By virtue of studying in another town, I don’t get to be home all the time. Sometimes I come over for the weekends if my college schedule permits, else I need to wait for a proper break. These days I am home because my exams are on and there’s a gap after each exam, and I go about my daily routines without much variation. That is, till it’s time for lunch. Because on certain days, sitting at the dining table meant for 6 and eating alone reminds me of another time. The fact that I eat alone does not bother me at all simply because I love being on my own. However, the ‘other time’ I referred to is one that drowns me in waves of grief and guilt. And this is because this ‘other time’ reminds me of my Grandfather, whom I lost last September.

My grandfather and I used to get along fabulously well. I always thought of him as an amazing man, who in spite of belonging to another time altogether, had such a liberal and intelligent outlook on life! We would often have our little arguments and I would annoy him like hell, but that never stopped him from pampering me and spoiling me to the hilt. As I grew older and became an adolescent, I began moving away from him. I was too caught up in my own new world and people and things who had been there throughout began taking a backseat. Fortunately, as I approached the end of this period, I began to realize that this was wrong! But sadly, this realization came a little too late. By this time, I was addicted to technology and living in my own thoughts, far removed from everyone and everything around me. My phone and laptop were all I needed and I was content. Living in the hostel suited me perfectly since I was away from all domestic obligations of all natures. There was nobody to tell me what I should do or that it was time to cut down the conversation on the phone or switch my laptop off. I was enjoying my freedom. Invariably, this would come in conflict with my routine whenever I went home. BUT, now when I look back, I don’t remember much. I have a bad memory and I tend to forget things, even if they are important. But what I do remember, kills me. I remember the times when I would be called for dinner and I would get late because I was too busy on the phone or doing something on the net. The dinner would get cold, people would tire of calling me and well, that’s that. But there was one person who never tired of asking me to join him for a meal, and that was my grandfather. My family is well, lets say, a multi directional family i.e. everyone is running in different direction. Chasing what? I don’t know! So I would get that dinner call and my maid would tell me that my grandfather was waiting, but usually I would forget and make it to the dining table an hour later, where the food still remained but the person had long gone. Sometimes he would come to my room to ask me to join him for dinner. Sometimes I would saunter out and get a jolt when i’d see him eating his meal all alone. I felt guilty, and so I justified my horrendous behaviour by telling myself that I couldn’t eat so early. Well, then why didn’t I simply sit with him and talk as he ate? It would hardly have taken 10 minutes! But no, I messed up everything. Later however, I did start having dinner with him whenever I was home. If not that, the evening tea was definitely with him. And I was surprised by how joyous these little incidents were!! He would share his experiences and wisdom with me, and ask me about my life and college. He would tell me that I must travel if I really wanted to live life and not merely exist, and would playfully ask me about the guys in my college and whether I had a ‘special friend’. both of us would have a hearty laugh at this 🙂 Ironically, I cant IMAGINE having a conversation like this with my father, though with my father’s father, this was just natural!

But today, as I had my lonely lunch, I couldn’t help but think what I have lost out on. Five minutes of my company made my grandfather’s day but I was too busy selfish to give him even that. What I write or say doesn’t matter anymore, because he isn’t there. I cant make it up to him. Thanks to my fantastic memory, I don’t remember the last conversation I had with him. My last memory of him is that of rushing from college to the hospital where he was in the ICU, and swallowing that lump in my throat as I looked at his ashen face, the day old stubble and those horribly intruding tubes running in and out of his body. I stroked his hand, tried speaking to him…I hope he heard me. Because that was the last time I ever spoke to him. When I woke up the next morning, he was gone. I never got to say goodbye. And perhaps this is why the smallest of memories related to him bring that sense of loss crashing back. Unfortunately, I am not a very emotional person. That is to say, I cant express a lot of things and thanks to this, I have often missed out on all those little moments that give colour to the canvas of life. Therefore, it takes deep and strong emotions to make me understand. In this case, they happen to be grief and guilt. Grief that Baba isn’t there anymore and that i wasn’t with him in his last days…he was 89 and looked 65…people never really believed that he was completing 9 decades on the planet! There was no illness, no health issue. But I guess Gawd just wanted one of his finest men back…. And guilt because even when he was there, I didn’t exactly contribute much to his happiness.

How lonely he must have felt, spending day after day fighting loneliness, going for his walks alone, eating alone….just being on his own with only a television for company, and sometimes other members of the household if they had the time. Here, i need to give full credit to my younger brother who in his own little way brought a smile to our Grandfather’s face with his antics. A better person than I’l ever be.

But Baba, wherever you are, I know you are having a blast 😉 I just wish you were still here so that I could alter the course of certain moments and fill then with joy and happiness….for you.


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