Dadu, my paternal grandfather, has been gone for more than 23 years now. What I have is mostly fragmented memories of him being annoyed with me most of the time and complaining to my ma, since I used to be naughty. As I write this, some random memories surface.
Dadu was a Hindustani classical singer. Every evening, he would religiously do riyaaz at home. He would practice using his harmonium, and dad would play the tabla whenever he was around. I would be expected to sit with him and do riyaaz as well which used to bore me to death. Often, to annoy him, I would mimic him singing aa-aa-aa-aaa-aa in a funny way. Once, I even told him, “Dadu, stop teaching me boring songs. Teach me some Bollywood songs.”
I once threw away his dentures on the garage roof. Just like that. He could not eat solids for days after that.
8:40 pm news on Doordarshan, and he used to be glued to the TV. Which meant I had to start dancing right in front of the TV to annoy him.
He used to tell me stories. Action stories about ghosts and rajputro (prince). No romantic prince meets princess mush. There were many kinds of ghosts. Rakhhosh. Khokkosh. Petni. Shankchunni. Konnokaata bhoot. Bemmodityo bhoot. Once the story was over, I would always ask for the lyaj (tail). This meant that a few extra minutes had to be added to the story, since I was not done yet. So the ghost would be revived, and killed once again. Every afternoon I returned from school, I would cartwheel on the bed and wake him up from his afternoon nap for my story time. And his stories never put me to sleep. They were like action movies. If anything, I would be wide awake and listening.
He used to wear a blue and white vertical striped shirt that is so firmly etched in my memory that once I was dining out with a guy friend and I said, “Goodness, you are wearing a grandfather shirt.”
So that I am not scared of ghosts, he had taught me the mantra “Bhoot amar poot, petni amar jhi, Ram Lokkhon bukey aachey, korbe amar ki” (The ghosts are my sons and daughters. God is in my heart, so nothing can happen to me). I am all grown up now and live alone, but sometimes when I hear a sound and get startled, I involuntarily start chanting this mantra in my head really fast.
After his cerebral stroke, his hands used to shake while writing. So once, I deliberately wrote a letter to dad with shaky hands, and gave it to him, saying that dadu had a note for him.
He would not let us say the word snake in Bangla after sunset. Some superstition. So every now and then, I’d go really close to his ears and say, “Snake!” And all hell would break loose.
Okay, last one. Dadu used to walk very slowly, with a stick, and was a nervous and panicky person. His favorite afternoon job was to go around the house and count the number of people, to make sure everyone except dad was home. So he would go count Dida, Ma, and my sister. But where am I? Well, I was really tiny and short then. So as he walked slowly, I used to tippy toe right behind him. He would be walking the entire house looking for me, without realizing that I am walking right behind him (remember those Tom & Jerry cartoons?). Even if he realized, he walked so slowly that by the time he turned around, I would have turned around with him too.
I wonder where he is now. If there is life after death, I realize that he would be a twenty-something young man now, in some corner of the world. Maybe still in college. Maybe trying to impress young chicks with his music. And hopefully with a lot of hair. Ever since I remember him, he was bald. Actually my dad says the same thing. He has always remembered dadu bald.