I know now that you won’t read this, and I don’t know if I will get to read it to you. The first letter I wrote to you was when I was eight. I doubt you remember that now. It was my first short story, and those days before technology took over and before your health worsened, I waited for Papa to walk in after work with your letter personally addressed to me in your scratchy and lean handwriting. Now I write you a letter on a different medium for closure. I did what you thought I’d one day do, I took the road not taken.
I remember staring up at you as I sat in your lap when you recited me the first poem I ever memorised, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost. You introduced me to literature, made sense out of my nonsensical thoughts. You taught me the beauty of literature, recited to me poem after poem every summer when I’d visit. You were the only one who was able to make me stop running and listen. My love for poetry stems from your love for it.
You taught me the beauty of History, told me how much you wanted to study it but your father ensured you pursued Physics instead. On your recommendation, I fulfilled that ambition too. You read every poem, and every article I wrote and had a copy of each one. I remember being nervous to receive your call criticising most of it and rarely in some wonderful moments telling me that you were proud of me, that you always knew I’d be a writer and a good writer at that. I know you want me to publish a novel and I hope one day it happens.
If there’s one thing I regret about our relationship it’s the fact that I didn’t talk to you as much as I could have. I took your presence for granted, took your voice and your health for granted. Maybe there was a part of me that hoped you’d outlast age. Every poem I have written, I’ve wondered what you’d think about it. We had intellectual debates, and we differed in ideology. No matter how aggravating, our banter will always be a fond memory of mine.
I inherited your remarkable memory, the kind that allows one to remember details of every vein on every leaf. It has helped on numerous occasions. Time is fickle, now as you struggle against it I doubt you remember much. Mumma told me your mind is still active. It’s sad to think I might not get to see you, but I also know you’d have wanted me to finish this degree. You were concerned when I took a year off and you even told Mumma she should be here the entire time to support me. Another thing I need to thank you for is raising Mumma to be such a strong-willed and amazing woman and also for playing matchmaker by pairing your favourite student with your daughter without which I wouldn’t have been born.
Thatha, I hope you get through this, I hope I get to see you and I also hope the pain lessens. I can’t do much but pray and hope for the best. It hasn’t hit me yet and maybe that’s because of all that you’ve done for me and the overpowering memories I have of you. I promise I’ll do what you asked, I will read Kannada literature and I will get your article published. I have never said no to you and I will not say no now.
Thatha, I know we’ve never exchanged these words because we knew them heart of hearts but I’d like to say that I love you. I was a naughty kid, but you saw talent in me, you pushed me, educated me, and wrote me letters for as long as your hands allowed you to, before the stroke, before the transplant, before time intervened. I’ve seen you age, in that armchair, wearing your iconic sweater and hat, your laugh still rings at the back of my head. You were a great grandparent, I was lucky to have you and Avai for my grandparents who doted on me.
I remember only one verse from H.W. Longfellow’s poem, ‘A Psalm of Life’ because you etched it into my memory-
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time…
I don’t think there’s a more fitting verse to express how much you matter to me. I hope I’ve made a mark as your granddaughter. You told me that difference is not a bad thing, you made me own my uniqueness and made being weird cool. Thatha you said, “Always be distinctly different from others.” I will always be so.
Thank you Thatha.
(My grandfather passed away a night after I wrote this letter. Rest in peace Thatha. You will be missed.)