My grandparents meant a lot to me... both my grandfather and his elder sister... my grandaunt. My grandfather was a quiet gentle man. Crippled by an accident in the prime of his life... he appeared to be a man of sorrow... accepting silence and peace due to fate rather than choice. The best memories i have of him were when i used to run up to him as a child and stand on his feet... and he would walk around with me like that. My small gentle feet on his comforting large feet. He taught me the meaning of protecting someone... of little moments stolen... to be enjoyed in the company of the ones you love. Sneaking out of the house to eat jalebi ... he was fond of sweets... and tea. The sound of him singing in the morning,
But time spares no one. It killed me to see him crawling across the cold floor in winter... his legs stuck curled... unable to stretch. His bony frame being dragged by his still strong arms... pulling the load of his useless legs. I helped him to get on the bed again... he was a heavy man. Heavy in the bone... heavy in the heart... heavy in the soul. I used to hear him cry in the night over things which were never there. My grandma... his soul mate... at his side for most of his life. But even she could only handle a man so much... he was a baby in his 80's.
One loses his senses with age. I wonder if its the degradation of the brain... or the wear and tear of time on the mind. Delirious... that's what he would become every now and then. Walking to the edge of the roof every now and then... talking about death and suicide... only to return to his bed... saying how its too dark now and he would do it tomorrow. At times he wouldn't listen to anyone... anyone except my uncle and me... his son and his grandson. Through his madness, he would focus on me every now and then and ask me how my studies were going... how old was I... and that someday i would grow up to be a fine man.
I went home after getting a call from my mum that grandpa had fallen sick and was admitted in the hospital. Its a strange feeling... knowing about the approaching death. I was at his side during his last days... spending nights in the hospital... reading through books i never thought i would read. Every now and then the nurse would allow me to go in the ICU and have a look. He had become so fragile... curled up in the bed... covered with white sheets... probes and needles and sensors covering the length of his frame. His mind... comatose. I would see him... and with the coldness of death itself, wish that he would just die.
One night, the nurse came looking for me. I couldn't hear her over the sound of my ipod pumping rock into my ears. I ran into the ICU... fearing the worse... only to see grandpa sitting up in his bed... pulling away at the sensors... not being able to understand where he was. The nurse trying desperately to control his movements, but failing to hold down those huge arms. I didn't realize till then how strong he still was. As i put my mouth to his ears and said "daddyji, hospital me ho. Woh davayi lagayi hai... usko na nikalo"... he seemed to awaken from a trance. I imagined how his blurred mind would have focused on something familiar... and held on to it. He calmed down and looked at me...smiled and whispered "chai...chai". The nurse had tried feeding him milk but he would swallow a drop... he was always fond of tea.
I think if ever i could have repaid him for my childhood... for the happy moments... it was that moment. Sitting there... spoon feeding tea to a grown man on his death bed... I felt so calm. Not his four sons... not his two daughters... not his siblings... not his wife... but me... me with him. My heart sullen... yet happy that i got a chance to do this. I put his head back down slowly and kissed him on his cheek. He was a strong man... now i understood where my strength came from. As i walked out of the hall, i called my mum to tell her and the rest of the family, that he had improved. But here is what i have learned... before death... man sits up... as if taking the world in for the last time... savouring it... asking for the things he loves the most... and when he has had enough... he goes to eternal sleep.
I returned to college the next day, only to hear that afternoon itself. Grandpa had passed away. I was the last one who had seen him alive... talked to him... fed him... comforted him. He returned to his comatose after i had left him. Somewhere deep inside i felt at peace... somewhere i felt sad... somewhere i indifferent... somewhere i felt cold. Every now and then i sit alone with the rising sun and hum his words...
"uth jaag musafir bhor bhayee... ab rain kahan jo sovat hai... jo sovat hai so khovat hai... jo jaagat hai so paavat hai." (wake up traveler, its morning. Where is the time to sleep now. He who sleeps... loses. He who awakens... gains.)