It’s true that we accomplish something only when we work towards our goals with discipline but in our struggle to earn name and fame, we often forget to live and enjoy life. We forget to leave our mind loose; we forget to enjoy the nature, surroundings and family. We forget to relish the gift offered to us by the universe; we forget to close your eyes and listen to the sounds of mother earth. We forget to take a good rest. As a result, we achieve what we wanted to but we forget to be happy and things become drab. This in turn becomes our image and we take pride in it.
Shouldn’t we stop in between and cherish the beautiful moments we come across and feel grateful? Shouldn’t we just call some old relative and ask for his well-being? Shouldn’t we go out for a nature-walk and enjoy the beauty around? Shouldn’t we just give a smile and offer a helping hand to the people around?
Here I share with you a story of my grandfather, who was a disciplinarian, a scientist, a veterinarian, an environmentalist, a family man and a spiritual person too. This story had won third prize in an inspirational writing contest.
Grandma’s and Mom’s bedtime stories were full of incidents exemplifying grandpa’s honesty, kindness, hard work, and dedication.
How, while working in the hot sunny and windy desert on his project on desert reclamation – he would happily give his sabzi (veggie) to the poor driver whenever the driver brought only roti aachaar (bread and pickle).
How he had beaten his youngest son Shyam, when Shyam had only asked for a glass of milk from a dairy staff in the area, where grandpa was posted as a Vet.
How the son of a rich Hindu zamindar (land owner) in Sindh, Pakistan came to India, with his six children, as a refugee after partition in 1947 and studied even under the street lights to achieve something in life for himself and his family.
For me, my siblings and cousins, grandpa was a loving but disciplined personality. We ran up to him only in the morning, when he would bring the tastiest Halwa Prasad (the delicious porridge made of flour and served as religious offerings) from Satsang (A spiritual discourse). He would then wash that tiny used thick milk poly pouch which carried that Prasad, dry it and put it back for the next day. He would sometimes ask one of us to wash that pouch and we would irritatingly mumble,” why does kakaji (grandpa) have to carry the same pouch every day? Mom has so many in the kitchen. ” We hardly realized that in the process we were learning our initial lessons on recycling from a futurist, who never left home without a cloth bag in his pocket and practiced sustainable development even in 1980s .
Since Daddy was in transferable government job, we met grandpa only occasionally during our vacations. During summer vacations, all fifteen of us (me, my siblings and my cousins) would gather at grandpa’s house and thoroughly enjoy our stay there. With his much broader vision, he was giving us wings to fly. Out of fifteen, ten of us were girls who fledged because of him. We were denied many things by our own parents and other relatives whereas he allowed us to be ourselves. We always looked up to him for permission to watch movies with friends, to go for a drive, swimming, music classes, to organize picnics etc. Many of these things were denied to girls when we were growing up in 80’s and 90’s.
He called us his kittens. I still remember the way his eyes would twinkle playfully under those bifocal thick spectacles as he watched us play new games every day, many of them taught by him.
He would often keep us busy by giving practical writing assignments, such as what all we did in our last fun trip. He would sometimes ask us to write letters to our other Aunts and Uncles, thereby inculcating writing habit.
His daily breakfast was a typical besan ka chilla (gram flour pancakes). One of us would often join him and he would lovingly share. However, none of us bothered to find out why he ate the same breakfast every day. May be because he was diabetic and chickpea flour is good for diabetees or chilla– the salty pancake is soft and he had some teeth missing. In this process, he taught us that we should eat to live, and not the other way round.
The only piece of sweet he had through the day was a small piece of jaggery after lunch and dinner. He told us that it was a good source of iron and minerals and prevents acidity.
When I finished my school, Daddy was transferred to Indo-Pak border fencing project and so I went to Jaipur for graduation and stayed at my grandparent’s place. Although grandpa had retired by then, his energy levels and activities were almost the same. He still did a little stringing for some research organizations and scientists. I learnt much from him at this juncture. Since I had grown up and had to get up early for studies and college, I was now a witness to my assiduous grandfather whose day started at three in the morning. During my exams, he would make tea for me and himself and after getting fresh we would both immerse ourselves into our respective books and work.
