I picked up one of the diaries from the dust covered stack of used notepads and journals and flipped it open.
Aah, good, not many pages filled. I could use it, couldn’t I?
Yes, yes, Nani said. Afterall, what use was it serving other than picking up dust for so many years.
With that, she packed the diary into a packet, along with a couple of unfinished eau-de-toilette bottles and other knick-knacks. After spending another half hour with her at faridabad, Ma and me waved goodbye and drove back home.
For almost a week, the diary lay insignificantly beneath ‘The God of Small Things’ and ‘Ransom my Heart’. Until today.
Having nothing else to do in the morning, i pulled out the diary from the stack- an action intended to inspire me to start writing something. I opened the first page and chuckled.
Milk- 1 ltr.
Veg- Rs. 86/-
How familiar it was! Why, Ma keeps track of things just like that! I moved on to the next page and the next and the next…delving into the daily life of the person.
I suddenly reverted back to the cover.
It was my grandfather’s diary.
My grandfather’s last diary.
He died in 2002. 10th Jan, to be precise. That phonecall in the morning. I went and stood beside my father at the staircase, as he cut the phonecall. The call from Chandigarh.
“ Dadu died”.
My father went inside to inform my brother. I stood there outside, beside the stairs. Not knowing how to feel. Numb. ‘Comfortably Numb’. We had known. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. What else could we expect?
His condition had been deteriorating steadily. For better treatment, my grandparents stayed with my Mama-Mami in Chandigarh. His last few months.
During our winter break in Dec 2001, Ma took Dada and me to visit him. The family then went for a drive to Kalka. His last trip.
Dada and I were sent back to Delhi alone, on a Shatabdi Express, to resume school. We had protested, we had wanted to be there with Dadu. But Ma knew better. She never wanted us to remember him in that pathetic condition wearing hospital robes.
And that was that. Dadu died, with Ma singing to him.
After that, life was never the same. Their dog, Bingo, expired. Nani became somewhat, a nomad. Travelling all extremes of India to stay with relatives here and there, only to move on to another place in a couple of months, then move on again. Seems as if she’s running away from something.
But, i guess, we all are.
Ma, Dada, me. We all are running away from something or the other. Probably for peace. Probably for a safer haven. Probably in search of a place where ‘hurt’ does not hurt anymore.
I know for a fact that my grandma, Ma and Dada have, for years, shed tears albeit silently. Me? I was never good at anything related to silence. But i’m learning fast.
I still think about him. My Dadu. About everything connected to him and us. Germany, Bingo, Madras, Rourkela, Lucknow, Hyderabad, music, long drives, voice recordings, Faridabad, Tughlaqabad Fort, Qutab Minar, B.R.Singh, Sher Shah Suri, mashed potatoes…..what not?
He is probably watching us from somewhere above. Is he happy? Is he proud? I don’t know.
Maybe one day, when we’ll all stop running and we’ll finally have the thing we’re searching for, he’ll smile.
But while I’m still running, I’ll breathe for him.
My grandfather wrote his last entry on 14th April 2001, Saturday.
I turn the page to 16th April 2001, Monday, and start writing
“ I picked up one of the diaries from the dust covered stack………………..”