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Dadaji portrait

“Death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for one who has died.” 

BG 2.27

No matter how we live our lives, we all end up the same — in silence. In the end, everyone faces the eternal truth of life. Death is inevitable, no matter who we are. Like fall leaves turn golden in autumn embracing the absolute magnificence of the nature, only to wither away and make room for the birth of new leaves, one who enters this world leaves one day, bidding adieu to the realm of existence. Circle of life as we call it, where all hopes and dreams are mere echoes of a tale cut short. Everyone in this world has a role to play. They experience love, gain knowledge, impart wisdom, create memories, and make the world a slightly better place through their endeavors. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what cars we drove, how much money we accumulated, and how many material possessions we acquired. The true essence lies in the elements that persist long after we are gone – the lasting legacy, the impactful deeds, the positive influence we had on others, the people we loved, and the memories we left behind.

It has been said that a person is not truly gone as long as his name is spoken, his songs are sung, his words are remembered, moments spent with him are cherished, his legacy is carried on. Even if a single person remembers him, misses him, he lives within them marking their souls forever. 

As I pen the emotional memoir on my grandfather, I can’t help but think how fickle life is. One moment we’re here, and in the next, we’re not. Living in present is a gift we seldom appreciate, only to worry about a future that is beyond our control. 

Dadaji, as I fondly called him, lived a simple yet fulfilled life, surrounded by the big family, he loved unconditionally – 6 sons, 2 daughters, 16 grandsons & granddaughters and 1 great grandson. At the age of 87, he had an elephant’s memory, and an inquisitive mind. In his short yet long life, he witnessed India’s independence, came out of Covid pandemic unscathed, and was fortunate to celebrate the wedding of his eldest grandson. He was always happy to talk about anything and everything, and had time for everyone dear to him. He rarely complained, and was content with what he had. Dadaji followed what he preached, and was an epitome of simplicity, a living proof that happiness can be found in simplest of things. Well respected and a prominent figure in the town, his reputation preceded him. 

Dadaji was a big foodie. Having lived a strict vegetarian lifestyle, his taste buds never experienced the flavours of garlic, and onion. Neither did he ever try paan, cigarette, tobacco, and alcohol. He had little patience for things, and never liked staying at home. He had passion for everything. He had a personal box for storing his belongings, and on special occasions, he would get ready by himself, adorning glasses, Kurta, Pyjama, sandals, fancy watch, and his walking stick. He would always carry some cash.

One of my earliest recollections of Dadaji dates back to my early childhood, when he used to pick me up from school due to a small drain on the way that I couldn’t cross on my own. This story, told to me on numerous occasions, has become somewhat hazy with time, yet it remains vividly etched in my mind. Unfortunately, those were the Kodak days when we didn’t have the luxury to have those moments captured for us to walk down the memory lane. 

During my usual half yearly home visits, I had a regimen to sit beside Dadaji every night, where we discussed about whatever came to his mind. Being inquisitive by nature, his curiosity knew no bound. We usually chatted on wide range of topics – food, culture, sea, flight, software, laptop, foreign countries, Microsoft, Amazon, and most significantly – his captivating life experiences around him, and his close and extended huge family. He was fascinated by how computer works, and how offices of big tech companies looked like. Software Factory, as he called them, where I commute daily for work. He couldn’t fathom the possibility of making good money by typing characters in a portable machine.
“What food options are available in Videsh (foreign land)? Do I get to buy Indian spices there? How are you able to do everything by your own? How do robots work? How far is America from here? Are flights scary? Does Microsoft provide you with a servant quarter and other facilities?”
No matter how long we talked, his innocent questions never seemed to end. He would keep asking one question after the other until Dadi (my grandmother) asked him to go to sleep.

