None of my grandparents are alive today.
My maternal grandfather had passed away even before I was born, so I have no idea about him or what kind of person he was.
I remember my childhood days spent in maternal grandmother's (naani) home. I was always naughty around her, pulling her leg, disturbing her in her chores and not letting her do her prayers in peace. But when I look back at those days, I feel she loved me a lot just like she loved all her other grandchildren. She left for the heavenly abode when I was in my teens.
My daadi (paternal grandmother) was a domineering matriarch who ruled her house with an iron fist. In childhood, I used to stay away from her. She used to love the girls of the family more, so I wasn't always sure what her strictness meant. As I grew up, she grew weaker and I realised that old age is cruel. She died after long illness when I was twenty two. Her last few years were painful. I saw in her eyes love for me when she was on her death bed. Maybe because, we had started living separately and I had left home for work and used to visit her rarely. I don't know what was there inside her head. Maybe she didn't recognise me, as she was also suffering from memory loss during the last phase of her life. My best memories about her are related to food. She used to make best pinnis (famous punjabi sweets). Even my mother can't replicate that taste.
My grandfather inspires me the most. It was his death that made me realise the eventuality of life. He passed away very recently, a little over two years ago. He remained healthy till almost the end of his life. He had a body of a wrestler and led a very disciplined and regimented life. He used to wake up really early around 3 - 4 am. He used to make his own tea. He used to clean the street area outside our house. He used to go to Gurdwara (sikh temple) twice a day. And he kept working till his mind and body allowed him. His only source of entertainment was evening news and few shows like Chandrakanta and Alif Laila and that too after the advent of cable TV.
He had a bad fall few years ago which made his movements restricted and he got dependent on others for his activities and I think that broke his spirit, otherwise, he would have lived even longer. I clearly remember hundreds of people turned up for his funeral. And everyone had nice things and inspiring stories about him to say. He had earned goodwill throughout his life.
He had come to India, post partition in 1947, from Pakistan and settled in Punjab. He did menial jobs and never shied away from manual labour and eventually not only established his own business but also took care of his large family. Today, his sons and all his brothers' families live a life of comfort because he worked hard. There are so many stories about him which my father and uncles narrate. But I want to talk about one particular aspect of his in this post. His humanity.
1984 was the start of the darkest period in history of post partition Punjab. (You can read about 1984 riots in Delhi, its aftermath and also what happened before it. I am not discussing the politics of it here). I was four years old then and at that age I didn't understand why there were so frequent curfews in the city. Also I didn't understand why there were always new people coming to our home. Always large quantities of food were prepared. For kids, it all seemed like party. Meeting new uncles and aunts frequently and playing with their kids. There was a room on the 1st floor of our house, where these guests used to stay. It was much later in life, when I discovered that these were the people who had come from Delhi post 1984 riots for their safety. They had come after losing everything. Their well settled lives, their earnings and treasures. They were now refugees in their own country. When my grandfather (whom we used to call Bade Papa) used to go to Gurdwara and he met such people, he brought them home, give them a place to stay and food, till they can settle in Ludhiana. Many such families are like our families today. They owe their well settled and rich lives today, partly to my grandfather.
I can't imagine myself doing something like this. I think I am too practical (or selfish) to even attempt this kind of charity. I feel humanity is alive because of people like him. And I will not forget that my grandmother supported him in this and supported him when he came to India as a refugee himself.
Let us not forget the sacrifices made by them and made by all those who paid the price for our independence. They are the true fathers of our nation.