My sister and I looked forward to our grandfather’s visits to our small house in a dusty little hamlet outside the town of Trichy. He was a quirky and energetic dreamer. For us pre-teenagers, he was the source of a wealth of information, with his stories of the big city of Bangalore, and tales of yore. He represented everything colorful and interesting outside of our home.
He would take us out for long walks, and help us identify the Indian names for various flowers and plants. We were learning botany in school at that time, and these field trips made it interesting. He made pastes and potions out of the household plants to cure common colds and headaches. For us children, it was a window into his growing years in a village near Bangalore, where he had learnt Ayurveda- a system of traditional medicine practiced in India. Some of his potions worked wonders- such as smearing turmeric paste on cuts and bruises made them heal very quickly; rubbing an onion peel on bee stings relieved pain instantly; and many more.
By 1988, when I was in senior year in high school, his trips had become very infrequent, owing to bad health. His aging body resisted the eight hours of grueling bus travel and the hot weather in Trichy. He was at our house during the holy season of Ganesh festival in august that year. My parents requested him to conduct the ceremonies. For 3 hours he chanted, pausing only to drink water. For us, it was like watching an opera where the septuagenarian singer still packed a punch. On my mother’s request, I had set up the recorder to record his recital on audio tape. I recorded 3 tapes that day and played them back for my mother after he had gone. I saw her face light up as her father’s sonorous voice filled the room. I imagined that she relived the happy years of her childhood spent in Bangalore.
That was the last time I saw my grandfather. He was killed soon thereafter in a hit-and-run accident in Bangalore. My fond memories of him always lead back to those tapes. They are some of my mother’s most prized possessions to this day.
I learnt then that even a small selfless act can bring happiness to someone. All I had to do was to listen and do something. My grandfather’s life and untimely death left an unshakable belief in me that a life well-lived is one that brings smiles to someone. I believe that life is too short, and needs to be lived in the entire glory one can summon up. I believe that having the best thoughts, spending quality time with friends and family; and doing good deeds are what will serve me well later in life. When my grandchildren want to record my voice someday years from now, I will have done a few things to talk about, and perhaps put a smile on their faces.
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