Like several times before this, another year is coming to a close yet again. And yet again, the first thing that we will think of tomorrow morning is, “How did the year go by so fast?” However, another thing that we are all likely to do is to reflect on the year gone by. We would all have had our highs and lows and all of us would hope for a smoother drive next year.
I too, like several others, had a topsy-turvy ride this year. There were some very good times and memories, fused with the tough ones. However, there was one incident that left a major impact on me this year: the death of my Nana (maternal grandfather).
That humid June morning, when I received the news, I was busy at my workplace; already having a bad day for some reason. My brother doesn’t usually call at odd hours and when I saw his number ringing at that time, my subconscious mind told me that something was wrong. Without exchanging pleasantries, he told me the news straightaway: “Nana is no more.” I was jolted out of my reverie and did not know how to react to this. I remember being completely numb for about a minute and then somehow finishing the conversation. This was a news that had been inevitable for some time. My Nana was in his late-80s and I knew, deep down inside, that I would have to bear with this unpleasant news someday. But death is something which is not easy to accept. The next couple of days were the worst that I had had in a very long time. I could not concentrate on anything and developed a fever. All day long, I had flashes of my Nana and the moments I had spent with him. With his passing, I felt as if a part of my childhood too had been taken away from me.
The love that you receive from your grandparents is truly unconditional. There is no give and take there. There is only give from their side while you receive everything. I was extremely blessed to have found a couple of grandparents whose love for me remains constant throughout.
My Nana was an extremely simple, pure and hardworking man with a big heart. Throughout my life, I had never seen him get angry or raise his temper at anyone. He would wear a simple, loose-fitting half-shirt for work along with trousers. In fact, even at marriage functions, I never saw him wearing anything extravagant. It was always the same old half-shirts with dark trousers.
Like his attire, Nana’s overall demeanor too was absolutely simple. He was a jovial person and had the quality of fitting in with any age group. With Nana, there was never a dull moment. Our room in Udaipur would always be filled with boisterous laughter whenever he would be around. All of us young ones would be attracted to him and his wonderful assortment of anecdotes that would leave us in splits. We would swarm around him like bees and he would retell his stories with great gusto.
It was perhaps these endearing qualities of his that made me connect with him from a very early age. From as far as my memory takes me, I remember the first thing I would do as I would enter through the massive gates of my home in Udaipur, would be to rush to my grandparents’ room. The way Nana would greet me as a child still lingers fresh in my mind. It was reminiscent of the way perhaps Santa Claus would greet children before giving them gifts. “Arrre Chiku Bhai…!” he would exclaim with the most glowing smile and slap me lightly on the back as I would bend to touch his feet. In fact, he was one of those rare people whose smile reached his eyes; and there was always a child-like twinkle in them.
Nana had a small snacks shop named ‘Raam Bharose’, situated in Udiapole (a busy lane of Udaipur), where he had spent more than half of his life. It was customary then, on all my summer trips to Udaipur, to visit his shop during the day. I remember holding his hands and jostling through the busy bazaar of Udaipole, as he would often take me to his shop. There, he had a worker named ‘Hira’ who would treat me as a prince and would offer me the best of Gaanthiya (a Gujarati snack) and Mohanthal (a Gujarati sweet) on a platter. As I would quietly munch them inside the dingy confines of the shop, I would often observe Nana busy with his work; checking the accounts, overseeing the preparation of the food and above all tending to the customers. In fact, most of the people who would come to the shop came to listen to Nana’s entertaining collection of stories. Like in my home, here too, there would never be a dull moment with Nana around and vociferous laughter would often be heard after every few statements of his.
More than all this though, the one thing that really impressed me about Nana was his unflinching devotion to his work. I never saw him get bogged down by it and even at the age of 80, he dutifully went to his shop everyday and returned well past midnight. His honesty and dedication were well renowned everywhere in the bazaar and people revered him for that. Incidentally, when I had visited Udaipole a couple of months back with my cousin, I met a few people there. The moment they came to know that I was Nana’s grandson, they took me aside and gave me the royal treatment; such was his respect.
I also recall Nana fondly for the delicious sweets and snacks he brought for me every evening I would be there in Udaipur. My favourite were of course the gulab jamuns and the jalebis that he brought from a particular sweet shop in Udiapole. No matter wherever I would be, come evening and I would rush to my grandparents’ room to gorge on those delicacies. Those simply exquisite gulab jamuns were small and soft and would just melt in my mouth. I would nonchalantly gulp down dozens of these at one go, much to the delight of my Nana. From the corner of my eye, I could always feel him fondly watching me eat. He would often tell my mother that I was a true ‘billa’ of sweets! So much changed in my life all these many years, but with every trip to Udaipur, this tradition never changed. Even after Nana had sold his shop much later in his life, he would always ensure that whenever I was there, a bowl of gulab jamuns and jalebis would be ready for me in the evening.
It were these small things that had brought me so close to Nana. In fact, I recall an incident, when I was about 5-6 years old and was in Udaipur for my annual summer vacation, which sort of epitomizes my relation with him back then. For some reason, which I don’t remember, Nana had to leave for a few days and all of us had come to see him off at the Udaipur station. My little brain could not fathom the fact that Nana would have to leave me and as the train began chugging out slowly and he began waving us goodbye, I completely broke down. In fact, I was positively bawling and my mother was holding my arms with all her strength as I grappled with her and squealed “Nana! Nana! Please don’t go!” Onlookers gaped at me but I did not care, I just wanted to be with my Nana.
Years later, he told me once that the incident had left him shaken as well. “You made me cry that day you know. For a minute, I felt like abandoning my trip and getting down from that train and be with you,” he had told me with a smile. I was a tad embarrassed and surprised to know this for I had always imagined Nana as this strong guy with a lot of life, love and heart. I could never imagine him going weak. The only time I had seen Nana breaking down was during my mother’s death; it is an image that always leaves me shuddering. “The diamond of my life has been taken away from me,” he had said to me then, shaking in grief.
Ever since that fateful day, Nana had mellowed down quite a bit. He would still joke around but somehow that spark had gone missing from him. He would still smile, but it would not reach his eyes now. Nevertheless, he was still the same affable and pure-hearted soul filled with all the love in the world till the very end. He never expected anything from anyone and only wished to give; a trait that is almost impossible to find in people these days.
Today, Nana is no more, but his memories will always remain inside me. For like a famous quote from the Harry Potter series goes: “The ones we love never really leave us.” And Nana too, I know, will never leave me. Yes, life would be a little empty without him. Udaipur will never be the same without his presence. But he will live on. And I will never ever forget him. Whenever I will walk past the walls of my home in Udaipur again, I will miss his effervescent greetings, his glowing smile and the twinkle in his eyes. And above all, his cheerful laughter will reverberate in my soul till I stop breathing.
Oh yes, I will remember him. I always will. And someday, years later, when I will be strolling through the bazaars of Udaipur again, I will visit that sweet shop and buy a couple of piping hot gulab jamuns and jalebis. But before I place them in my mouth, I will raise a toast to him and quietly whisper, “This one’s for you Nana! This one’s for you.”