Monday, July 25, 2016

The Day Kabali Released

July 22 2016 was a much awaited day for the the Tamil film fandom. However, that date is etched in my memory because it was when my maternal grandfather passed away.

He had been battling cancer for the past one year showing enormous willpower, through two surgeries. He had been living with us for the past few months. Echoes of his footsteps across the house, the image of him seeing TV, the smile that floated across his eyes even after a portion of his jaw was restructured keep swirling in a mixed haze.

He had been rushed into emergency quite a few times. I thought that Friday was just the same. By evening six thirty, I learned he was no more. Even though I knew he was in the fourth stage of cancer and I knew this was inevitable, the situation was a shock. It was not in the middle of a surgery or something so grave, I feel like his cancer spread instantly and suddenly.

The first feeling I felt was guilt. Should we have gone to hospital earlier? Should we have been more mindful of his needs? It was slowly replaced by a deep sense of loss. Were there anything else I would've said? I usually go home on weekends. On a whim, I went home on a Thursday. I feel as if it was to talk to him one last time.

I then started feeling anger. The day before, the doctor had informed my grandfather he was critically ill. Until then, he always had hope. I blamed the doctor initially and especially because all his other parameters were normal. It took some time for my sense of fairness to kick in that even if the mental factor is there, the illness was bad too.

My mother was inconsolable as she was holding his hand and literally felt his breath fade away.

In this chaotic turmoil, I felt three emotions surge - love, pride and a bit of equanimity. The love was because apart from the pain of the loss, I felt such acute pain for the people who were crying, the people I cared deeply, my mom and my grandmother especially.

I felt pride as I saw the positive aspects of my grandfather's life shine.

The equanimity stepped in when the reality of death solidified.

My tears refused to leave my eyes. To me, an honest inspection of emotions comes naturally through writing than tears.

It hasn't always been like this. For the past two years, I've been flying off the handle, crying every other day for some reason or the other. Yet, something as grave as this left me in shock. And instilled a bit of courage also I guess.

My grandfather read everything I wrote and published and complimented everything to my delight. I've always considered my near photographic memory a bane, but now as I can see the scene in 1080p, I feel blessed.

My grandfather was born on August 23, 1941. Like all Leos, he could be exemplified as a man who always did things his way.

He was born in Burma and was smuggled to Chennai when Japan invaded Burma during the Second World War. His life story could be right out of a movie. His grandfather was a barrister who studied in Cambridge, a story that many question. Anyway, he remembered a trip later on SS Rajula where he loved the taste of rasam and dry fish.

Confronted by poverty, he joined the Indian Air Force in the hope of square meals at the age of 19. His extraordinary physique helped him succeed there. He won several national level awards in swimming and had confronted many wild currents. He was first posted in Bangalore and then in several states of North India. My grandmother recalls several air raids in Chandigarh where houses would be covered in black out paper. My mother speaks Hindi fluently having had to struggle through Hindi medium schools at time. She recalls Tezpur in Assam and Chandigarh. My grandfather reminisced how there used to be quarters where there was only a single dry latrine and he'd take my mother a long distance every day for her to use the single functioning toilet. My mother and grandmother told me how proud they felt when they saw my grandfather marching with his comrades on Republic Day at Delhi.

He got his AMIE in electrical engineering and then retired at the age of 35 and settled in Chennai. He joined his brother in a business that floundered after a few years. At this age, he realised his skill set was woefully inadequate for the job market. Trying his luck he went to Singapore. He earned well and was active. Apart from being a manager, he did a lot of quirky things, a clerk, a newspaper man, what not!

His work also took him to a lot of Middle Eastern nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. My mother says their family used to eagerly await the postman for letters that would arrive 15 days late.

He was in Kuwait when Saddam Hussein's occupation occurred. Three months after my parents wedding, on Aug 2, all forms of communication were severed. My grandfather drove from Kuwait to Amman, Jordan on his Landcruiser, a journey of 1200kms. He then sold his car and took a flight to Bombay, then took a train to Chennai and finally a cab to our house. He landed at our house on August 23, exactly on his birthday.

My father remembers in awe when my grandfather once jumped onto a sunshade one storey high and then opened the door when he found it locked. This was when he was 50 years old. Patience was not his virtue.

Before the war, he was extremely rich. Relatives still say how lavishly he conducted the wedding and showered his first grandchild, me, with innumerable gifts. A year or two after the war, again he was left with nothing. This time he was in extreme depression. After that, military pensions were revised and he had an income from his Air Force career.

That was the peculiarity of his life, it always oscillated between extreme success and abject misery. He was definitely far from perfect. He was honest but highly impatient. Knowing him, he'd have wanted me to write about his flaws as well. He took his health for granted as he could never recollect falling sick. He loved to project himself as an important person. When I had a formality in admissions, he contemptuously claimed the college is gifted to have me and I wanted to just sink into the floor. Sometimes, he has been extremely rude because of his impatience when things don't go his way and has hurt many people, even within his family.

On the positive side, he had a huge group of diverse friends, could become friends with anyone. He was really generous. He loved him wife a lot. In his day and age, he said horoscopes are useless and proved that if you love someone, you'll stick by them. It was an arranged marriage but without any horoscope matching. Even in his last days, he used to remind my grandmother to put her eye drops and I used to tease him the sometimes I wonder who is the patient.

After that, he visited my uncle in US a couple of times and then sold his house in Thiruvanmiyur and built one in Velachery when I was 14 years old. I wore a half saree for the first time during the house warming and I had this thick curly long plait. Seeing that he used to call me இளவரசி, meaning princess. It was because of my grandparents, I've retained my messy hair for that sentiment.

That was the house we had the funeral.

I felt it was a good time to be single. For the first time, I yearned for a companion to rest my anguish. Apart from a few initial messages, I hadn't opened up entirely to anyone, waiting to be there for people in much more grief. I felt good knowing my grandfather never knew I was crying unstably, he only heard me giving him hope earnestly. I realised most of the reason I was crying was a sign of hopelessness. It was unsettling for me. I was not the type to cry that way. I don't think crying is weakness but chronic crying is definitely something to be looked into. Facing my loss on my own, has made me so strong overnight, that I feel I'm finally out of it.

I will miss you thatha, but I will cling onto the memories dearly. Your இளவரசி is back, stronger than ever before.

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