Hard Times

When the going gets tough get going. Nope, it’s not that oft-repeated saying but this classic Billy Joel number from the 80’s.

I was reminded of it when I watched my grandpa make a sprint to our patio to check out the peacocks. No, I ain’t kidding. We actually have peacocks frolicking in our backyard (and front too) with all the bee eaters, shrikes, racket-tailed drongos, puppies and strays, magpie robins, kites, shikaras, mongooses and even lapwings on a rainy day! And yes, my grandpa still sprints!!!

Getting Younger and Wiser

He’s 95 years young, no, not the peacock… my grandpa. He’s lived in India through pre-independence, post-independence, license raj and post-liberalisation.

To put that in context, he was a babe in the woods when the British ruled India during the 1920s. His world was a privileged one. He had a proper fiefdom with hectares of land and people at his beck and call. He ran away from home to study in Chennai since he didn’t want to be an illiterate gentleman of the farm. After all, he was just being true to himself.

Just as an aside, we made a trip down memory lane to visit his Chennai roots. You can read more about it here….

There was no saffronisation though people were rigid in their religious beliefs. My grandpa was a staunch believer in the Congress party and the ideals it stood for. So he participated in the Salt Satyagraha, albeit on the sea shores of Chennai. He spent a brief spell in jail as a freedom fighter. There is a photo of Gandhi and Nehru together addressing one of the freedom struggle movements here.  Now, he reads the magazines and papers, and watches the news on TV but he abhors politics. He has seen and lived with people of a better breed, who stood by what they believed!

As I go through old albums I come across a ticket stub for a cruise ship bound to Australia. There is a post card datemarked circa 1940s with an address bearing the same street that my brother resided in 70 years later (Though both these glories actually are that of his brother).

He recollects how people would bow before him because he was a zamindar (landlord). Society did not believe in dignity of labour and people still lived in the varna system, he says. Yet, he worked along side his ryots (farmer).  There is a weathered press clipping where my grandpa is extolled for using the latest technology (irrigation at that point in time) on his farm. There are certificates bestowed on him by various agricultural institutions including for skills he mastered in silk worm rearing.

Perspective aplenty

There were no malls when he was a teen or a sprightly man living through his 30s, 40s and 50s that charged Rs 120 for a plate of idli/vada or a Sukhsagar by the sea in Jumeirah in Dubai. Instead what he had was an anna to buy himself a hearty breakfast of puri/bhaaji, dosas for lunch and a ride back home with some change left over. Wow, 1 anna got so much more than what Rs 100 gets me today. Again, to put this in context one anna is probably worth 6 paise today. LOL, we don’t even have ten paise and 100 paises make one rupee. And even the 1 rupee has become obsolete.

My old gentleman was and is a tough nut.

He married for love, not an arranged nuptial which was all the rage then. His wife was a socialite (so he says) and she was always impeccably groomed. She was a baker and she inspired women to come into their own through baking, agriculture, sewing and other handicrafts. So what??! Remarkable, I say, considering this was the 1930s when women were not expected to do more than bear children and slog over wood stoves from four in the morning to twelve at night. Society was patriarchal, not matriarchal.

When the going gets tough, he got going.

He lost his land in the land acquisition act. From being a gentleman farmer in his fiefdom he came to the big, bad city where he reinvented himself to become a manager in the transport & logistics sector. He travelled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. He got his children the very best he could offer from imported biscuits to Sharbati wheat, even then called grains of gold.

From a man who held on to his conservative beliefs, whether religion or women’s rights, today, he is the more progressive individual I have met. Unfortunately, his kids never enjoyed that mindset but we grandchildren do. There is nothing we can do or no one we can beat, so thinks our grandfather.

As I stare at hard times progressing steadily into my 30s I falter and fall. Losing a job, battling health issues, struggling to meet financial commitments, getting a start-up off ground and still staying focused on the positives becomes tough.

