And that was a request, ordered by a booming voice.
The most striking feature about Thatha was the timbre of his voice. Though cancer affected his vocal chords, they didn’t completely lose their resonance. It was only in his last few days, that his voice and personality, both, were enfeebled. I rushed home from Bombay yesterday, only to see him in a deep, peaceful slumber from which he would never wake.
My grandfather had a strong persona. The timbre of his personality was unique. It was not only his voice, but also his swagger, his expressions, his traits, his practical attitude towards his ill-health, his stubbornness, his sarcasm and his sense of humor.
Oh wait. There’s more.
The timbre of his teaching methods was also spectacular. Especially when it came to Math – ascending and descending order of numbers, simple arithmetic and later Calculus and Geometry. It was a wonder how a seventy year old man could recall old school Math.
Some of his unique habits and mannerisms were –
- He wouldn’t touch water, whilst he ate his meals. No, not even a sip.
- He had a characteristic posture while eating. His feet never dangled from the chair; right leg folded while the other bent, his left arm lying balanced on his left knee.
- He had another characteristic posture while he relaxed on his bed, regally reclining on his soft pillow.
- When one tried to convince him into doing something he didn’t want to, he had a fiercely scornful look that said “Whom are you trying to kid?!”.
- His reaction to anything that sounded ridiculously stupid to him – “Aamam!” translating to a sarcastic “Right!”.
- Boiled sweets were his favorite.
- My tantrums and sob stories were dealt with nonchalant sarcasm. Technically speaking, they were wasted on him.
- He loved intimidating people, especially shopkeepers. “Oye Pappu! Ek peppermint packet laane ke liye kya itna time lagara?!”; translation – ” Pappu! Why are you taking so long to get me a packet of peppermints?!”. Pappu was the name assigned to every shopkeeper.
- He loved to drink strong, dark, South-Indian filter coffee, out of the traditional stainless steel, tumbler and dabara.
- He loved watching “The Lion King” with me.
- Tender coconut ice cream, iced tea and buttermilk became his favorites, once he was ridden with cancer.
- A bowl of curd and sugar was a must with every meal.
- He was a brilliant artist. Our house is decorated with his works.
- Always punctual, disciplined and rational, he was his own master.
I may have missed out on many of his other traits but Thatha’s timbre was magnificent. He left us with his dignity intact.
“You can take the moon, gather up the stars
And the robins that sing merrily
Put ’em in a box, tie ’em with a ribbon
Throw ’em in the deep blue sea!”
– Doris Day
This was his favourite number.