My vivid memories remind me of a story, which Dadaji proudly shared with me on several occasions, emphasizing his simplicity & innocence, and got emotional about, was on his humble beginnings during the times of partition between his siblings. He would narrate how he got 17 gold rings in his marriage and how he had to give up everything. About the wholesale shop which was established by him and Papa, and is now run by my uncles. How during that time, my family had nothing, with the business failing drastically and his hardships in holding onto everything together. How he was tricked into getting the property, because of the superstitious belief that the shop was somehow jinxed, and it won’t bring anything, but misfortune. He collected whatever he was given, and built an empire out of it. His pride and emotional connection with this were beyond words, and are cherished by us, to this day. 

While I relocated to Canada, and later US, WhatsApp video calls bridged the distance between us, making it feel much shorter, which I am glad it did. “What are you doing, Dadaji?”, was the question I most frequently asked over calls. And his response was always as predictable as the passing of time. He would be reading something – Ramayana, Geeta, newspaper, and the list goes on. His zeal for reading was unparalleled, and given his age, it was beyond extraordinary. 

As he reminisced warmly about his experiences during our candid chats , he oftentimes regretted about not having board a Jahaaz (flight). He always believed that it was too late for him to experience it. As wishful as it may sound, deep down, I always desired him to witness my wedding, and hold his great grandchildren in his arms. Afterall, a man can dream, right. While conversing with people, he often mentioned, “My grandson is getting married in a far away location; I am not sure if I will be able to attend it.”.
During my dream destination wedding last year, when he was in great health, I booked my flight tickets with him, Dadi, and Sanjhle Papa (my uncle) to Udaipur, fulfilling one of his cherished dreams. Both excited, and scared, he was in rollercoaster of emotions. The exuberant feeling of being in air, and the fear of what could unfold were overwhelming him. One of the flights didn’t have an escalator, and they asked him to climb stairs. While he was physically capable of doing so, it would have caused great discomfort. Finally, after much persuasion, they hand-carried him along with wheelchair.
I vividly remember those five days, and every chat we had, as if it were only yesterday – how he rated Patna airport Zero, as compared to that in Mumbai, how happy he was, his anticipation to see his eldest grandson getting wed, and concern in his voice if he would ever get a chance to experience this again. To which, I had assured him that he had many grandchildren, and they will all fulfill his dreams. How naïve I was to question the will of gods. The intensity of those moments was so overwhelming that, despite not being a person inclined towards recording videos, I couldn’t resist capturing them. Those videos are the sole candid visual memories I have of him.

Dadaji dancing in my wedding

During his conversations with people, he often mentioned, “My grandson is getting married in a far away location; I am not sure if I will be able to attend it.”
On my wedding day, as he sat beside me in the vintage red car, adorned in his favorite attire – vibrant yellow Kurta, paired with white trousers & waistcoat, and stylish brown loafers, he danced non-stop in the entire Baraat quietly chanting Hanuman Chalisa. His energy took everyone by surprise. When asked, he replied, “Golu bola ki Dadaji aapko hamari shadi mein khub dance karna hai. Mera hath dard kar gaya, lekin hum himmat nahi haare.”.
This is happiest, and by far, the most powerful memory I have of him. Something, I’ll hold close to my heart forever. 

I lost Dadaji on June 9, 2023 to Hepatocellular Carcinoma (Liver Cancer), and very rare Bulbar Palsy affecting 1 out of 500k people, both of them deadly on its own, but in combination, especially at his age, they proved to be a rather lethal combination. He left in peace, void of pain, surrounded by his loved ones in the joint family, like he always wanted. Dadi says, “The weird fever took him away”. His absence left Dadi alone, after 67 years of togetherness, and orphaned many emotionally. He maintained his sharp mind and compassion until his last day, reading newspaper & Bhagvat Geeta, and communicating in writing due to his slurred voice. A few days before his last breath, he was asking, my uncle, Ritesh, for new pant with drawstring. Last seven weeks of his life were filled with great discomfort. Due to weakness in facial muscles, he had difficulty in swallowing solid food and liquid, leading to coughing while eating and drinking. He barely ate, and consumed liquid food in small quantities, far below what his body required. His physical condition deteriorated, rendering him frail and feeble. Whenever my Dadi ate something, he would point his fingers towards his mouth, expressing his intense craving for those flavours. He would pen, “Give me mango juice”, “Give me Bel (Wood Apple) juice”, “I want to eat biscuit”. 

