“One must always work. When you stop working there’s nothing left of life, nothing to do, nothing to put your mind to, no purpose. You just waste away.”
My Dada-ji (paternal grandfather) has always been a man of action. He’s a retired brigadier (now 84years of age), who served India during the wars with Pakistan and China in the 60’s, and retired from the army as a much sought after pathologist. I remember when I was a child, my sister and I would have a sort of game, where we would sit beside him while he studied, and the first person who gagged at the sight of horrifically damaged tissue or grotesquely bloodied organs, would essentially lose. We would be at awe at this man, with his wiry spectacles, peering poker-faced at purpled livers, or bubbling pancreas. Sometimes we would ask him the details of (then) mysterious objects, and he would shut his eyes, give a soft grunt and call out to our mom to get us out of the room. When we would laugh, knowing that we had approached something embarrassing to him, he would feign a stern expression and tell us not to ‘lof’ (laugh) or to be ‘estupid’ with his Rajasthani accented English.
It’s extremely difficult to get to know his secrets. Whenever I spend time with him, I feel like I’m on a mission to get to know his intricate past, and I successfully fail, of course. You can talk to him about anything in the world, but ask a question about how he was as a rebellious teen, and the subject is changed with an impish smile. He used to love quizzing kids about general knowledge-mostly concerned with names of the capitals of countries. He’s knows everything about politics and geography, history and entertainment. The last time I was with him, I was reading a novel and was suddenly taken by surprise; “This girl is finished now. Her career is over-look at what she’s become” , he said while Vidya Balan was jerking her flabby shoulder blades at the camera, in her latest ‘Item Number’. I agreed with him and we began to talk about upcoming films and directors and actors. It was really intriguing.
There’s so much of my Dada-ji in me. I hate spending money excessively, I love being in my room, reading and contemplating, and I love studying. No joke. I just picked up a book about Indian history to flip through, and I suddenly found myself with a pencil in hand, and a notebook on the side! It’s all in my genetic coding- can’t help it I guess!