It was here when I discovered his hidden humorous and spiritual sides. I discovered how lively and thankful he was as a person. This despite the fact that he followed some really demanding schedules and was a fairly well-known scientist. Before I got really busy with my college I started going with him for the morning walks. We would leave home at six in the morning and walk for about half an hour. Before going for satsang, he would take me to a football ground, where we would again walk barefoot for 15-20 minutes. I also accompanied him to the satsang as I was quite a free bird then and my soul was relishing those spiritual preaching’s. The preacher there elaborately explained the shlokas or the verses of Bhagvad Gita and Ramayana.
My cousins often made fun of me because they found grandpa and his stories of early twentieth century quite boring whereas I tried to learn from them. Once I discovered that when Grandpa was transferred to Australia in 1970s for about a year, he had to leave early and grandma could not join him because of my aunt’s exams. She left alone after about a month. My curiosity increased, as I knew that my grandmother had never gone to school and she had learnt to read Hindi from her younger sister, just to read those Hindi and Sindhi scriptures. I was desperate to know how she had managed.
Fortunately Dadima, my grandma, was sitting right there, on the sofa and reading her scriptures under those spectacles.
I flung myself in to the sofa in front of them and asked, “Dadima, how did you manage to travel alone to Australia?”
She replied, pulling her spectacles down and peering at me, from the little space above her spectacles, “your kakaji had trained me well. Before this I had also been to Africa and could manage to communicate with the native people there, easily.”
“Why didn’t you learn English from Kakaji, the way you learnt Hindi and Gurumukhi from choti Dadima?” I asked inquisitively.
“Oh! I did try and I, of course, learnt to express myself, and, this is the reason I always understand you all. But your grandpa is very mischievous and whether he agrees or not, he is not a good teacher,” she said reproachfully.
“Once, when I could not understand anything during my travel from India to Somalia, I requested your grandpa to teach me some English and he agreed. I was very happy that day. I thought I will also do some gitar patar (gossiping) in English with those foreigners – once I learn it and will also be able to keep an eye on your grandfather,” she said giving a naughty look to grandpa.
The story appeared amusing and so I said, “Wait! Dadima wait! This is definitely interesting! Let me call others,” I went out of the room, calling everyone in the home.
“Dadima is telling about her English lessons from Kakaji,” I yelled and some did join us.
“The day we reached, he said say Stupid to who-so-ever comes in and then offer tea and say Shut-up, get lost,” she said with a smile and slanted her eyes towards grandpa while the room echoed with our laughter.
“Listen!” She continued hushing our gust. “Within an hour his boss came to our house to welcome us and right at the gate I said Stupid,” she continued with her smile and we could not stop laughing.
“Fortunately, he was Indian and knew your grandfather and our family well. Your grandfather was in washroom and the moment he came out and entered the living hall his boss hugged him and said, “ So you are teaching English now.”
I held my stomach tight. I hadn’t laughed this much in a while.
“I could make out that your grandpa had done his job. So after tea, I deliberately said Shut up and get lost to his boss. Before leaving, his boss advised me to find a better teacher. In fact, once he was gone, I said the same to the helper and then to the gatekeeper. Your grandpa then came running from inside holding his ears, apologizing to me and to those helpers,” she said. We all kept laughing the whole day visualizing the incident.
Since grandpa had done his schooling from Sindh, he was very good in Persian and English but not in Hindi. He would deliberately write in Hindi and ask me or my cousins to check, thus making us laugh all with his spellings. Many could not believe that he didn’t know Hindi well because he could speak it so fluently.
During all those three years of my graduation, I was getting lessons on life, how to face its sinusoidal curves of happiness and serious blows. They were often teaching me to remain contented, happy and humorous even during the worst moments of life. He cuddled me, loved me and motivated me when I faced the worst blow in my first year results, despite hard work.
