How do you sketch a man who is larger than life? One, who makes so much impression on you that your heart and soul goes to him totally?
For me, he was everything. That smile on his face, framed with very few snow white hair on his head. Tall, trim body, always dressed in Khadi, White shirt and white mundu. A Pocket watch in the shirt pocket with a chain tied to the shirt button hole. (Memory was not his strong points. :). ) Strong hands holding you with all the safety and security in the world.
I was all around him right from my childhood. Whatever else he could remember or not, he could recite every story of Mahabharata, every shloka of Narayaneeyam at any time. There could not be anything more than I could wish for during my nights, to lie next to him, hugging him, my tender arms trying to reach across his wide white haired chest. And then, he would start with the stories. The stories of Gods, of demons, of good deeds, war and everything else possible. It would only end, if I sleep off or if he sleeps off. Now when I look back, my face breaks into a smile knowing the number of times, I have shaken him awake from sleep asking " And then what happened?"
My cousins would come in for their summer vacation and they would intrude into my lifestyle. I could never understand how can they just come in one day and take my place lying next to him with their arms around him. And they were two of them so both sides would be occupied. But little nasty me, wouldn't be beaten. I would jump on him and lie on top of him, having conquered the world :). Well, they could have only their hands around him, I was on him! :)
The only thing that he could not take was the movies. The only movies, I remember him taking me voluntarily was the movies about Lord Narayana, Lord Vishnu and Dasavataaram. For the other movies, he would give his endearing laugh and ask us "What are they doing?". For us, the ardent followers of Jayan, Mohanlal and Mammootty ( especially when they are bashing up the baddies on the screen; or running around trees in mist clad mountains with the heroines), this simple comment would cause us to glare at him :) And his animated responses would be at the highest, when he would sit down to watch serials based on the great epics and they show wrong stories or misdirected scenes. It was what could irritate him the most.
Ever ready to travel and ever ready to visit new places, the distance between Parli, Kerala and Ranchi, Bihar (where my parents and I were located then) did not deter him from making that trip. And that too somewhere near the famous Winters of North. Clad in sweaters and shawls, his spirit would make such a huge impression on me. Looking back, I would love to relive that life again, just to hold his hands and feel his warmth as he walks next to me. But then, time was playing it's usual tricks. I was growing up and it was that time of the life, when you would want to go out with school friends and walking with family start becoming 'un-cool' :). But I am sure, that did not deter him from enjoying his stay with us, as for him, being with his children was joy enough.
His life was totally interlinked with the realization of God. You could never see him without a Narayaneeyam or, if sitting idle, chanting the verses of the same which were inscribed in his heart thousand times over. He would never see the world as we could. There would be the ultimate belief in god and the insurmountable faith in Him to ensure that things will definitely work out for the better. From the smallest factor to the highest one, this feature was so clearly visible. When we asked him to rush one day as we saw a bus leaving the bus stop, we requested him to hurry up to catch the bus and with his characteristic smile he said" That is not possible for me at this stage. If the bus has to go, let it go - we will take the next one". On another instance, he was being wheel chaired into the operation theatre for a critical operation at that age. With his children around him holding his hands and smiling around him, some one asked him - " Aren’t you afraid?" It was with the same nonchalance and the unbeatable smile that he replied - " Why should i? My Lord Krishna is here with me near my bed.". Call it delusions, faith, stupidity, whatever. But the strength in him that flowed to us through his smile, still lingers.
His wife would have a lot to say about his nonchalance, which was more of a challenge to this lady who handles life in this world that rotates not on God's vision but on the axis of day to day life. But all the scorning and complaints would be diluted and adorned with the sincere regards and love the little lady had for him all through her life, even now! He had never any doubts on prioritizing goodness and all the good qualities over anything else. Selfishness was not a part of him at all. I remember so many times, while traveling on a crowded bus, he has woken me up to gently ask me " Why don't you get up to give place to the old man standing there?" And I could never say no to that question. It was not a question, but a request which I would always consider honoring. It was that impact that person had on you.
The house became home with his laughter, his presence, his voice and his mannerism. When you walk into the home, the typical way of his hugging you and holding you would strain all the fatigue out of you. He had the trademark way of grasping your hands hard and semi hugging you. It was enough to welcome me beyond anything else! When the lights go off in clockwork routine ( Kerala has the wonderful routine of load shedding ! :) ) He would sit down and tap his fingers on the bed making rhythmic tappings on the same. While watching news on TV ( which was one of his routine activities ) he would slowly doze off to sleep. If woken up by any one of us ( which was a routine activity for all of us :) ), he would smile with embarrassment, say " I am too tired", start shaking his legs perched straight on a leg rest to ward off sleep, try to concentrate on the TV again and let his eyes doze off again.
'Achaachan' - that's what I call him. Or rather, painfully to realize, used to. I am extremely lucky to have had him as my grandfather. He was so nice, we wanted him to be with us, always. On the other side, God also wanted him to be with Him.
God won the tug of war.