I lost my Nanaji this morning. I had a soul connection with him. I was his favourite. And he was mine.
I remember the campa cola machine as a 2 year old, of which we both used to drink cola, me breaking my hand with the glass while copying him one day. They all took me to Goa then. I remember all the times Nanaji used to come and stay with us, and we would play chess and carrom. I remember how much he loved mango shake. I remember how he always wanted to wear colourful clothes, shave, keep a comb with himself at all times, look young. What a fine gentleman.
He had lost his mother at the age of just 3. His father, my great grandfather, was a Surgeon.
My Nanaji was a Railways’ Police Officer. Before that he had been in the Navy. And in between, he was also an entrepreneur, running a cafe in a theatre. Police happened because of sports. Nanaji was an ace hockey player and footballer, & played hockey for Mohan Bagan & many other prestigious clubs around the country. His job then took him across various parts of the country too. I grew up listening to all his stories of bravery, and honesty. How he never let good fall back. How he always went way beyond his self to help people. It did win him a lot. I saw his ‘jalva’ in full power in Jhansi, where he had last served. And then I saw it today again, such was the love he had drawn from everyone who had know him. Nani used this word, “jalva”, to describe him even today.
Nanaji was an avid news reader, he knew everything. He engaged a lot on politics with my Dad and me. He was also the most amazing English speaker in the family. His english was even today better than mine. He was also a Doctor without a degree, and all through my childhood, my Mum would call him if there was anything ever wrong with me or my sister. He worked till he was about 80+, and even at 85 he could sit in a local, walk for kilometers, and by himself come to us. He was just..so independent..so spirited, and so confident in his abilities. He worked hard for as long as his body supported him.
Nanaji is also where my love for cricket came. The first cricket match I ever saw, was a 1996 test series, in whites, that India was playing in England I guess, & I watched it at his house, with him. In years and decades to follow, we would always talk about cricket, about certain players, about team India. I had told him IPL is going to start so he needs to get better for it..
When I was a kid, Nanaji gave me his prized coin collection. Some coins ran back hundreds of years. I kept adding to that collection, and would tell Nanaji it’s growing. I wish I had shown it to him one last time..
I remember when he took me through the local in Bombay, when I was there in the city for the first time in 2011. He gave me my first Bombay tour. The yellow taxi across Nariman Point.
Nanaji’s stories kept me going for years. Few months back, he told me on the phone about how he had met Gandhiji when he was a young boy, on a train. I wonder today how many more stories he had. When I was in school, one of my dreams was to spend weeks together with him, write all his stories in a book, publish them, and then give it to him. It would make him so happy. It did not happen though. I got lost in my own world as I grew up.
I would go and meet Nanaji and Nani every now and then, less frequently now. His birthday, 28th August, was though always very important to me. I would land up his place, take him out, do a party. It would make him feel so happy. I missed this 28th. He had been expecting me. He thought I would surprise him. His laugh is still ringing in my ears right now.
Nanaji would complain, get angry with me, that I don’t come and see him as often now. That I don’t call. I always promised I would. I had set it on my calendar for every Sunday few months back. I wish I had more time, to tell him how much I loved him, how much his love meant to me..
When I got my first job, at KPMG, they had a grandparents day there. I had Nanaji come along with me for it. That day made him so happy, and so proud. He had a watch from that day’s gift for him. When I sat with my Nani after coming back from the cremation grounds, she mentioned the watch to me. He was so possessive about it. He would keep putting the cells on it. It meant something to him.
Nanaji was also the most handsome man out there. His pictures from the young were.. & even now, he was so supremely charming.I last met Nanaji two days back. He was very frail. He was being given oxygen. His eyes had lit up on seeing me. He held my hand for hours. I couldn’t move. His nails were unique, very different, I can’t let them out of my sight now..
And today, I spent the last 10 hours with him, a lifeless him. At so many moments, I felt he was alive. His arm around me for real. I kissed him on the cheek like old times. I couldn’t believe, and still can’t believe, that he is no more. Would Nanaji have thought he will be gone? That he will be lying lifeless and everyone will be around him. No. Nanaji till this morning told my Nani that he is fighting and won’t give up. He had walked by himself last night. He had coffee this morning. Despite seeing him in a lot of pain two days back, it never crossed me that he can actually go. For some reason, I always thought he will live on for a 100 years. Nanaji and I often spoke about it. I used to tell him this everytime. Don’t know when it built disbelief in my own mind and heart.
When I met him today, everyone told me how much he would talk about me wherever he went, he had so much faith in me, he took so much pride in the smallest of my achievements. I would dismiss them, all more or less like a checklist of some weird sort, but he, he swelled in them, every step of it.
I kept feeling all day, that Nanaji is speaking to me, even till the last moment when I could see his left eye through the pyre.I feel helpless in this moment. I really wish I could have done more. I wish I had taken out more time. I wish I had, done so much more that I wanted to for him..
All I have is tears, and this feeling. I love you Nanaji, I love you very very much, and I miss you so much!!