For no specific reason,fond memories of my grandpa came rushing into my mind today.As a mark of respect, I post a very old story about him that many of my readers would not have read.
I was then a young boy of eleven years. My maternal grandpa lived in another part of the town with my uncle. He was an old man in seventies. He was a widower having lost his wife at a young age and led a life of strict discipline and austerity. He wore only Khadi made out of the yarn spun by him in the charka (wheel). He rose early, finished his ablutions and the prayer by 6am to be before the wheel spinning yarn for two hours. He was a disciplinarian, spoke only when necessary and was given to reading habits. He was spotlessly clean except for the snuff that fell on his dress when he inhaled it frequently. This was one ‘bad and nasty habit’ he admitted he could not get rid of. He ate less but was a gourmet relishing good food.
Whenever I had holidays after each term, he took me away from my house forcibly to his place. It was a big house and he had rented several small portions to many poor families. There were many young boys and girls of my age to play with. While I looked forward to the fun with them, what I detested was his strict regimen of study for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.
He would teach me in the mornings daily along with a few other boys living in the house algebra and geometry for an hour and English grammar from Wren and Martin for another hour. Learning Mathematics was fun but grammar I found a bore. His temper was short and he had a ferrule at hand and believed strongly in the dictum of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. I remember clearly that he used it only on me and not on other boys. My uncle often came in support of me when I got beating, only to be chided away by my grandpa. My tears never moved my grandpa though I should confess he never beat me hard. It was his angry eyes and inhaling the snuff before taking the ferrule in his hand that scared me. He gave daily enough home work to be completed and shown in the afternoon session. Besides this he chose one story poem daily and asked us to write it in prose form.
It was this story poem that I felt the hardest for it was difficult for me to comprehend and to write in prose form. I made many grammatical mistakes. One boy who was with me always got his praise for paraphrasing the poem in impeccable and flawless English though he fared poorly in all other subjects. My grandpa’s anger grew more when he read mine after reading his and it invariably ended with the ferrule coming into operation. This went on for quite some days till I accidentally stumbled on a book on the boy’s table. It was a key to the story poems with answers neatly provided. That boy simply copied from it and presented it to my grandpa winning his appreciation.
So the next day when he started praising him and hitting me, I spilled the truth. That incident witnessed the boy being dismissed permanently from his classes. He told me” Yes I was wrong in praising him and should have suspected it. But that does not in any way condone your poor work”
I remonstrated ’Thatha, you are always partial. You always beat me. Never once you have hit any of them. You revel in spoiling my holidays bringing me here always. I hate you. I don’t want your tuitions. I don’t want to be here with you. Please allow me to go home.”
He sent away the boys and hugged me tight.” Partha, you are my favourite grandson. They are nobody to me. I want you to be bright and do well in studies. Do not mistake me. You have opened my eyes. I will throw the ferrule away now and promise not to touch you. Please do not go away. I am sorry” he pleaded.
I felt bad when I saw a tear trickle from his eye. I fell at his feet and said “Thatha, please forgive me. I know you are doing for my benefit. Please do not tell my mom.”
He said “It is okay. I will not tell anyone. You can go home today and come after three days if you wish to. We can then finish the few chapters of Wren and Martin and a few theorems before the school reopens.” When I said that I didn’t wish to go, he still sent me back.
Two days later when I was playing cricket in the garden behind my house, my sister came running to tell me “Partha, thatha died an hour back due to heart attack. Amma is going. You also join her.”
A hammer blow it was. There was a big crowd as my grandpa’s body lay in the hall there. I could not suppress my cry and wailed inconsolably. I felt an arm on my shoulder and turned to see who it was. It was my uncle with eyes red and swollen in tears. He whispered in my ears “What happened Partha.He was depressed ever since you left that day and mentioned to me something about having been harsh to you. What was that?”
I remembered my insensitive words about my hating him and his pleading with me not to go away. He was not demonstrative and had never said even once that he liked me. But that was his way of keeping his feelings inside his heart. I felt that I was instrumental in hastening his end by my thoughtless and childish remark. I broke out weeping loudly to the surprise of the many people gathered, “Thatha, forgive me, I never meant what I said that day. You were a pillar of strength and knowledge to me. I was an idiot in not realizing your unstated immense affection for me.”
I was gently taken away from the place by my uncle.