The tenth day of January remains a special day in my life. Since the late 1980s, I was made aware of the dates and their use for occasions to wish, celebrate or remember.
My maternal grandfather’s birth date happens to be 10th January.
He had a liking to write – in his case, it was personalised letters, which he wrote frequently. My mother replied to all of them, and my birthday wish to him began with a note – “Happy birthday Thatha,” that’s how I called him or refer him to this day, ‘Thatha.’
And, in the 90s, it was our time to send him greeting cards. My sister and I used to write our unique messages. I wish I had a way to scan those cards we sent.
He retired from his service and lived in rural Bangalore, and thereby much closer to us. We made those visits if his birthdays were on Sundays or else it was still the ‘greeting cards.’
Then came the telephone; he was just a dial away from receiving our wishes.
As I grew up, I fancied riding on a bike to wish him on occasion.
A few years later, we would drive with our family and celebrate with him or have him down to the city to spend time with his children and grandchildren.
By this time, he had a mobile number.
Then it was 2009, the last time I wished him in person. Two weeks later, I left India, and since then, we have kept in touch via a mobile device.
In 2014, just days before his birthday, Tripti and I visited him in January during our short stay in India. We wished him in advance and did call him on 10th January. Who knew what was to come?
He passed away a few months later, in May of 2014. I made that trip to the village; by then, the final rites were complete. He was gone from our physical world. I didn’t know what to make of it. It took me some time to accept that he wasn’t there if I had to converse with him.
Three years on, 10th January remains special. I wish him from my heart and remember him for being such an influential figure in my development.
He was the first person to narrate my stories, the tales from mythology to his encounters with many interesting people he met in his lifetime. I learned how to share one’s experiences listening to him, for he always crafted a story out of nothing.
My love for the movie classics stemming from the 30s were thanks to him. He loved his motorcycle and was patient with a lot of people. There are many more incidents related to him that deserve a memoir; maybe one day, I will pen those thoughts.
For now, I would say, happy birthday Thatha, I miss conversing with you.