I have been trying to come up with a clever, light and witty post to kick start the new year. Something that will bring a smile on one's face for a few minutes. But everytime I sat down to write it, I had a vague feeling of being dishonest with myself. All I really want to do is talk about you, appa. I am finally ready to do it. And I will not be able to do anything else till I get it off my chest. All of my memories - the good, bad and ugly ones. The good ones that I try to cling to, in fear that I may forget, which would mean I have nothing left of you. The bad and terrible ones which continue to haunt my dreams in the night, making me wake up in tears even now - 4 months after you are gone.
If I had to find one word to describe you, it probably would be - optimism. Boundless, endless optimism which helped you claw your way back out of so many tough situations. Foolish optimism which made you believe you were invincible despite all those deadly cigarettes you smoked. I dont know what you were thinking, poppech.
My earliest memories are of sleepy mornings when I would wake up from bed and find you sitting on the kitchen floor reading your Hindu and drinking that all important brew- coffee. How many cups of coffee did you drink in a day, poppech? 10? 12? All the fights between you and amma when she would get all dolled up to go somewhere and you would say, .'oru vaai kaapi thayen'. And she would need to go to the kitchen again and she hated it.
I remember how much your amazing sense of humour and your utter irreverence against everyone and everything. About how everyone from the postman to rangi to the poor, hapless vadhyar had to succumb to your razor sharp wit. About how your sisters and mother pretended to hate the way you teased people but always ended up bursting out laughing. The utterly tasteless bathroom jokes you shared with your nephew which used to make the rest of us want to puke, but used to give the two of you such great mirth.
I remember how big your dreams for me were. And yet, how gracefully you let me be the person I wanted to be. I wonder at your big-heartedness which allowed you to never, ever superimpose your expectations over me.
You were, and still are, the best husband I have ever seen. Unfailingly devoted. Extremely supportive. Sensitive to amma's smallest needs. Proud of her tiniest accomplishment. Indulgent. Generous to her family. A great giver. When we first found out amma was diabetic, you were so devastated. And when amma lost her mother, you thought she would never, ever get over the grief and worried endlessly over her. And, how disturbed you were about her health in the last few years and, now that I come to think of it, it used to be our sole topic of conversation the last few years.
You shared a great rapport with the husband, daddy. It was a bond that went beyond the usual FIL and Son-in-law bond and something that I was so proud of. You welcomed him with grace and generosity into our tight-knit family which made the transition seem so effortless. You treated him like a long lost son sometimes and a buddy some other times. You loved it that you had one more male who can rib the ladies of the house with you and treated him to all insider information of our famous shopping gaffes and family jokes and soon it felt like he had grown up right alongside me. Now when I talk about athai patti or Achuppa who passed away many, many years before he even entered the picture, he still gets it. And that's because of you. You used to give him endless advice on the stock market. You were, in many ways, our financial mentor and I used to be so proud that the husband used to consult you before making any major decisions - not as a father-in-law but as a man whose financial judgement he respected. You took us by our fingers and taught us to walk the path, gently and one step at a time. You used to pack our stuff for us, filling countless jars with pickles and sweets and murukku and chips everytime we came to Cbe as though we were two underfed children incapable of feeding ourselves. And you used to fill covers with amma's various podis and label them carefully as 'Rasa podi' and 'Sambhar podi' because you knew I did not know the difference between the two.
You were the most indulgent grandfather a child could ever have known or hoped for. Indulgent to a fault. You spoilt kuttan till it drove me nuts. You used to make your most important clients listen to his endless gibberish on the phone without a trace of embarrassment. 'If they don't like it, I dont do business with them', you told me when I tried to take him away. You allowed him to write with his crayons on freshly painted walls and even amma, who is no less an indulgent grandparent than you, was forced to put her foot down. I remember your excitement at the idea of picking us up from the station everytime we would make the trip from Bangalore to Cbe. Of how you used to wait at the station from 6 am for a train that did not come before 7. Of how you used to fight with mummy to be the first one to lift kuttan out of my arms. Of how you used to drive home all the while glancing at kuttan, till the husband would laughingly tell you to pull over and offer to drive himself.
I never, ever imagined what a life without you will be like. It all happened so suddenly and took us all by storm that I barely had time to breathe. People tell me you had the best possible death. That you were hospitalised for those 2 weeks only so that we could spend time with you and then you came home and were able to die peacefully with your family around you. Maybe its true. But all I can think of is those last few minutes and the look in your eyes as they quietly closed. One minute you were lying there, laughing, joking, still weak from the hospital but incredibly strong willed, and the next minute you were gone. Just like that. And I dont think it is a coinidence that your last words to me were, 'I'm very comfortable'.
The memories continue to haunt me. And I am left with the need to be strong, both for kuttan and amma's sake. Life continues relentlessly, stopping for no one. I, in the meantime, am reduced to tears at the merest hint of a memory. Life has become an endless conversation of, 'appa would have said this' or 'appa would have done that'.
My biggest challenge would be to keep your memories alive for my son. To make him know that he was the recipient of a love greater than anything else, from a man who was willing to give him the world on a platter. I have big shoes to fill. But the responsibility of being your daughter is one that I do not take lightly.
Rest in peace, daddy. You were the greatest husband, father and the most magnificient grandfather I have seen. And you did a fine job of living and loving. I am honoured to be your daughter. Love you.