My grandfather, who never wrote, inspired the literature in many. He once said that one must enjoy or endure the weathers. One must sweat in the summers and shiver during the winters. The body, just like the planet, has a cycle of its own and it must not be deprived of its sustenance.
When we were children, he would make us sit under the tree, not under a fan, and tell stories about all that we could see – the well, the banana plant, the jackfruits that were late in coming, the neighbour’s encroachment, the small rice mill that was running into losses, grandma’s diabetes and despite his joint pain why he didn’t want a toilet inside the house. When the heat was too much to bear, he will hand us palm leaf fans and we will take turns at it. It was not an easy task, one had to make sure never to hit someone else with the fan. It was an ill omen undone only by striking the fan on the ground a few times, thereby transferring all the evil to mother earth. We kids made a game of it, he would frown a few times and then a smile would escape from his stern but humourous face. For us, it was nothing less than the icebergs melting.
During the winters, we always huddled around a small fire in the verandah. Wrapped in shawls, sitting on chatais or a thin mat. Big fires were a wastage, we built ones that were just enough. Sometimes, from wood, sometimes from dried cow dung, sometimes from the dried jute stems that were piled in the backyard. He would tell us stories on the condition that all of us had to say a loud hmm whenever he paused. A few of us would doze off; we would make sure we were waken up before he continued. He wasn’t cruel, he was tasked with keeping us up till dinner.
Now, he can’t hear much, refuses to use hearing aids. But, sitting in his age old chair, he wants a daily report from every child and grandchild. By evening, he would make sure all of us are happy and productive, that we think of him, that we are still together, that we will come to see him soon, that we won’t remain unmarried, that once married we won’t choose to be childless. Every day, I remember that we are the rivulets that has flown down from great, mighty and kind river.