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  • September 5, 2008

    I still vividly remember where we were when I got the call from Amma. My husband and I were in Theni, a beautiful agricultural town situated in Western Tamil Nadu, surrounded by lush paddy fields. How lost we were in the greenery only to be awoken rudely by a phone call. “Thatha has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, final stages”, cried Amma.

    I choked and couldn’t hold back the tears. I gazed solemnly into the paddy fields, tears streaming down. I closed my eyes and wished I had never received that call.

    I was always the special one; the first grandchild and the apple of my grandmother’s eye. The warmest of hugs and kisses I would receive from my grandmother. I still do!

    I remember as a child living in Dubai, how I would long for the summer vacation to start. My sister and I would fly to Chennai and my grandparents and aunt would pick us up from the airport. Two glorious months filled with fun, laughter and extra special loving.

    I don’t have many happy memories of my grandfather. Thatha was a very serious man. He was obsessed with cleaning and was extremely disciplined. He grumbled a lot, made fun of my Paati and would expect us, the grandkids, to follow his rules and regulations. He would not let us watch TV past 21:30. So naturally I was never really fond of him. For all practical purposes, Paati was my only grandparent.

    In 1997, Appa had been offered a job in Cairo and Amma and Sindhu decided to move with him. I was in my 10th grade and spent the entire year under the custody of Thatha and Paati. A difficult year that was for me both academically and emotionally.

    I remember once Paati had to visit my sick aunt in Bangalore. 10 days seemed like an eternity for me and I threw a tantrum. I did not want to be left alone with Thatha. “Please don’t go Paati”, I cried. I never really had a choice in this matter.

    I got to know a side of my Thatha I never knew existed in those 10 days. He would get up at 5:00 am to make a cup of tea for me. He cooked lunch for me, packed my lunch box, even had my snack ready when I got back in the evening. My clothes were always washed and ironed. He even treated me to Pizza, something unheard of for a conservative Tamil Brahmin like him. Thatha tried his best to keep me happy.

    But I was spoiled by my Paati’s cooking and motherly ways. I still complained and mumbled and hoped Paati would return soon. I managed to find fault in almost everything he did. I never thanked him.

    I opened my eyes and wept profusely. How sad Thatha must have been, knowing how I felt about him. But he never said one word to me. Or even if he did, I was probably too juvenile to understand it.

    He never once told me how much he loved me. Oh! but he did show me.

    I realized then that it was ok if the tea was bitter or the food salty or the clothes wrinkled. His love and affection for me, however, was unquestionable.

    I hadn’t realized how much I really loved him until that very call.
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