But heh, one look at this diamond in the rough and I know I have what it takes to meet life head on. After all I’m of his stock.

 

 

 

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Cool Dude

When I started this blog in April last year it was an outlet to get rid of the angst as life passed by and I saw myself drifting along aimlessly getting thwacked from shore to shore. I wrote about tips and tricks of not getting caught in the quagmire of corporategiri. I made a few friends along the way and happily as I amble along today I have the opportunity of celebrating the birthday of the coolest dude of them all. He’s been my trainer, my guide, my brick and bat, my sunshine and rain……he’s the coolest dude I know and ever likely to know.

My grandpa.

Nanu

He is what I aim to be in life if I ever get to live so long.

Disciplined

Open minded

Tolerant

Non-interfering

Unconditionally loving

Suave and Polished

Calm

Stoic

He taught me to walk with my head held high

..to bear life’s storms with equanamity

…to believe that all that is will pass, and all that happens is to be..to do my karma to the best I can and leave the fruits to the powers there are

….to love unconditionally

…..to practice the divinity of forgiveness and its healing powers

……..to be true to self

…………to BE

His sayings:

Silence is Golden ( yea helped me walk away from many a scruffs with mum and many a thulpings outside)

A stitch in time saves nine ( I still carry a needle and thread)

A million beatings is an idol made (Explains my goofiness despite all that life tosses my way)

Give all you got and receive what you get, no more no less (explains my huge credit card bill i guess)

Stay healthy – Eat to live – walk and water (reason for my sturdy build methinks)

My Nanu.. Ever-smiling and ever-loving. He has seen two wars, Gandhi and Nehru, participated in the Independence Struggle, was thrown into Bellary Jail, ran away from home when 9 to study in Chennai, ate idlis for 2 annas and watched movies with his friend at Mount Theatre in Chennai for 4 annas.

My Nanu..Always ready to lend an ear but never give a mouthful. He owned more land than we can imagine accumulating over a span of 3 generations; he saw it all acquired by Vallabhai Patel’s Land Ceiling Act; he fended for his family of 5 giving up the little land he owned doling it out to the people who worked for him; stayed a vegetarian all his life though none of us are.

My Nanu…Happy for being loved and loving as if there is no tomorrow. He ends every call no matter who is on the other end of the line with a “God Bless You My Dear”, and a ” I Love You my dear”. Who has learned to use the mobile phone at the ripe young age of 86, god bless him. Who cheerfully bids farewell to his youngest and darlingest grandson as the young man sets out to find his own path on distant shores. Who bids adieu time and again without a complaint or a tear with only a “We are Here for you my boy.”

As I stood waiting for him near the threshold of the temple at 5.30 in the morning (yes, he is the only one for whom I would quit being sleeping beauty for a day) I remembered all the morning walks he would take me on over the years in his efforts to instill discipline in me (sadly unworkable). I remembered all the early morning knocks on my window to wake me up so I could study for my exams, or head to the gym or prep for an important interview. I remembered all the times I would head straight to his room to pour out my frustration at a sad workplace or a bad personal situation. I remembered all the times he took hold of my hand and helped me cross.. a road, yet another challenge, an unexpected hurdle, a broken heart and many a tragedies.

Yet during all these times I have never seen him lose his calm, raise his voice in anger (though my mum tells us otherwise about this saint of a man who was a tyrant once), lose his nerve or his smile.

For my grandpa is a Dude who will find a corner even in a circle (yes mathematically impossible i’m told but with my Dude this is a probability coz anytime he enters a room he finds a corner and promptly plonks himself on it with the nearest reading material available), who will listen to all that you say but pick up the most relevant thread and prod you to open up till you think anew and feel afresh, who helps me look at life’s inanities and its series of comic sketches being played out around me and with me in it.

My nanu.

My umbrella.

My rock.

May he ever shine and never grow old. Amen and hallelujah!!!!!