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A tribute…

First of all, I welcome you all humbly to my blog… “C’est la vie, mon ami”. No, don’t get me started on why I chose a name like that. It just came to my mind – I keep saying “that’s life” all the time anyway – and that’s not really to show off my French knowledge (which isn’t all that much anyway).

This one’s been long overdue. A lot of my friends had been after me to start my own blog (you know who you are, and honestly, I am grateful for the motivation 🙂 ) but for some reason I was cynical of the whole thing – up until now. In a day and age where every man and his dog are blogging (and twitter-ing, in fact), I kept wondering what’s the novelty? Moving into my first blog entry, I’d probably express some apologies first of all – my writing skills are a bit rusty thanks to lack of use. This one entry comes straight from the heart, thus is quite long. It requires editing as well, plus a good amount of patience. But I am sure you will bear with all the (little?) mistakes you may come across. Yes, yes, I know…enough already! Here we go.

Time for a little intro – that would greatly provide perspective on things:
Writing has always been my first love. I’ve published two books of short stories – one while I was in the 6th standard and the other during my 12th – both amateurish attempts, but laudable in their own way I guess considering the age at which they were achieved. I left school and came to do my graduation in Delhi and from then on my writing graph went spiralling downwards. Let’s just put it this way – my real life got more dramatic than my stories and yet I just couldn’t find the inspiration to write my thoughts down. Yes I know it’s self-contradictory, but well yeah…
My writing got limited to my personal diary where I recorded my thoughts and feelings and several incidents, plus work-related creations. After all, I was into the field of journalism. Yes, I know it gets even more ironic. A stint in London to finish my M.A. and I returned to India again. Nope, the creative juices weren’t flowing yet.

I am not even sure why I am giving this huge an explanation, but there you have it. I guess it makes sense that my first entry should be about someone thanks to whom it all began… my grandfather. This entry is a tribute to the man whom I owe my life, values and talents (well, whatever bit of it 😛 ) to… for being the only one who steadfastedly believed in me in spite of all setbacks, who was always around to constantly light a fire from the spark of an idea I may have had. He’s my mother’s father – whom I call ‘Appoopan’ (meaning grandpa in Malayalam).

He passed away on January 18th of this year quite unexpectedly. He was constantly behind me, urging me to start writing again and I know it would have made him very happy to see me restart it. Possibly that is the only regret I have regarding his life. I couldn’t show it to him while he was alive. I am not sure where to really begin while describing him. He was known to be a difficult father-in-law, a benevolent but overprotective father, a self-opinionated husband… but I like to think he made up for all his flaws through his role of being a wonderful grandfather. Looking at him one would think, he looked gruff and serious. Only few knew he could be all mush inside; it was just that he was bad at expressing it. It was lovely to watch him around children, he had a way with them…

He was one of the finest lecturers I ever knew. The love story of his marriage to my grandmother has always made me sigh and laugh at the same. It was love at first sight for him, but he never told her about it. They were collegemates who lost touch with each other. Destiny made them bump into each other 12 years after they graduated. This time he was determined not to lose her again. He pursued her relentlessly, got her employed as a lecturer in the same college in which he worked, before finally proposing to her. His parents somehow had an aversion to the match, but he put his foot down. Love stories don’t get any better, do they? 😉
He later rebelled against the management of the college for some reason before quitting his job. He went on to start his own college and reigned as Principal for several years, before he eventually sold it and moved to retirement.

The fondest memories of my childhood begin with him. I doubt whether there’s been anything he hasn’t really done for me… from teaching me to how to cycle and to drive, dropping me off and picking up from the school bus-stop, constantly motivating me, telling me an enormous number of bed-time stories, taking me for numerous outings, encouraging me to love experimenting with different cuisines, to believing in myself and standing up for what I believe in, patiently correcting my mistakes, for teaching me it’s alright to make a mistake once but stupid to keep repeating them, to learn from failures and to believe they are the stepping stones to success, to hold my head high in self-esteem, to have faith no matter what circumstances one may be in, for cementing in me a strong set of values, for being protective of me without restraining me, and most importantly – for loving me enough to let me go … I could go on and on. He was my Rock of Gibraltar when my parents separated. That was when one of my oldest friends entered my life as a little bundle of white fur… Jojy. “He’s here to keep you company so that you will never feel lonely and that nobody loves you,” he told me. Jojy licked my toe as if to affirm what my grandpa said. That was 12 years ago.

