Men! One can’t live with them, one can’t live without them.
The men in my life deserve a special mention. There are many including family and friends. But this post is about two really special men who I miss so very much – my grandfathers.
My maternal grandfather was Mr. Raghavan Nair. He was such a gentleman! All charm and chivalry. My paternal grandfather was Dr. Viswanathan Menon. He wasn’t much of a charmer like my other grandfather, but he had his own persona. He was a veterinarian by profession and had the most amazing library. Together they are RaVi to me.
Now, Ra, I was his first grandchild. The first born of his first born, his little girl’s little girl. You know what that means don’t you? I was so pampered. Ra was born into a family of 10 siblings. They later became 9 and then 8 remained. He went on to quit school and help his father support the family. He got his first job as a clerk with Tata Steel, and then took off from there.
The thing with Ra was, even without a formal college education, he knew everything about everything. Do you have a question about accounting/legal/manufacturing/engineering etc? You go and ask Ra. He was always helping others. He supposedly retired at 60 but still went to work every day as a consultant because his boss asked him to.
Vi, on the other hand, was an only child. His father abandoned his mother and him and took off for places unknown. He studied and went to college and became a veterinarian, went to the Royal Veterinary College etc. He even helped design the Madhavaram Milk plant here in Chennai.
Both of these men were self-made. Ra had 3 children, Vi had 4. They made sure that all of their kids had a first class education. My time with them was very short. Ra passed away in January 2003, and Vi in August that same year. I miss them to this day. I have happy memories, yet I can’t think of them without tearing up.
The one thing about RaVi was I loved to take a walk with them. Once on a walk with Ra, I ran into a barbershop and asked them to shave off all of my hair. Ra came in after me, looked at the tantrum I threw, touched my hair lovingly and told them to do it. He was supportive even in my madness.
When I took a walk with Vi, it was story time. Ever since I can remember, Vi was always teaching me things. My most vivid memory is being knee high and Vi asking me what the opposite of ‘ram’ was? I looked up to him, he had this smile that held secrets, he smiled that smile and he told me ‘ewe’. He would then take off and tell me about homonyms or homophones. Or how animals and their young ones were named.
With RaVi in my life, I learned a lot. I may be an ambivert and an anti-social, but they taught me about people. They taught me to learn. They showed me there were lessons everywhere in life and how we must keep our eyes, ears and mind open. They taught me to go ahead and live my life. They taught me about karma and dharma. Oh, how I miss them!
It wasn’t always fun with them. Among other things, Vi used to hate it when I slept past 8am, Ra used to hate it when I lost my temper. And they used to let me know with a look or sometimes with a few words.
RaVi, I don’t know what happens after a person is gone. I only know that my life has a void that I don’t think will ever be filled. Even after 13 years I cry like a baby when I think of you. I still want to go out on walks with you, take you guys out on a tour of the world. I want to discuss politics, mythology, science, philosophy and everything like we used to. When I would cry you would tend to my tears and help me find a solution to my troubles, I want that now! I want to play the veena and have you critic. I want you to give me book recommendations and advice on life. I want to Skype and tweet with you. You guys would have really enjoyed the internet these days. Above all, I want you to read this.
I pray that, if there is a next time, we get to spend more time together.
I know that a lot of people tell us to cherish the memories we have with people we lost. I do cherish them. But sometimes, it is not just a person that you have lost. You lose a part of yourself. What I feel is not grief or bereavement. It is an emptiness that’s unexplainable. Some people have that effect on others. Anyone who knew Ra or Vi would tell you ‘they were one of kind’ or ‘they don’t make them like that anymore’. Some people touch your life in ways unexplainable and leave an imprint that lasts a lifetime.
The very last time I saw is still in my mind like a photograph. Ra, I saw him through the train window. He was standing on the platform waiting until our train left. His gray eyes showing his sadness at our departure. I didn’t know then I would never see those eyes again. Vi, I sat at his feet as he was telling me about waterfalls in Karnataka. And then we gossiped about his children. Little did I know I would be back in a few days to see him devoid of life.
I am off to sob into my pillow.