My Grandfather – A True Hero

Well, this has been a month of excitement for me. Starting with my aunt’s visit to Hyderabad to my uncle’s wedding in Mumbai and then my parents spending Onam with us.

It was only after I left Mumbai that I realized that I had yet again spent time with my grand father without actually spending time with him. It’s no secret that my granddad and me don’t get along well. Everybody says that it’s because we are so alike, and I like to pamper myself by trying to believe that they are right. The fact, however, is that I am not even a patch on him. Just going by his achievements alone, I pale. Let me do a recap of his life.

If my sources are to be believed, he ran away from his home in Kerala while still a schoolboy. He reached Bombay with no money in his pocket and no one whom he knew. He began working as a coolie. Slowly moving into the naval dockyards in that capacity. There he began writing the promotion exams and got into the Naval Armaments Depot. Somewhere along the way, on a visit back to Kerala he married my grand mom. (Hers is a story by itself so I’ll not go into that in detail here).

The couple went on to have three kids. My mom and her two sisters.

It was after the third child was born that my granddad completed his 12th standard though night classes.

By this time, the NAD had moved him from Bombay to Vishakapatnam. From Vishakapatnam they moved back to Bombay. At NAD, Bombay he started what later came to be known as “Michael’s Garden”.

Granddad was always close to nature. Nothing better illustrates thas a story about how, in a pond in NAD Vasco, he would sit at the edge and feed the fish. For each tune he’s whistle a different fish would come to be fed by him.

He tired as the Chief Armaments Officer at the NAD. Which meant that the signature of man who had started out as coolie was a necessity before an INS war ship got a bomb. Not a mean achievement by any stretch of imagination.

After retirement, he set about doing something he had always dreamt of – growing a plant in the shape of India. Not only did he manage this, but at the time he had grafted 24 different plants to create it, to signify the 24 states of the Indian Union. A letter from him to the then PM Mr. Rajiv Gandhi dedicating the plant to the unity of the country, elicited a reply to the effect that there was no disharmony in the nation.

At 84, he remains still active and on his feet.

I had the good fortune of spending 2 years of my life with him. But those years also ensured that my grandfather and me would never ever be close. With the arrogance of youth I went about pulling wool over his eyes and ended up failing my academics both those years. That, in his eyes, is a crime greater than anything. To this day I don’t think he has forgiven me for those two years and it is my loss. Although I am moderately successful today, he still stubbornly refuses to believe that.

He will go any day. We all know that and the only prayer we have is that he never has to lie helpless in bed, not even for a day. It would be a cruel joke that life would play on a man like him.

But all said and done, he is a man to be proud of – a hero.


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