I stayed with my grandpa all through my schooling years. When I set out for my graduation years in Delhi where my dad worked, his heart was heavy but he made sure I left the place smiling. He wrote letters to me offering pearls of wisdom regarding anything and everything under the Sun. I kept visiting him once a year and his life centred around me during those few weeks. In 2007, just before I was about to leave for London, he fell victim to a massive heart-attack. My biggest fortune was that I had been in the house at that time and was able to immediately get him to the hospital. He was taken for emergency by-pass surgery the next day and within 24 hours, he was sitting up in bed yanking away the ventilator indignantly! “You have to go to London. Your time isn’t right now to stay here and worry about these things!” he persisted. I marvelled at his attitude and thanked my lucky stars to have been born to someone who cares about me so intensely – possibly even more than my parents.

Needless to say, he outlived the bypass surgery successfully and returned to his normal routine. I heard from my mother how he would proudly narrate to visitors, stories of how his granddaughter “the heroine” saved his life by driving him to the hospital in the nick of time. I returned from London in June last year to Delhi. In July when I came down from Delhi to Kerala, he gave me a surprise and arrived at the railway station without letting me know beforehand. It was pure joy to see him standing there like nothing ever really happened to him in the first place.
Little did I know that was the beginning of my last few months with him. I was with him for 2 months. Then I returned to London for my graduation ceremony. When I returned to my home after attending it, he was thrilled to watch the photos and the DVD of the ceremony. I got embarrassed when he got a photograph of me in my graduation robe framed and kept in his living room, where he would frequently point it out to visitors and elaborate. Someone once pointed out to me, “the credit belongs to him. Let him enjoy it.” I was silenced. True enough.

I am not sure how far sighted he was or whether he had any premonition. When I said I wasn’t immediately looking for a job, I wanted to take a break in between to learn French from Alliance Francaise, he was insistent that I stay with him instead of returning to Delhi. “I don’t know when I will see you again. Stay here for now. Atleast you’ll be here for 3 months,” he told me. Am I glad I obeyed him!

On January 17, I was out of town for a childhood friend’s marriage. The marriage was the next day. On some impulse, I telephoned him that night. He was fine. He had just had his dinner and was watching television. I spoke to him at length about my stay and my visit to my friend’s place. I said I was returning the next day and shifting in with him the following week (I was staying with my mother in her flat in the same city). His 85th birthday was due in 3 days. He sounded mighty thrilled, and we went on to make plans for what we’d do afterwards. Finally as I was hanging up, I noticed for an odd moment that we both said ‘Goodnight’ at the exact same moment, not a beat earlier or later. It might as well been ‘Goodbye’. An hour later, we got a call saying he had suffered sudden cerebral haemorrhage and had to be admitted to ICU of the nearest hospital.

Numb with shock, we set out immediately. By the time we reached the next morning, he was in coma stage. But I somehow felt he was waiting for me. He was hanging on, his body working fine until then – although mentally he was in coma stage. Moments after I went inside the ICU to see him and came outside, he suffered respiratory arrest and was transferred to the ventilator. His heartbeat started to dip. By then doctors advised us it was best to let him go. His one whole side had become paralysed and there seemed no possible scope of recovery. At 3pm, the doctors showed us the steady lifeless flat line of the heartbeat recorded on ECG. He was cremated that night.

Today it turns a month since his 85th birthday. A lot of people were kind to us, offering words of comfort and shoulders to lean onto. But the most memorable words came from one of my former teachers, “Look at this way. He lives through you now. The values you have imbibed from him stay with you for the rest of your life. Whatever you do, will be him making you do it…”

I went through different stages of shock, denial, anger, frustration and deep sorrow after his death. There are times I desperately miss his (physical) presence, his sense of humour and his ability to effortlessly see a situation from my perspective without having to explain a word to him. But today I am at peace because in one sense, I know his presence is always with me, watching me from above and guiding me.

