I think of Dadu often.
He’ll seep into little daily inconsequential things and sometimes wander off unnoticed. Because that’s how it is with thoughts right?
He moved in with mom and I, essentially putting an end to the brilliant privacy castle that I'd built high in the air. I’d barely been 13 for a few months, moved into a new apartment and hadn’t even gotten accustomed to the tantalizing possibilities of having my own room. “I’ll just put a fluffy rug, throw in a few cushions …who needs a bed. This is going to be one hell of an exciting place.” I had thought naively. Then mom asked me to be "practical": a bed, a table a night lamp followed...and dadu promptly moved in with a thank-you-good-slaves-that'll-be-all air.
“It’s not fair, why can’t he just live at his own place with Dida. All my other cousins don’t have to deal with giving away their whole room to their grandfather.” I wailed…and I let the resentment build and bubble in me.
Grandma didn't seem to have a problem with this arrangement. "He needs a steady doctor's supervision M, he couldn't be in better hands." she told mom.
Some times I'd grudgingly accept the perks of living with dadu. I didn't have to make trips to mama bari for the daily lessons in English,Bengali and Mathermatics that he used to guide me with. He was just a room away scribbling in his notebooks and diaries( I can never look at a diary without thinking about Dadu now, he would meticulously fill in every little detail that was asked for on the first page of the diary), tinkering with his precious wooden box of homeopathic medicine.
"God is great and kind to all" he'd write on pages after pages after pages.
He'd ask his attendants to get Kachoris and jalebis every Sunday.... treat all of his students to biryani or Chinese and call up everyone and check on their health. Bills and bank work,insurance and other strenuous paper work were promptly entrusted on him, as he'd carry all that out with robotic efficiency when he wasn't stabbing away at his typewriter about the latest developments reported in the newspapers; expressing polite enrage to the Prime Minister, the President and other important people who wouldn't even bother reading the first sentence. But there was something so hopeful about watching him write so earnestly... He’d mark the columns in newspaper in red and ask me to read them and write a passage on them."Translate this for me D" would be his constant game with me. He'd enunciate sentences in English or Bengali and I had to do the needful. I would express annoyance at best, ignore him at worst. "BORING" I would think to myself.
He'd take incessant strolls around the house. Stop at my door, stare at me hunched over a book or trying to mug up some lesson or the other. "All work and no play makes D a dull girl" he'd say repeatedly "Arghhh...go away! stop staring at me like that" would be my rejoinder. And he'd smile, make a slow turn and walk on...
There were times his face would darken though and he'd stare gloomily with big round eyes at my mother for having doled out another unfair set of rules in his increasingly thickening rule book. He'd want to get out of the house. Mom wouldn't let him. He was getting unstable and had begun to fall often. He didn't see that about himself. He was still the strapping young Air Force officer who worked hard and took life with a smile.
Everybody loved him. There were visitors almost every day. And later when he lost the ability to speak much they'd just come, sit, stare and smile at him.
He would smile back. Always. Pink gums and eyes sparkling behind heavy spectacle frames.
I had got through with my college applications and finally cleared admission to option 2 on my wish list. Came home and mumbled the news to him thinking he won't be able to make sense of it. His hand shot up, took my hand firmly into his and shook it for one long minute. My head went back to that day he helped me with a Bengali essay in Grade 3. "What do you want to do when you grow up?" I had no idea (still don't actually) and dadu had said "write I want to pursue higher studies at JU..." and there I was 9 years later doing exactly that.
I knew he'd say "Congrats Manu," if he could.
I just wish I hadn't been such an asshole to him you know? Because I was trying to numb out so many things. I was trying to numb out how safe it felt to have him around. How wonderfully reassuring it felt to have him silently watch me just doing random shit....and the fact that I was so glad that he was living with us. So glad that I got to learn from him. So very glad…
Now when I have to deal regular assholes every day, I remember how I’d behaved with Dadu and I tell myself that maybe they’re on autopilot like I was. That they aren’t alive they’re just living. It’s easier to be an asshole when you’re only just living.
I have learnt to forgive myself so I am better placed to channelize kindness and be calm in the face of a storm...the way dadu would patiently wait for me to translate a whole sentence badly and then correct it and listen to my inane arguments on why I am right and he's wrong.
And I can only hope that Dadu remembers the good parts and forgives the rest.
I am sorry Dadu. Love you always.