This year when he came to visit us, I was shocked. I did not know the man who I so zealously greeted our doorstep. Even though he has always been a slight man, he looked considerably weaker than before- so frail that I feared he might fall at any moment. A healthy face had become so weak, that there was a natural pout indicating the weight loss. He is now merely a shadow of the man I remember fondly. Who thought old age could change the very constants in our life? That afternoon, I kept hoping he'd be back again, back to the man I loved very dearly.
Out of all my grandparents, he is the one who I've spent the most time with. In fact, to my mother's significant disappointment, my first was dada rather than the more popular, mama. He was the only adult in the family who championed our wish lists, full of candy and toys. He took us to the Gurudwara every Sunday, let us climb on the trees there to pick ripe mulberries and never once raised an eyebrow at our careless frolicking there. After that, we'd go out on our much awaited weekly ritual of buying unlimited chips and chocolates from the neighborhood grocer, who we fondly called lalaji. He was the only admirer of my fervent singing, which to all others sounded more like croaking. He'd let us dip rusk (Indian version of biscotti) in his morning tea. He'd take us for long morning walks, which to our delight would make us miss the early morning glass of milk we so detested.
I felt special when he told be stories of the partition of Hindustan into the three independent states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He, with numb eyes told us about how he was orphaned in the process. How he lost all his family. How he gallantly escaped the enemy's swords with his presence of mind. He told us about how the journey led him to meet my grandmother. We- him, my sister and I, would always end up hopelessly in tears by the end.
He told me enough for me to write a book on it. I've written three chapters so far. It's harder to write than I thought. I get up with either a headache or end up on Expedia, all ready to book a flight to Delhi to see him. But now that he is here, I still can't seem to fill the pages easily. It's hard to understand, because writing comes easy to me. I love to write about everything under the sun. But somehow, his story is so much harder to tell, so hurtful, so close to my heart, so intertwined with my life. My heart aches every time I see him now. I want my dadaji back, with the eyes twinkling like they would we he called out my name. I want to hug him tightly without the worry of hurting him. He is my first love.