Happy July 4th!
July 4th was always special to me, way before I moved to USA- it is the birthday of one of the biggest influences of my life- my grandfather. As I faced my first July 4th without him, I wanted to pen my feelings- which like his personality are full of joy and laughter…
My grandfather (thatha in Tamil) was a force of nature- he was born in a village, but always had big plans. He married my grandmother (his niece- this was normal in the 1940s) in his teens, moved to Bombay alone to build a better future for them- all with the will and determination that was like second nature to him. He slept on the streets, lived in huts but always found a way to make his life better. He worked 3 jobs at a time, and raised 3 amazing people, including my mom. His life story is an inspiration to me!
But the more personal memories are how he was the glue for all of us- I remember as kids I sometimes disliked being forced to Sunday lunch instead of being allowed to watch movies, but the Sunday lunch is the reason I love my cousins. Every birthday was a family celebration and my grandfather was always there (even though with his weak digestion, he couldn’t eat all that much!). Thatha was the life of the conversation, with witty one liners and jokes, he always wanted to know what was the trend. I remember when I was 13, thatha asked me what was the fuss for February 14th- when I explained to him, he asked my grandmother whether she would like to go on a date, much to her embarrassment!
Thatha taught me a lot growing up- he taught me to read the paper and would teach me about politics when I was 5, he taught me trump (a popular card game) and always called me affectionate pet names like German lady, etc. When we were kids and he would visit us, he would enthrall us with stories of his childhood and starting days in Bombay. As I got older, whenever I am in India, he used to call me every day to hear my voice. He was the only one who pulled my cheeks every time we met, loved debating politics, and enjoyed listening for all our stories.
Thatha is a creature of habit, his daily schedule was fixed: coffee, Tamil news, yoga, then breakfast of dosa at 9.30am, and so on. The world can come and go, but the schedule was fixed. I admired that always, because it’s easy to make and excuse give up on things like yoga but the discipline is rewarding!
Anyone who knows Thatha will tell you that he is stubborn and won’t budge. One particularly funny incident I remember was last year after his surgery. I was in the hospital with him, and the doctor told me and my aunt that he needs to be on a strict diet of mostly semi solids and sent a dietitian in to build a list of what he can and cannot eat. The dietitian walked in and we braced for the worst because he loved his routine food list and everything the dietitian was suggesting were things he won’t even try! But he was exceptionally agreeable, and we were thrilled! As soon as the dietitian left, I was arranging for soups and juices, when he said “why are you listening to her? Poor girl was so young so I didn’t want to give her a hard time. I want my dosa!”
The quality I hope I can learn from him is to be content. Every time anyone asked him how he was as he got older, Thatha always said “I have everything I need, I am very fortunate”. All he wanted was newspaper, Bengay, and his wife for company! :-)
I miss Thatha most when I imagine not having him around to share the small and big events in my life. He is always the first person I call after my parents to share because his reaction is pure joy!
Miss you Thatha! We think of you everyday….