truly wonderful experience not every one is equally blessed with. The un-conditional and un-demanding love that came my way always mesmerized me. But love is so powerful that you always love back those who love you. But in the case of grandparents’ the love is increased manifold with each passing minute.
Earthly possessions are dwarfed in front of this pure, heavenly bliss.
This has the power to propel you on the life path that is so uncertain.
In my opinion this gives us strength to bear the most vicious pain of fate and destiny.
Nanaji influenced all aspects of my being in a crucial way. It is so inseparable that I seem to share not only his flesh and blood through lineage but also the essence and verve of his soul due to the bond that we shared.
I was jolted back from memories and thought process; the attention shifted to the approaching train. I got up to board the train. As I walked towards it with my luggage I knew I was not going to meet him or share his company ever again, or hear his cheerful voice. I was going, to pay my last respect to his mortal remains. While I head forwards I know with a heavy heart that I have only memories to revert back to: the only place where I can take refuge with my nanaji.
As I take my berth I reminisce the only time he expressed his extreme pain and utter delusion. That was the last days of his life; he was bed ridden with fourth stage of berkitt’s lymphoma, a rare type of cancer. We never told him but he knew he was seriously ill to be able to live as always. His eyes still expressed the residual childish playfulness and innocence before death trampled the remaining bit of it.But death can not slay the reminiscences of him that I cherish.