Grand Realities

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RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR

So long as they lived — over eighty-eight, and ninety-two, summers of their remarkable existence — my grandma and grandpa were, quite simply, wonderful. They were temperamentally, or religiously, rigid individuals, all right. Yet, they were open, rational, and liberal.

They were my cherished possessions.

They are no more, in the physical sense, yes — not by way of their charming, eternal images. Their reflections now emit powerful memories — memories like words that fall like raindrops on my bald pate…

Of memories, which remind me of my childhood. Of the way I used to often trouble them, and make them furious. Of their protests about my infinite capacity to causing bedlam.

LOVE & CARE

Notwithstanding my fulsome pranks, one feels, as one looks back, why one should always have grandparents around. Of grandparents who love, care, and, at the same time, are firm, stern, and even stiff, what with a wonderful capacity to seeing things in the right perspective. Of being attached and, at the same time, detached… Yes, the credo may sometimes appear unthinkable: of grandpas who become too emotional, or attached, that they often miss the wood for the trees, and vice versa. Because, they’re the ones that pamper us the most? Maybe.

My grandpa was, of course, no exception. He sure will sport a smile in heaven. But, let’s not generalise. Grandpas, after all, aren’t always impractical — they are often just the opposite. Especially, after you grow up. They become rational — and, even philosophical. You can relate to them at the intellectual level. They know your fears, or capacity, your strong and not-so-strong points. Of what you can achieve, and what you cannot — or, can, if only you run that extra mile. Just the opposite of grandmas who now don the reversed role — with too many strings of emotions attached.

That I have had both the experiences — a balance, sort of — is something that I cannot relate in the space of this personal, yet universal, tribute to all grandparents. It’s a feeling — a receptivity that is so perceptual. It’s something that has to be only savoured, imbibed, and treasured for the rest of your life.

Well, there’s something about my grandma that I could possibly apportion with you — more so, with those who have had a similar experience. My grandma was so tiny, so beautiful. Her facial skin had a gentle tone, its colour reminiscent of a pink, rose flower in full bloom. She was pious and angelic. And, she was so meticulous.

My grandma was a religious paradigm too. She would observe the mandatory fasts, and also follow every possible tenet as may have been outlined in the Scriptures. She would also sing her devaranamas [devotional songs], with an earthy, even wobbly, voice — a tenor with which she would be one with the universe…

Her smile was magnetic. It spoke its own fertile, down-to-earth language: of pure compassion and spiritual love… With grandpa, she posted a long partnership — just short of 75 years. Incredible, isn’t it? She’s his soul mate, but one with whom he rarely agreed, and vice versa. What made them get along famously was a common bond — they were united in their souls.

My grandma came from a distinguished family. Her father was a top-notch civil servant of the Raj monolith: solid and considerate. She inherited his resilience, and her mother’s emotive grace. More than that, grandma was proud of her immaculate background. She would tell us all too often how she was taught English by a British tutor, Ms Lynn. It was a foray that helped her read the language, and also relish its fulsome flavour. Not only that. Grandma would, without fail, read The Hindu, everyday, come what may, for not just what’s happening in the world, but to catch up with the latest in the TV and movie guides.

Grandma loved to watch Alfred Hitchcock and Greta Garbo’s English films, not to mention Kannada movies with Dr Rajkumar in the lead — in all his do-gooder kind of roles. She would also read Kannada magazines and short stories — not once, but twice at least  not to speak of the Ramayana and Mahabharata — and, relate them to us, in detail, without missing a single sequence. She loved perfumes. She loved sweets and spicy, pungent food. She would have a go at them, despite being a diabetic, “but only just a little at a time,” when nobody noticed. And, she dressed well, even elegantly, in the simplest of cotton saris. She would also often tell us, echoing an elegant aphorism of the legendary engineer and statesman Sir M Visvesvaraya, whose genius she so much admired: “You should always smell sweet; and, talk sweet.”

Grandma’s Basic Face, thanks to her lovely blush, invoked a spontaneous crimson, every now and then. And, it held a visage — of great shyness, elegance, and delight. Even the sparrows that often visited the courtyard knew her all too well — that she was all too harmless. No wonder, they’d become more than a part of her life — exchanging notes in their own language. More than all that, grandma was a great believer. She once told me that she had ‘seen’ God. Live. Not on TV, but with her own eyes. I took her earnest, and more than heartfelt, affirmation with a pinch of salt. More so, because, my own sense of logic, and reality, told me that she was far too much adrift in her own elevated state of ‘trance.’

It made no difference to her. She was, in her own way, above mere intellectual reasoning — nay emotional intelligence. Maybe, it also more than made sense to her — for she was beyond the realms of pure inquiry… Now that she’s no more, I have begun to believe her, and in her ‘detached sense of attachment:’ of a mind without fear. Not because of her conviction, or dogma, but because of her insuperable faith in her own beliefs, and in the existence of the Supreme Being: one that is identified with all divinity. Of a puissant web of unfathomable, unique design, and certitude, that wouldn’t look at some of her trivialities, or faults — but, her own philosophy of life and, most importantly, her innate goodness and enormous simplicity. Of a grandma, like no other.

GRANDPA, THE INTELLECT

My grandpa, on the other hand, was a classy intellect — albeit he wasn’t lucky enough in his career. He never reached, or achieved, the levels, which was his for the taking, not asking. He’s sharp, remarkably analytical, and penetrative. Not everyone understood him. He was, in the early part of his life, wholly Westernised — an Englishman’s Englishman. A brilliant physician, photographer, clock repairer, and dog lover, who by quirk of destiny, became a banker, an accountant, of the finest order — and, never, for once, regretted the change in his career. He’d often say, “Circumstance dictated it.” All the same, grandpa wasn’t a good reader of people, although he fancied being one. That he was subject to a few disappointments vis-à-vis the folks he had placed on a pedestal, made him suspect them all the more, as the years rolled by.

A MASTER TRANSFORMED

When grandpa underwent a transformation, and became a highly religious, yet spiritual individual, in his mid-fifties, he also emerged with his own sense of rationality — a rationale that was his own. It brought him to a new plateau — a ‘twain’ that never met with conventional wisdom. Sometimes, his views, after years of philosophical studies, were too unorthodox for comfort, and a bit lop-sided. Too rigid; top-heavy. No one, of course, had the daring to question him. He continued in his usual vein — a master of whatever he surveyed.

At the same time, and throughout his life, before he’s confined to bed, during his last few years, grandpa had a taste for good literature. He could write quite well — albeit his style was marked by an element of superfluity, with long-drawn-out sentences pieced together like a bludgeoning stream… flowing into a river. He also had a penchant to misspell words, or use phonetic expressions, like Scott F Fitzgerald. But, he’d spot talent in others. He also believed in continuity — and, therefore, encouraged just about anyone that came to him for advice on writing. Wonder why he never ever thought of writing his memoirs? If he’d gotten into the act, it sure would have sent chills down many a spine — especially those that did not live up to his simple expectations.

Yes, these are the images of my grandparents I carry — images that will stay in my mind as long as I live. One that nobody will ever be able to take away from me. One that you’d also always relate to — especially if you’ve lived, or are living through, those wonderful moments… with your grandparents — although such a prospect may completely, yet sadly, elude future generations, thanks to the emergence of nuclear families, not to speak of the peculiar dictates of time itself.

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