Thatha, Stories, Walking, and Finding Peace

11:17 pm

The arrival of summer meant many things in the nineties, the most exciting of which involved a two day long train journey from Delhi to Bangalore to visit many, many relatives and friends. 

Of course we went to see my Dad's Dad too, the only grandparent my brother and I had the pleasure to know. I'm sure the adults exchanged several insightful conversations during the day. My primary interest, however, lay in going to bed, for that meant a bedtime story from Thatha (Grandfather in Tamil). 

Thatha's 'Dum Kadai' (kadai is story, dum is...dum, like a big sound DOOOM) was a legend amongst my cousins. We all heard it many times and never tired of it.

If Thatha tried to change tactic and narrate something else, I would have none of it. It had to be Dum Kadai. The story was a sort of forest tale going towards an anticlimactic ending, with lots of animals scared about the impending 'DUM'. What can I say, you had to be there to appreciate its beauty and perhaps being aged seven might have helped too. 

My Dad had two epic bedtime stories as well, each varying in its intellect and wit - the 'Fan Maharaja' (about a king with a very long name who loved fans) and 'Burra' (about a boy who loved to eat beans and ended up farting all the time. Our favourite elephant God, Ganesha, featured in the story too). 

These three 'kadai's lay the foundations for my love of stories.

Thatha also assisted in equipping me with an undying love for reading. It helped that he was never seen without some sort of reading material, a habit that stayed with him his whole life. 

It has been said that back in the day, my Thatha, Aunt and Dad, would often be found lying around the house reading P.G Wodehouse and laughing to themselves while my Uncle, my Dad's younger brother, ran around screaming "you are all mad!" When it was my turn to laugh out loud at Bertie Wooster's antics, Thatha would say, eyes twinkling, "Ah, what could you possibly be laughing about?"

Thatha had a few habits that made him Thatha. He always washed his own underwear, he often played chess with himself, he loved to do crosswords and Sudoku. 

When we moved to Bangalore and he would visit, there were tacit understandings. If he wanted something, like say, a coffee, he would merely suggest that perhaps my brother or I wanted one and wasn't it just the perfect time for a small half cup of coffee with a little something? 

With these things and traits, he could find his peace in any small corner, anywhere in the world.

Thatha didn't like to talk much and kept to himself. I have never seen him angry, even when he was trying to teach my brother algebra, a commendable feat. He was constantly smiling. He was always calm, a trait that he no doubt passed on to some in the family.

He taught me that one could be at peace, at home, happy, anywhere, if one so wished.

My fondest memories of him are when we went on long walks together. This was the time he transformed from adorable Thatha to an interesting, dynamic human being with a past, although I can't fully come to terms with a history of Thatha where he wasn't Thatha. During the course of our walks, I would ask him about his life, history, his opinion on politics, his late wife. 

Those walks were special for they taught me that walking can help one's thought and calm one's mind; and that you can spend a lifetime trying to know someone but there will always be something new to discover. 

There are great people, those that aspire towards big achievements, those that spend their time and energy chasing big projects and dreams and who find their success due to their tenacity and determination and maybe a little luck.

Then there are those, who exude the stillness of a quiet lake, who find solace in silence and revel in the joy of those around them, who find happiness in small things and moments, who live and love with grace. They don't express all their emotions, they smile a lot and they dislike gossip, small talk or conflict. They are the first to laugh if someone cracks a joke. These people inspire others with their grasp of the meaning of peace, with their gentle and unique approach to life.

My Thatha was like that. 

In his 85 years, he undoubtedly touched many lives. Each of these beings must have interpreted his personality in a different way; what other explanation could there be for the heaven I imagine for him - Thatha on a sofa in the sun with some coffee, reading the Upanishads and doing Sudoku and that imagined by my brother - Thatha finally breaking free, wearing a leather jacket and hanging out with some hippies. 

Whatever heaven Thatha is in, I am certain that he has found his peace; he always had a knack for doing that. 

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