Today is gramps’ birthday. He turned 91 today. And the most amazing thing is that (touch wood) he still has the will and the love to live. May God give him a long, long life.
He is quite different from other grandfathers. Think of a 90-year-old grandpa and you will imagine a wizened, toothless old man with a cane. No, my gramps is not like that. He still stands tall and stalwart, and has determination in every step of his. He has lost his teeth and his hair is thinning, but his face still oozes will, sheer grit and confidence. If you look at his spirit and enthusiasm, he is a 30-year-young man. We may get tired, but gramps never tires.
He is the one who handles all our apartment’s correspondence, bank accounts and other administrative work. He is respectfully called “Dada”(grandfather) by everyone. “Dada, please sign this cheque”, “Dada, please sign this notice” – there is always someone coming to our house to meet him for some official work. And he does it all smiling. And he loves every bit of it. Now, he has taken charge of another department – “Priya matrimonial department”. He fondly calls me “Rani Mangamma”.
He is the kind of person who would see a tubelight not working in the apartment compound and immediately set out to buy one. He wouldn’t mind standing in the rain and sun to watch over a neighbour’s furniture getting shifted to another city. He can accurately remember which paper he has filed in which file. He would not hesitate to give away something to a needy person. A true softie at heart behind his stern appearance! “I don’t need more than 2 pairs of clothes, ” he has always said. And if someone gifts him a third pair, he will undoubtedly donate it to someone who needs it.
Gramps has always been my guide. He has helped me with school essays and college projects. “Why can’t you do it? You can do anything you set your mind to,” has always been his philosophy. He is a staunch follower of Prajapita Brahmakumaris. He goes to the Ashram every Thursday and meditates every day.
He has never tried to impose his views on anyone and has given his family full freedom. He is a stickler for discipline and timings, though he has never expected us to stick to a rigid timetable.
He is the most positive person I have ever seen. He has remained calm and unruffled even in the most trying circumstances. One of the other qualities that I admire in gramps is his ability to change with the times. He is quite broadminded for his age.
A few months back, when the chikun gunia epidemic struck, gramps was also affected. His kidneys started malfunctioning and he had to be admitted for the first time in his life. I will never forget the day when the doctor said that there was no hope for him. Even if he would get better, he would have to live the life of an invalid.
The days when I visited gramps in the hospital in the ICCU are still fresh in my mind. Gramps would lie in the bed looking tired, frail and shrivelled, but he had not lost his never-say-die attitude. “Why didn’t you go to office?,” he would say, “These people have brought me here for no reason. I am going to pull out all these tubes and come home.”
The thought that maybe we would never see gramps active again was unbearable for all of us. The few days that he was in hospital, we all realised what a great pillar of strength he had been for the family. My bond with gramps was renewed in those days. Fortunately, with God’s grace and with sheer willpower, he pulled through. Today, he is as hale and hearty as ever. The doctors say that it is a miracle that he survived and is able to function well.
After his return from the hospital, his weakness did not prevent him from coming with me to my childhood friend’s place to visit her as she had had a baby. Neither did he hesitate coming with me to his colleague’s funeral, who also happened to be one of my friend’s grandfather.
His grit and determination were evident during the massive earthquake in Gujarat in 2001. As our apartment is a high-rise one, everyone left it for some safe place, but gramps said that we would all stay home. “If we die, we’ll all die together peacefully at the same place,” he said. He instilled so much confidence in us that we were able to sleep peacefully even with the knowledge that there was not a single living soul in the whole apartment except us and that aftershocks could come at any time.
He is a truly great man. It must not have been easy for him, losing both parents at the tender age of 3. He grew up with relatives. According to him, life was a struggle and he would consider himself lucky if he could get even one square meal a day. In these circumstances, he studied Textile Technology and joined a mill. He worked night shifts and built a home of his own. He married Patti at the age of 22. He worked in the same mill throughout his career and retired as a Planning Officer soon after I was born.
I am sure gramps is not going to read this, but I cannot help pouring out my feelings for him on this day. May dear gramps continue to give shade, comfort, love and support to our family for many more years to come!