This is a tribute – to the most irreplaceable loss of my life. May you rest in peace…

P.S.: More entries to follow. Once I develop my blog a bit more, that is. You can keep your hankies away, though. They won’t delve as much into the sentimental stuff…I hope! In the meantime, I am cheerfully awaiting the bouquets and brickbats… in no particular order! 🙂

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55 thoughts on “A tribute…”

  1. hi daaa… good to see u started writing (or shud i say blogging) again….. Wonderful blog and the topic too .. rightly chosen…It really conveys the bond u shared with ur grandfather…. Anyway as the title of the blog says.. “thats life….” Take care and do ensure u dont stop it in between.. 😉

  2. very poignant. the bond that you shared with Appoopan is felt in every word that you have penned in his memory. May his soul rest in peace. Try to be someone who would make Appoopan proud, very proud. Little that you can do for him.And before I forget, “Good Work”. Keep writing. shilpi

  3. wow girl! this was really something. very well-written as well. and i agree u shud continue to keep writing. i wish i had someone like this to guide and make life a lot more meaningful. you are truly blessed to have had him in your life. it was very sweet…

  4. Dear Ash,It is a wonderful first post, and I was very moved upon reading it. Brilliant that you have ‘started’ writing again! Though I wonder if a writer can ever stop writing. Maybe she stops putting things down on paper. But she is always writing, in some sense. And that, I believe, is true of you too!Much love and luck,Kal

  5. Very poignant , emotional and heart-rending ..You couldn’t have better expressed the way you feel for your appopan and the relationship you shared with him and he can be proud to have a granddaughter like you… And I am sure he will be feeling proud to see the giant leaps you are talking in your life both personally and professionally in spite of those hurdles you keep facing regularly .. Keep going….

  6. @Aravind C Nthanks a lot and congrats on being the first to comment! i was honestly getting tired of re-routing ppl’s comments from emails to this site! and yes i intend to continue writing 🙂 and disturbing u for feedback of course! 😀@Joethanks sweetheart 🙂 ur enthusiasm always makes me smile.@Shilpspromised him i’d him proud. trying my best 🙂love ur feedback, babe. will look forward to it each time. u’ve edited enuff of my articles to know about my writing alright! 🙂@Shvetalol yes finally ur comment got posted! yep agree… very blessed that i had in my life … for whatever time period it was. the memories will always keep my company…

  7. @Anoynymous (Kal)thanks babe 🙂 looking forward to ur cricticism in the future as well… as always. and u really need to start writing urself! @Anonymousaww.. ((Hug)) 🙂 finally! yay! lol@You Knw Whothanks a lot 🙂 esp coming from someone who knew what my relationship with him was…

  8. NICE…Well written…even though I can’t relate to the reln btwn ur Gramps n you, I can say it was touching! Keep writing!P.S: I’ll be kicking myself all my life for making a stupid ‘Bush joke’ at the wrong time!

  9. @AshwiniLOL ! no offence taken, sweets 🙂 besides, thats what makes it memorable! now that gives me ammunition to keep bullying u to read n comment on all my upcoming blog entries!! hehehe *evil grin*

  10. This post is one of the best gifts your appooppan could ever receive. How I wish I had an appoppan like him !! You are blessed and so is he ! A wonderful ode.I just read some of the comments here and I understand you had a blog before this one. Is there a link to those posts?Btw,I am blogrolling you.

  11. @vimmuuunow its my turn to say: welcome to my blog and thanks for dropping that wonderful comment 🙂 (no don’t check for owning its copyright.. you dont have it… YET!)jokes apart, no, i didnt have a blog before this. as i’ve said in the beginning of the post, i was a little cynical of entering the blogging world for whatever weird reasons. i used to write to magazines and newspapers before… possibly the earlier comments were referring to that..?

  12. may ur grandfather rest in peace0i am glad that u have started writing again. and even more glad to c that u havn’t lost touch.dont stop and write ur heart out……..

  13. @manu🙂 thanks vaave…@Varunthere u are! welcome to “c’est la vie, mon ami!” 🙂 hope to see more of ur comments with each entry!

  14. Achuuussfirst of all a big sorry to read this blog soo late..you have made it very touching daa…u have got a good start now..this blog is toooo good…some points were a bit surprising for me as u told me :)..anywyz grandfather is alwayz with u and he is still motivating u 🙂very good dear!!never stop writing..