Ever since receiving the diagnosis seven weeks ago, we knew it was coming. But it happened all too fast and much sooner than I had anticipated. He was just here, and then he was gone – like snap of a finger. The fact that he was going to leave us soon, was consuming me from inside, especially last few days, which were filled with restlessness. Almost every night before sleep, I talked to Dadaji through video calls. It was a comforting routine, and as soon as the call connected, he would instantly recognize me. Although his voice wasn’t crystal clear, I could still comprehend his words. I would ask, “How are you, Dadaji”. “Thik nahi hai”, he responded, and express his disappointment with the ineffectiveness of his medications. Even in that condition, he found solace in reading. Despite significant medical advancement, there was nothing we could do. I exhausted technology and contacts to search for whatever I could – treatment in every form. There was just no cure. Whatever rare and under research it was, doctors didn’t recommend it at his age. 6 days after he passed away, a reputable Neuro hospital contacted me, researching Stem Cell as a potential treatment on the condition he had. 

His body was carried for Daah-Sanskar – the Hindu funeral rites, in solemn silence, only chanting “Shri Ram naam satya hai”, as he firmly believed that funeral is not a place for festivity. As a gesture of his love for food, we adorned his attire with a mango and an apple. After his demise, we stumbled upon his diaries where he meticulously documented every aspect of his life, including his entire family – where he went, whom he met, what he did, how his day went, what was his health like, what medicines he took, who visited home, who went where, and the list goes on. One of the diary pages read – “April 10, 2022: Aaj Golu Dilli se aya hai…” He was secretive, and never let even Dadi read them. Later Papa (my father) revealed that he had burning passion for writing, and had been maintaining personal diaries for more than five decades. Dadaji didn’t particularly like doctor visits. Hospitals and injections evoked a deep sense of fear and unease in him. During his doctor visits, he would prepare a written list of questions, and hand it over to the doctor to get necessary answers. He signed all medical records himself, in Hindi or English, as required. He was physically active until his last day, faithfully adhering to his daily 5:00 AM regimen of taking a bath. 

He lived his life to the fullest, and harbored the desire to continue the same for many more years. He wanted to live more, see more, experience more, love more, care more, and taste more. In last few days of his life, he enquired in great detail, about food pipe, its installation technique, the potential discomfort it would cause, and the impact it would have in his everyday life. 

Dadaji’s demise has left a void, an emptiness that echoes within me – never to be filled again. And even if it could, I won’t want it to. For he is a special part of my life, which I will cherish until the end of my time. Dadaji’s life taught me that simplicity, humility, kindness, empathy, and down-to-earth nature go a long way. Among several characteristics that I inherited, the most profound ones are – our shared love for food, intense desire for reading & writing, same “Capricorn” horoscope, similar skin tones, and never-ending inquisitiveness. If only I could pass on his legacy to the generations to come, it would be my greatest achievement. I can then proudly say that I have lived a life, filled with purpose. If there is one valuable lesson that I learned from his passing, it is the importance of spending time with your loved ones and creating memories; For you may never see them again. Work, money, everything else – can wait. 

I miss you deeply, Dadaji. You left us far too soon. I find unusual emptiness when I enter your bedroom, an unsettling sense of void, like something is missing, something that can’t be replaced. Not a day has passed without you lingering in my thoughts. There are countless things I wish I could have chatted with you. It’s hard to believe that you are no longer with us; that I will no longer see you one more time, hear your voice one more time, and see you ask me one more curious question one more time. Goodbyes are rather painful, which I never really knew, until death took you away from me. It will weigh on my heart forever, that I couldn’t meet you for the last time. Rest in peace, Dadaji! 😭 

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