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.

 

 

 

 

 

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