14.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing my maternal grandfather for only three years, and in that short amount of time, there are a couple of things that he did, or that I’ve heard about him, that have helped me be the person that I am today. Yes, I know it sounds cliched and hackneyed and all that, but it is true.

My grandfather is the calmest person that I’ve known, so far. He never got hassled with whatever nonsense my cousin and I had done that day. He’d always reply to my grandmother’s complaints with, “Aaah, let it go, let it go”. He’d always smile at us when he came back from work (he worked until his death, which is something I hope to replicate), and on those special days he’d have a tiny sweet or fresh tamarind from the trees for us. He really loved us, and it wasn’t tough love.
Having said that, his death stare was the scariest I’ve ever seen. No ghoul, ghost or monster conjured from the best skills of a VFX specialist could ever scare me as much as that ‘look’. I’ve only seen that twice – once when I interrupted an ‘adult’ conversation, and the time when he mistook me as the culprit of a crime I didn’t commit (I swear!). It was so scary, that I remember it even today!

My mom told me that he’d always say that everyone should wear what they want, and how they want. I found that concept amazing, because I had never heard that before. It’s a principle I live by even today, and I believe more of us should, too. I find it relevant today, because we all judge everyone else by just a look – a quick scan of whatever one is wearing – and start entertaining ourselves with gossip. His views are like a breath of fresh air.

He really loved his grand-kids, and especially his grand-daughters. I remember when all of us girls (there were around 4 or 5 of us) would go over to our grandparents’. My cousins would climb all over his large frame (he was like an organic, dynamic jungle jim!!) and making him prettier by applying “make-up” – nearly 20 years ago this was a tin full of face powder, kajal, ponytails and flowers. And he would sit there, obeying our every command as we ‘beautified’ him. All I remember from that time is his smile – it wasn’t a full, open smile, but a secretive, satisfied one. I’ve never seen that smile on anyone else, not even on film actors who were supposed to emote that perfectly.

Perhaps I am romanticizing my childhood with him, perhaps he wasn’t all that perfect as I remember him. I’ve heard that when he was raising my mom and her siblings, he had a terrible and unpredictable temper, that made everyone, including my grandmother, cry. But, to me, he was a good man. A kind man. A man who spoke perfect English with me, and never judged me for not knowing my mother-tongue. A man who really believed in letting people be as they are. A open-minded man, who helped my mother and her sister be the strong, independent women they are today.