Friday, March 28, 2008


My grandfather would have turned 94 today. Too early in life, he lost his eyesight. But when I visited my grandparents in Allahabad, he always gave me reason to look forward to opening my eyes each morning. I would wake up, a hot and sweaty little girl on an unforgiving June morning, and slip my hand excitedly under my pillow. And it would always be there - a little gold coin. Eagerly unwrapping it with fumbling, hurried hands, I'd peel away the sticky gold foil to reveal the treasure within. If my parents weren't around, the chocolate would be in my mouth before I had even brushed my teeth.

I never really had heart-to-heart conversations with him. But he was a doting grandfather - jalebis or imartis for breakfast every Sunday, when he'd walk a long way (sometimes with me tagging along) to fetch them from his favourite shop. I remember he took me to watch The Jungle Book at a local theatre. And he would make faces at my Thakuma behind her back - provoking giggles from my brother and me.

A short-hand teacher all his life, his study was a somber room, with an ancient cupboard bulging open to reveal yellowing papers, and a large portrait of Pitman dominated the wall. Long benches lined the mammoth wooden table, and when the students had left for the afternoon, this was our dining table too. Dadu would sit at the head of the table, and we, like most self-respecting Bong families, would devour aloo bhaja, aloo bhate, aloo posto and I think the fish curry had aloo (potato) in it as well!

Dadu's failing eyesight never made his walk unsure. When he visited us in Delhi, he would walk around very fast, as if to prove a point. And my grandmother, who had a leg problem, would lag behind. My brother and I would have to split up - taking a grandparent each to keep pace with! With his dhoti (no trousers for him) pleats neatly in his silken kurta pocket, he would walk steadily and swiftly, as I hopped-stepped-and-jumped to keep up with him!

The radio was Dadu's friend, and it hugged his ear for a large part of his bed-ridden life. "Yeh Akashvani hai" and the BBC signature tune were familiar sounds in the house when Dadu was around. He had been a Shakespeare fan. And in his last days, with suspected Alzheimer's and a mind dulled with age and blindness, he would rejoice afresh each time I told him that I had studied literature at college. He would name his favourites, and smile eagerly as I talked about the plays I had read, punctuating what I said with "wah!" from time to time.

But what I remember most about Dadu is his passion for aftershaves. Unable to see, his nose was his source of pleasure, and he enjoyed trying different scents each day after the ritual shave. Body talc, deodorants, after shaves - these filled up his dark world with sensations and made him smile.

He's been gone for over 3 years now, but even today thoughts of Dadu remind me of the excitement of waking up to treasures under my pillow.


dipali said...

I loved this, and the post you'd mentioned. Hope I have grandchildren like you, who'll remember me with such love:) Bless you, Anamika

eve's lungs said...

The other post was before I found me or you found me - I think thru Iz's blog(long may she post for bringing us face to face in blogworld) .

I love this post because although I never saw either of my grandfathers it reminds me of my Pishamoshai who I loved deeply and my Jyathamoshai( both Allahabad stalwarts and who would have known your Dadu, I like to think ).
As dips says Bless you ,girl.

Thinking Cramps said...

Dipali: I AM blessed, I know and have known both sets of grandparents, and have been pampered as the eldest grandchild! What more could I have asked for?

Eve's Lungs: Oh they would certainly have known each other. Even if you talk to my father he WILL ferret out some link or the other.

You know, try as I might, I CANNOT remember how I first got to your blog. All I know is there was a mention of Allahabad in that post I first read, and then I sent you the link to my blog :)

sbora said...

yet another beautiful piece...

both my grandfathers passed away before i was born. so never got to know them and unfortunately i didnt share the kind of relationships i would have loved to share with my grandmothers. hence i kinda envy you!

you are lucky to have had a special bond with him and i am sure he treasured you just as much.

Anonymous said...

These touched my heart, TC || Showed how valuable it is to see || But more priceless still || Is that your thoughts thrill || At the anticipated under-pillow glee!
Love and hugs:-) Aunty G.

Thinking Cramps said...

Sbora: I know how lucky I am. I hope my children have the same privileges!

Aunty G: Oh if only my pillow would still| Reveal coins with choco-fill || I'd wake up each day | and say hip hip hurray || And my morning would start with a thrill!