  15. Hi Ashwathy,This is your friend, Jayalakshmi’s cousin. Well, sometime back, when i went to trivandrum and spoke to her about the books am reading then, she shoved me a copy of your collected short stories. To confess, I started with no interest, but pretended to be interested, just to show off that I love reading anything under sky. But, believe me, i finished it in a single go. I liked the one about a lady doctor. Well, am not here to review your book. But the impression of tender hands aged not more than two decades thinking so much to fictionize the incidents…..my god; u created an angelic impression, a Kalidasa like impression. Even then, my cousin spoke at length only about you grandfather though I was waiting to hear about you. 🙂It is great to read an emotional, elaborate and first hand true account of that great man, especially by the hands he had moulded so far.Hearty wishes to you and waiting for your future posts.

  16. dear chechi..wonderful start..may be lakki had not told you…but after readin ur book u had made a fan..:)..Apoopan is there with you always..God bless you!!

  17. hi!this is peelu(i dnt think so u remember me),m priya and ritu’s frnd.they told me abt ur blog and here i m reading ur blog or i shud say reading ur feelings.I dnt knwu dat much but trust me after reading ur blog i realy wana knw more abt ur life thru ur blog.so keep writin dear!!

  18. @lakkifinally…the much awaited feedback! yep i did warn u abt the surprising bits tho. thanks for the comment, sweetie 🙂 will look fwd to feedback each time (as usual)!

  19. @HariharanI'm overwhelmed. not sure i deserve all that praise at one go 🙂 but thanks a lot for the encouragement… a writer can always use some!!oh, the lady doctor story has probably been my magnum opus so far (barring the above post of course). that was inspired from the real life incidents which took place before the death of my grandmother. its one of my all time favourite stories. glad to know u liked it too!@ gouriwelcome to my blog…really happy to see u here. looks like lakki has been giving this state-wide publicity! yes u r right… Appoopan is always with me. hope to see more of u around here… esp with each new post!@peeluof course i remember meeting u! 🙂 great to see u here. thanks for the feedback and pls do keep visiting on and off. i only hope i can keep writing more & more interesting posts to capture ur interest 🙂

  20. @Prudetrue enough.and FINALLY, good to see u here!!@Mathangi (teacher) hehe lets not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? but thanks for the vote of faith tho! 🙂 to repeat one of my grandpa’s oft-repeated phrases: one step at a time and that done well…

  21. hi dear,its me peelu(once agn)!so i hp u r workin on ur next blog or u r stil busy collecting comments on the 1st one.

  22. @peeluhaha not really.actually i m having a bit of writer’s block. not sure what to write to follow up on that tribute… that itself contained a lot. there r some ideas in my head but none of them strong enuff to warrant a full entry/post. any ideas/suggestions from ur end?

  23. its me peelu!hmmm!i think u shud write abt wait a min when i m writn dis i agn read ur blog n nw m kinda speechless.dnt knw wat to say.just take care!!!!

  24. Hey Achu…I know long time pending….so pls forgive me…:(…LOvely Blog…Kudos to u n Keep goin…Reminds me of my folks …touching indeed 🙂Lookin forward to read more…Luv ya…muah

  25. @Nidhithanks babe 🙂 finally! lol kudos to u too… keep going! dont lose faith… EVER.@Ordinary Guythanks 🙂 nice to see u here. welcome!

  26. Hi da,Good that you have started writing again. A very good way to start your blogging with a Tribute to someone who was(is) very close to you.He must be enjoying the Blog from somewhere…Many Many Happy Returns of the day. – DD

  27. lovely day for u to be commenting on the blog… thanks for the wishes da 🙂yes i certainly hope he is enjoying it from somewhere. who knows…?

  28. This was a good post… expressive… Expecting more posts like these.

    Destination Infinity

    1. I almost forgot the contents of this post. Good to re-read it after so many months. Excellently written. What I do remember is the contents of the holy cow post… 🙂

      Destination Infinity

      Ash: 🙂 U still remember that one??

