Preserving Thatha

I will sow. Then you will enjoy the fruits. And then your children. Then theirs. But the seed, I sowed.
-Thevar Magan

All families have this person, whose glory they prostrate before, eyes welled up. Family elders pass on anecdotes that made this man, someone worth remembering during dinner times, decades later.- These retellings are as much to them as it to us – a measure towards preserving a recall value for posterity in our thoughts and memories, à la image of Gandhi in currency notes. This morning we were talking about one such person, we’ve never let go under the debris of time- my maternal great grand dad. A really great grand dad he was, if I’m allowed some average quality word play.

So what is about him that we spoke, actually spoke again, to get overwhelmed? Nothing new. Pretty much the same stuff we covered the last time and the several times before, probably with the sequence changed. It started with how he played a hand, actually a big one, in us getting our first home.It was early in the nineties, dad had pulled every string that he could and stretched every bit of will power he could possibly, to build our first home. Yet we fell a little short on the final settlement to the builder. This Shylock mould of builder would see one bleed, but not part with his property till the last penny of settlement.
Like now even back then, a man’s words weren’t construed to be money or money’s equivalent. And like in most times, most friends and family had quit his side even before luck could, when they were needed the most. It was at this point that Thatha intervened, when earth below feet our feet was shrinking. Thatha as he was referred to fondly by kith and kin was an elegant elder, clad in spot free white drapes. A clean faced crossover between Bhishma and Gandolf- like most great men -he too was a man of few words and often than not was the calm in the storm to his close ones. We didn’t know at that point that life to us for the next few years or so would become –Cometh the hour, Cometh the Thatha.


Coming back to the builder anecdote, as soon as Thatha came to know about our situation, he descended with help wrapped in a thin piece of cloth that looked like two lakhs rupees. And this was not even the best part. He gave the money to dad and chose to wait in his car for him to get the key to the house. He wanted this to be dad’s victory alone. His very own moment under the sun. Among people who bickered for and stole credit from others, here was a man who chose to be in the backdrop as a quiet fulcrum to a young man’s dream. I could’ve been born a few years earlier. Big deal I would be a few years older now. But I would’ve been able to appreciate this wonderful predecessor of mine beyond his physical features. Remember him beyond his wrinkled kind face. I would’ve probably known the importance of the brief tenures on his weary lap. I was like a toddler, who made paper boats out of a stack of currency notes.

In dad, he saw his younger self- the same fire in the belly, the altruistic persona,arrow like ambition and a strong will. And thanks to dad, he found himself in doppelganger territory, that he was hoping to be with his own sons. In him, dad saw a dad he never had. A father like figure, a surgeon to expose a wound before. A mentor to confide in, whose concern went beyond free advices.

Thatha‘s was a fine administrative mind as well. There are truckloads of folklore in this genre like the one Amma brought up later, about how his logistical reshuffle added a few decades and life to my grandpa, who was pretty much a vegetable for medical experiments till then. Or the one where he chipped in to help dad move into his first office space.
Coming to think of it, he’s been there in every significant first step we had taken, as an invisible walker to hold on to. No wonder his funeral was such an animated day. As someone in his third grade, it just meant a day off from school. Like a blissful fool, I was taking stock of people who looked funny when they broke down.  I saw this graceful giant rested peacefully on the floor of his abode, as hundreds of people stood there in morbid disbelief. Here was an octogenarian who had lead a glorious life and died a peaceful death. But to most men like us, that day marked life ahead without a guardian angel looking out. Looking back now, we see impressions of a pair of feet in the sands of time, that had  diligently walked along with us till we made shore.

As the quote in the beginning, Thatha was the one to sow. We continue to be the fruit bearers.True story. Then, what about some good stuff we continue to do, to make lives around us a little sunnier? Probably his anecdotes were the seeds that were sown in us. Maybe these were the fruits we bore on his behalf to the world, his legacy. After all, as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right?





Thatha– Tamil word for grandfather


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