Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Some secrets 'die' with people...

The picture here is the corpse of my grandfather, my mother's father. He died in 2009. We used to call him 'tataru', it is actually 'taata gaaru' which is the Telugu version of 'nanaji' or 'dadaji', but we were told that as kids we used to pronounce it as 'tataru' and hence it remained the same even after we grew up.
My grandfather's corpse - 6th June'09

We were always told stories about how he lived life king size, we heard stories about his various businesses that he started, and closed, and started again, and closed again. He did not have a bank account, all the money he used to get was ad hoc and all his spending was ad hoc too. Any money that I saw in his hands ever, or he brought home ever to give to my grandmother was a few hundreds or a few thousands at the max. and were only to last a couple of days. Anything bought from anywhere was literally on credit saying that we would get money some day and we would clear the credit off. I personally remember instances where I used to go to a shopkeeper to give us a biscuit packet worth Rs.10, or even worse, sooji for Rs. 5 and I was told 'bring the money and take it, or clear the credit first to get more!' My grandmother used to keep that little money she had usually in 3-4 different places, like the grocery dabbas in the kitchen or behind some God's idol or picture poster in the 'auspicious' area as declared by her. The family was a top-class Telugu Brahmin family so waking up early in the morning, getting fresh, taking bath, doing puja in the house and visiting the temples on the stipulated days was a routine practice. In the family, to date, if a girl doesn't wake up before sunrise, it is considered to be a 'sin' and is supposed to bring 'bad omen' into the family. To date, I have the habit of waking up early, I like it now but at that time it was a compulsion and the scariness created around the 'bad omen' if I don't wake up early enough. Though the restrictions imposed on us (my 2 sisters and myself) were lesser because we didn't belong to the family entirely since we were staying there temporarily and actually would be gone to Ahmedabad after a few years. Anyway, that is a different story altogether.

But every now and then, my grandfather would say he was going to close a deal soon and we would get 'some' money, occasionally he also used to say we would get 'lots' of money also. And the money would never come. He would go out of the home in the morning (very early around 7AM, I guess due to Vizianagaram in AP being in the east, the sunrise was early and so the work used to start early as well), ask me to open the gate for him usually. He used to strongly believe that seeing me on his way out was a good omen. As a usual practice whenever I was home when he went out, he used to call me so he could see me. And he used to put his hand on my head so gently (that grandparents' touch - I tell you is an unmatched emotion, a killer one that fill the eyes with tears entirely), and say good bye. I used to close the door and come into the home. While coming back into the home and whatever task I would do, I would remember his words about bringing money and I used to pray every single moment that this time it should work out. Every single time, we would wait for days, and weeks, and months together for the 'deal' to get closed, and it would be a disappointment in the end. My grandfather used to always attribute this failure to either me or one of the sisters waking up late which was bringing a bad omen into the home, or something related to someone in the family doing wrong religiously, usually it was the women. But now I understand it could have been out of frustration.

The questions that I have, and will always remain are:
Why did his efforts fail every single time? Did he even make the right efforts?
What did he exactly do in his life?
What kind of businesses did he run or was a part of?
Who were his partners, and how did he make money at all?

The answers to these questions either no one knew or no one ever told us. He used to talk a lot to my grandmother, I am not too sure how much of it was real!