  29. <> @Destination Infinity <>
    I poured my heart out into this post. I doubt if I will ever be able to write anything half as good as this. It was the perfect start to my blog. But thanks 🙂 will def try. And pls do keep reading my other posts in the meantime…

  30. I was Touched…would be an understatement.

    I too lost my maternal grandparents in the span of last 2 years…The only 2 people from whom I experienced love unconditionally…..The courage and wisdom is priceless..and of course when everything else fails in life, there was a warm hug and a lap to put my head on…no questions asked. miss that

    love

  31. Cool_Moon
    glad to meet someone who knows exactly how it feels…
    i still miss my grandfather and remember his words/deeds/thoughts from time to time. the advice is true tho… he lives on thru me. whenever i take any decision in life, i always remember what he taught me…and take my action based on that.

    btw if u have a blog, pls do provide the URL. wud love to go thru it…

  32. Ashwathy,this is one of the best posts I've read in a long time.I came here after reading your very latest friendship day post,then the ABC tag and then the famous UK marriage proposal and let me tell this one has moved me the most.I'm choked with emotions right now.It,evidently,comes from the heart.

    Your Appoopan was indeed an awe-inspiring person.Ashwathy,I could relate with your relationship with him to an extent because I spent much of my growing up years with my maternal grandparents too.And I was particularly influenced by my Ammamma(my grandma).And when she expired,it took me a lot of time to come to terms with it.Although I still feel her presence sometimes.

    So I know how you must have felt when your grandpa passed away.But to take that phase in your stride and be inspired to write again shows how strong-willed a person you are.I'm sure your appoopan will be very proud of you today,whereever he is.

    May he always give you the strength and inspiration to keep writing and sharing,Ashwathy :))

  33. @Deeps
    i m really too choked up to respond… thank you for that wonderful comment, Deeps… it really touched me. in fact for some reason i was remembering my grandpa today. its been quite a few months since i went thru this post of mine, and then i login today and see ur comment… and read this post all over again. if i ever feel like quitting, all i have to do is read this post 🙂 it brings back everything!

    Like u , i keep remembering my grandpa from time to time. i m still coming to terms with it. i miss him so much… and i guess that will continue till the day i die. his departure left such a huge void in my life… its thanks to my blog that i got back into the working world again.. and glad i met such wonderful blog-friends who kept my mood sane 🙂

    thank you so much for the encouraging words 🙂 ((hugs)) yes i never intend to stop writing again!

  34. I had not read this post Ashwathy, and your handkerchief note came too late, but I loved reading it and I can see why you are how you are!! Your grand dad was an amazing person and a superb grand father! I hope I can be to my children what he was to you! Hugs.

  35. @indianhomemaker hugsss thanks hun :-)You may want to read this one… it was written on his first death anniversaryhttp://thatslifemyfriend.blogspot.com/2010/01/to-my-one-and-only.htmlP.S.: Keep hanky ready…

  36. So moved by this post…. very touching and wat a way to start ur blogging…I am sure he is proud of you… and will be looking over u always …. keep writing…. *Hugs*

    Ash: Brought a lump to my throat to read your comment sis… (hugs) 😥

  37. Amazing post ! I wish I could have met your grandpa. They dont make them like that anymore.
    (I am just back from meeting IHM, and she mentioned Ashwathy; I now know two Ashwathys including you . What a coincidence that I should return home, login to check my mail, and see a comment from you ! )

    Ash: She did mention she’d be meeting you 🙂 Hope you both had fun! Yep..the same Ashwathy 🙂 talk about timing!

  38. Glad to have dropped by.
    Touching narration.
    Just going through the old posts you listed in your latest post.
    Will keep coming in future.
    Keep writing
    Regards
    GV

    Ash: Would love to see here more often 🙂

  39. He indeed was your rock of Gibraltar. And some things are destined to happen in a certain way. Which is why you were there on hand to drive him to hospital and took his advice to stay back and finally were able to reach him and let him pass on. And yes, he was the best grandfather of them all. I hope one day my little Diya remembers me with affection like this. 🙂 Lovely feelings amazingly expressed. You write beautifully.

    Ash: Thank you sweetheart 🙂 And I am sure one day Diya will remember with just as much, if not more, affection! Until then, enjoy all your time with her!

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