That afternoon comes back to me , when I went and sat by him on his bed and had a nap in his lap as his soft wrinkled hands patted my head. That vacation , I had got my walkman player, and ajju’s favourite Marathi natya sangeeth cassettes, which he used to listen to , from earphones. Every time, the earphone fell out of an ear, he used to call out, ‘Gonti!..” and I used to run to him and plug him back into his musical world. This was the first vacation I was spending in Gokarna alone, as we sat in the verandah and darkness fell.Having waved goodbye to my father, who left me with dear little grandma and grandpa, tears streamed down my eyes, as I sang bhajans for ajju.. My voice choked as I sang ‘dehi dehi sharade.gnyaanam dehi sarvade’, but soon it was fine, and I no longer felt frightened. Except now and then, when I came across a dark threatening corner or lightless room in the vast house, especially after sunset. I had never felt happier to greet the morning and the sun, as I did then.
It was the last vacation I could spend with ajju, because, on the November 14th early at two in the morning, we all had to say goodbye to ajju. That year we (the family) stayed back after the funeral ceremonies , during karthik poornima. And we went to the Deepotsava that happens every year in the Kotiteertha, the sacred tank.
It was magical as hundreds of lights reflected in the water along with a bright moon who seemed lost in all the celebration, and fireworks lit up the sky effusive with joy. It seemed a fitting goodbye to our dear grandpa. Last week, when I was back in Gokarna on my usual visit, I stayed back an extra day hoping to catch the Deepotsava on karthik poornima. But it is never like that first time, is it? How much ever one tries to re-live past moments, it is never the same. Each time is a new time.
When I was there this time , I dug into the shelf in the study, which was full of books ( as is any shelf in our house) ; but this one almirah had a special taboo attached to it. Once long ago, I had ventured to open this very cupboard, and to my horror, there a was a tiny rat inside which ran right up my arm and jumping off my shoulder, scurried away victoriously ! I was a state of hysteria , as I ran and locked myself in my room and refused to come out , till the maid came and consoled me that she had taken care of it and it was safe to come out now. Later , though the poor creature was a subject of my sympathy and I even wrote a small verse on it.
So, well, after mustering courage , I opened it this time . Happy to see no moving tails or black beings inside. I found a whole range of books on culture, Leninism, Marxism, and the likes, which were from the local library. And each of them had markings in pencil , made by Ajju when he found certain passages or points which were notable. And after long I felt I was in touch with him. I was reading the same passages, that he had read many years ago, and wondering what thoughts must have arisen in his mind then. The very awareness of this idea gave me an immense sense of peace. The signs one leaves behind, signs that remind us of a healthy living thinking mind, signs that give you solace when you need it, signs that give hope when you are in despair. Finding those books, inspired a new zeal , a new feeling of awareness and a bright feeling of joy at the very prospect of discovering things that are waiting to be .
All the letters he wrote to us, me and my brother, are safe with me . Spontaneous limericks on us and advise on how we should read a lot , learn music, not fight, study well, and not worry much about subjects I dint like. In every letter, he never failed to say a little sorry for his handwriting , which he considered illegible. His handwriting in fact was like a mysterious codec to me , evolving in its own speed and design to become a script that could be read by a select few. Now I see my father’s writing follows the same trend. The explanation he gives is that the mind thinks faster than the hand’s capacity to catch up.
I have known my grandfather as a grand daughter , but there is also the need to know him completely through his mind, through his ideas, through his writings. He seems an ocean. I am yet to learn to swim so I could delve into it. Remembering and missing my dearest Ajju , on this Children’s day, November the 14th, 2009.