Dear (Big) Tata

Dear Big Tata,

As I grew older, I often wondered why I called you that, and why my brain always used an adjective to refer to my grandparents.

Dear Big Tata,

When I was born, you were 81 years old. At 81, your family saw 4 generations co-exist, albeit a few kilometers apart.

Dear Big Tata,

I visited all but one of the houses, nay, homes, you’ve stayed at since I’ve been born. And despite the change in scenery, you managed your routine. Your morning walk, your evening walk, your filter coffee, your newspaper, your cricket.

Dear Big Tata,

As an NRI child, your crisp English astounded me. I later grew to detest British colonialism, but I loved your diction: commanding, yet soothing. It amazed me that the words out of your tongue came from a different History, one that commanded respect.

I had few hopes of India as an NRI child. Everything I saw around me was rain, dirt, poverty, so to hear you speak English with that glorious accent made you relatable, Big Tata. More so, because people in the city I vacationed in spoke in a tongue I barely understood.

Dear Big Tata,

I inherited your love for cricket, and you were a Gentleman observing the Gentleman’s Game. I recall a conversation we had about the India-Pakistan series, and one about the Ashes. We watched all of the cricket, and in my two months in India each year, I learnt more about commentary and observation and patience than I ever did before.

And then we grew, ever so slightly.

Dear Big Tata,

I came to India in the 6th Grade, an NRI child not-so-NRI anymore. I grew to appreciate and love our native tongues, our land, our people and our stories.

I learnt about our family’s roots, Chikmagalur, the Coffee Works, and our extended family.

I learnt about you, heard about you as a Man, and you as a Boy.

Dear Big Tata,

We grew some more, and this one time I came over, I remember you describing your hearing aid, one of the first you had gotten. You dismissed it, citing that your other ear was fine, cracking a joke about it even, but you accepted its use, and you used it.

 

 

 

Dear Big Tata,

I was in the 9th Grade when I first contemplated studying the Law, and everyone pointed me to you and Big Ajji, and how you read the paper daily. They cracked jokes about how Law was in my blood. I never felt it then, but I do now.

It confounded me that every time I came over you asked about my health and my ambitions.

Only later did I realized how those two intertwined, and how they were all that mattered.

Dear Big Tata,

Things changed. I moved cities. I met you less often. 4-5 months between a visit.

I saw photos of you playing with my cousins on WhatsApp groups. They never failed to make me smile.

The last to last time I came down to namma ooru, my parents told me that you might not be able to recognize me.

Yet you did. And we made conversation about the Law, the Rule of the Law, and Oxford University. You remembered I had applied there, and I loved that, Big Tata, I really did.

Dear Big Tata,

I complained to my mother once about the troubles of being a Man and having facial hair to shave off and groom. She chided me.

Look at Big Tata, she said. He shaves everyday, still, she said.

 

In that instant I felt like a mockery of a person. To complain about personal grooming? Ridiculous.

Dear Big Tata,

Recently I was sent a photo of you with my youngest cousin. You had a stubble, a goatee of sorts.

That’s when I knew things had changed a little.

It unsettled me, but I chose to hide these feelings.

In subsequent photos, your body size shrunk. 1,519 kms away from the place you now called home, I could feel you crying out for your walks.

The last time I met you, I bowed down to seek your blessings. You said a prayer and patted my back, Big Tata, and that comforted me.

Yesterday, I found out you were unwell, Big Tata, and I wasn’t sure what it meant.

I didn’t know what you were going through, what to expect.

I prayed hard that you would recover.

Big Tata,

This evening you breathed your last.

And I’m not sure what that means.

I’m not sure what that means because I wish I could have taken you on one of your walks someday.

I’m not sure what that means because of the zeal you had, your enthusiasm, and the jokes you cracked, both, in Kannada and in English.

I’m not sure what that means because I saw the passion for life in your eyes, Big Tata and that wowed me.

I’m not sure what that means, but in the last 9 hours, I’ve tried to understand.

And I will continue to try to understand. But I will miss you the next time India plays Pakistan in a Test Match. Or when I taste filter coffee.

And I will miss you when I think about my ambitions. Only because you taught me their value, in that one conversation we had about Law.

May your soul Rest in Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Day Two

I’m struggling to come up with creative titles, so this will have to do.

Day two of my writing project. Here we go.

Today I discovered the beauty of friendship. I told my friend I needed my kettle around dinnertime. I returned from the library and walked across to his side of the hostel to get my kettle. To my disdain, there was a lock on his door.

I called him, no response.

I rang up his roommate, no response.

I was in dire need of my kettle, so my brain was calculating the time and effort it would take to procure another batchmate’s kettle, or to perhaps go in search of this friend.In a hostel atmosphere, neither of these options are efficient.

Finding someone takes ages. Finding an object takes even more.

You’re possibly better off without the kettle, I told myself.

I walked back in despair, in the darkness to my hostel room.

“Eyy” I heard.

I looked up. First I saw boxers, then I saw my kettle, and then my friend.

The hostel is a fun place.

We walked back to my room together. Me, glad to have my kettle. Him, giving me company.

It was a beautiful moment.

In addition, my Economics test has been advanced to Wednesday, I have a Jurisprudence test on Thursday, and the GNLU Debate starts on Friday.

What a week I’m in for.

Thanks, Monday.

Curd Rice, out.

Committing

I’ve decided that I’ll be posting things every day from now on. 15 words, 20 words, 200 words, whatever it may be. I can’t be apologizing to my future fans every time I post something on this little space I hold so dear.

I’m hoping this also allows me to track back on the things I experience in University. (not college) – day in, day out. Like a diary. A rather public one.

Coming to what happened today.

I missed my father.

Since I’ve been born, my haircut/hairstyle has been my father’s domain. He’s figured out which barber to take me to, and because our hair is the same type, he’s got me haircuts that won’t look horrible on me. For the most part (I still remember the mushroom, Appa).

My dad took care of this haircut business. He used to tell the barber exactly what to do, gaze at him with steely eyes as the haircut took place, and ensure I walked out of the barber shop feeling light-headed (see what I did there?) but with all of my God-given looks intact. All I had to do was sit in a chair, try not to fall asleep, and move my head around as I was instructed.

I’ve shared a special relationship with my Barber, Bob Uncle. He’s been a very important part of my life – I picked up my first words of Hindi from him. When we moved to India, my dad and I struggled to find someone like him. We didn’t succeed, but my dad managed to explain the haircut we needed to the new barber.

I was terrified about destroying the way I looked every time I sat in the chair. I prayed that I didn’t get a mushroom cut and reminded myself that my hair would grow back. My prayers worked and I never switched barbers till I moved to Gandhinagar.

My barber here is a chiller. He runs the only A/C saloon, yes. Saloon, in Bhaijipura. He has a TV which plays Taarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashma on repeat, and he experiments with his hair more than Paul Pogba does. He’s a star.

I’ve visited him 9 times¬†now – once a month when I’m in Gujarat. He never messed up. Not once. My broken Hindi and my “combing” action did the charm.

Till today.

I asked for a medium-short haircut.

Unshaved, I now look older than I really am.

Clean shaven, I look like a champu.

What are these extremes.

Time to oil my hair furiously.