But, towards the end - about 3-4 years, he seemed to have got involved in some serious business as a broker to sell lands. As we were told, he apparently used to identify some barren lands, used to identify the owners and get some buyer to it and 'close the deal', to charge a commission on the entire land. I used to get calls from my grandmother about his visits to different places - Visakhapatnam, Kolkata, Vijayawada and so on and so forth. Honestly, once my grandfather was out of the home, no one would know where he had gone! One fine day, I got a call from my grandmother saying my grandfather had got hurt and his back is hurting very badly, he was walking, he visited the doctor himself and got himself the prescribed medicines etc. My grandmother doesn't know English and she never could read the prescription or the X-ray reports or anything, she got to know that he had gone for an X-ray also much later. Gradually, his energy levels started coming down, he got bed ridden. My grandmother kept reporting in her regular calls and gradually from walking, sitting, turning side ways, it came down to a stand still bed-ridden position. She would pass on the phone to my grandfather and he would just keep saying, 'it is hurting, my back is hurting very badly'. I used to repeatedly ask him what exactly happened. He would just reply, 'I fell down.' His speech started deteriorating over the phone. The last thing he spoke before he could not speak anymore, a few weeks before his life ended was that he had accumulated some money and he will give all the money that he had taken from my mother (he had taken a lot of money from my parents, had mortgaged a lot of gold of my mother which he could never repay and get back and so on for which he was guilty I guess). But till the end, I could never believe a word he talked about, I somehow had developed a hatred towards the kind of person he was and I had made up a conclusion that he always lies. So, to believe anything, even simple normal things that he said was totally impossible for me. In fact, the last conversation that I had with him, I thought he was doing a drama of being bed-ridden!!! How rude was that, I admit!

A few days later, my grandmother said he had gone into coma. I could not believe it even then! I had to leave for my MBA classes in a month or so and I started sensing about something being wrong or I at least started thinking of a possibility of something being wrong, I thought I would go and visit them and booked a ticket for the 6th June, 2009. On the evening of 4th June, 2009, I started feeling a bit uneasy and I called my grandmother and asked if things were ok. She replied, 'what fine, now everything is fine, gone is your grandpa!', I did not know how to react. The entire hatred, the entire suspicion, the entire mistrust - all gone in a fraction of a second! The person towards whom I had these feelings is no more, for whom would I have these feelings? Whom would I hate? For a second I thought 'was I wrong somewhere in whatever I thought!, especially in his last days?'. Yes, I was. His body was taken to the medical hospital within a few hours of his death.

He had donated his body to a medical hospital, he had told me with a smile on his face (I could feel it on the phone) over the phone a year or so before he died. He had told me 'If people cannot be of my help when I am alive, they don't have the right to do my last riots after my death'. His brothers had disowned him a few years back, in fact one of the brothers didn't even want to hear the news of his death over the phone. His children could not own him either. He always said he had money to live his own life but he never did! It was just his own perception and which is why I think slowly everyone moved away from him. He somehow managed in his last few years, don't know how though. I got to know that once before he went into coma, my grandmother, her younger daughter and younger son-in-law were there and when they tried to ask him what happened and how he was feeling, whether he would want to have some water...they say he cried, and cried for a while....and then next morning he was in coma.!

The questions I have, and will remain are:
- I asked the doctor who treated him as to what exactly caused him to go bed-ridden. He replied it was a major fracture on his spine!!! My GoD! How did he manage to walk around and bear it for months!!! A fracture in the spinal cord!!! I saw the X-ray and froze for a while! He apparently went to a surgeon asking to operate him, he was ready to sign the declaration that the doctor was not responsible for his death in case of one due to the surgery, but apparently the surgeon refused! Grandpa was old, but bold, he was diabetic but was willing to take risks, as always!

- I went to the hospital to see his dead body, they said they would keep the body in ice for 3-4 days after which they would process it for the practical classes for the medicine course. I saw the dead body, when the dead body was being taken out of the -9 degrees temperature storage unit, I felt as if his eye-brows were rising with pain due to body's movement, and I was saying, 'No, no, don't do that, its fine!' to the attendants. I stared at his face, it felt as if he was smiling. I felt he was telling me, "Its fine beta, I know you care." I stared at his heart - that was the first time I saw a heart not beating!

I asked him:
"Why grandpa! Why did you bear all the pain? Why did you cry so much that day? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you call me? I would have taken you to a surgeon myself. Why did you only trust the people who disowned you? Why did you always expect help only from people who never wanted to be of any help to you? How did you exactly feel grandpa? Why did you not share anything about your pains with me, ever!?............................................."

The answers to all these questions and a LOT many others remain secrets, they died with him and there is no way one (I) can get to know them!

1 comment:

Shubham Srivastava said...

It takes a lot to be this honest..and more than being to others..being honest with oneself is even more difficult...

it was a great read...