After my graduation, I went to Delhi where daddy had shifted by then.
Once during Post Graduation, I had to write a paper on desert reclamation. I went to the journal section in library and flipped through those dust-laden thickly stitched journals when my eyes caught grandpa’s name ‘L.D Ahuja’ and then reference after reference to articles and papers written by him. This was the first time I became aware of how much he had contributed to the field. I now knew why he was sent to countries for research and was applauded by many governments. I rushed back home and took out his book, hidden behind my course books and novels, and there I was realizing the value of my own grandpa’s work! I felt proud at the realization that my grandfather was imbued with so much of wisdom and knowledge.
A few years later grandpa met with an accident and his health deteriorated. I was married by then and went to Jaipur with my husband, mom and father. The place, where I had spent my childhood, my vacations, my college days, appeared dull in Kakaji’s absence. Kakaji was in the hospital and everyone appeared terribly upset. Mom and daddy knew and understood the situation and so we rushed to the hospital. At the entrance of the ICU was a nurse in white apron from whom I enquired about him. She directed me towards the lobby. I thought I will run and hug grandpa tightly. But as I took my steps in that hushed ICU, every patient looked almost the same. On those white beds, everyone was in the same green and white checks, being monitored with instruments, all fighting for life, amidst the pungent smell of chemicals and antiseptics.
I looked around in all directions for my kakaji, who was not visible and so I returned to the nurse. I enquired again and she took me to his bed. The sight of him crushed my heart and tears rolled down my cheeks.
His brain had been operated upon, his eyes were glazed, and his body had shrunk. The nurse was feeding him through the rice tube and he was on ventilation.
A disciplinarian, a scientist,
a vet and an environmentalist,
this noble man,
was today in God’s hands.
It was visible that he could not be revived; the nurse informed me that he had been on ventilation for about a month. I could not bear the appalling picture. I immediately rushed to the satsang, where kakaji had gone for years , where I had sat with him many times, of which we had eaten halwa prasad almost every day , and there, bewildered, I prayed for his recovery and I prayed for his relief. The place evoked the memories of happier years and my eyes welled up.
The moment I came back, I got the news that his pulse rate had slowed down and he was breathing his last. Everyone was rushing to the hospital to have the glance of grandpa. By evening he was gone and his body was brought home. Grandma said he was perhaps waiting for me. She said that I had released him from the pain. My mind, however, could not come out of the trauma for days. The painful realization was giving me heartaches that I had gone to meet my ever- enthusiastic grandpa but had returned after his cremation.
Time passed, three years later, my father also left for his heavenly journey almost similarly, taking his last breath in the hospital. Life just oscillated between office and home till my son was born. A stream of happiness entered my life and later, miraculously, going against all the reports, I conceived my second child.
I left my job and started looking around for vocation from home. Once when I sat on internet searching for something to work from home, by mistake, I typed ‘Ahuja’ my maiden surname, on Google. A list of commercials popped up ‘Ahuja and sons’, ‘Ahuja Amplifiers’ etc. Out of the blue my mind suddenly typed L.D Ahuja and I was zapped to see the list of books and papers. The first book I saw that carried his name in references section was “Agro forestry: Realities, Possibilities and Potentials” edited by Henry L. Gholz, Department of Forestry, University of Florida. My eyes startled and searched every search. In about four books, three American and one Indian, his name was mentioned in references section and one of his papers ‘Range Management, Utilization and production in Arid Zones’ written in 1978 was also there in PDF format. I was suddenly thrilled and called my cousins to check, as if he was still alive on net.
Ever since then I have strived to work on my own writings to keep myself alive for my children and grandchildren. Even after so many years of his death, he was giving me lessons on life. That day, my heartfelt the warmth and was filled with gratitude for such a grandfather – A true Karamyogi– as he called himself.