January 12, 2020

The Man Who Dressed In White: A Life Worth Writing About - Part II

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Read Part I Here

The Man Who Dressed In White


“Nana, why do you always wear white clothes?” I asked with the energy and impatience of a 10-year-old in summer vacations. It amused me because, after all, white is not a color often associated with the profession of law. Dark coats with darker conscience, right?

He smiled while not breaking his stare at his files and did not answer. One or two of his clients, or fareek, as he called them, might have reacted with a muted laughter, but I was not going to pay any attention to them. His ignorance probably vexed me a little, but I let that go, for the time being.
Later that night, I asked my mother the same question and her answer surprised me more than the milky white clothes of my grandfather ever did.

Vakeel Saab, as Nana was called, both with respect and affection, by almost everyone outside of his immediate family, was born in a modest family. He was the oldest of the 4 sons and second of 6 children. His father got night blindness, when he was still in his thirties. Nana and his immediate younger brother, had to grow up before their time. Education was paramount but so was the sense of responsibility towards family. Their youth was spent juggling duties, personal ambitions and collective responsibilities. The folklore of people studying under candles and streetlights, in distant villages in the India of 1940s and ‘50s, to win over their circumstances with a smile and no complaints, was true here as well.

In all this, he could neither afford nor focus on his wardrobe choices. But it was still something to worry about, especially, because he was in a public profession. He chose white because he could repeat the same clothes without being noticed. The pretense and perception of well-being was significant, even then. In those days, my mother often recalled, my Nana probably had only 2 pairs of white clothes that he wore till he could.

The years of scarcity made way for a lifetime of prosperity for both the brothers. My Nana earned his Masters and Law degrees, and worked quite literally till he was conscious, while his brother went on to have an illustrious career in the US with a Doctorate in Chemistry and served as a professor at University of Florida. But the impact of those formative years remained, and both willingly followed a simple lifestyle.

The colors of the lives that followed, never overshadowed the White that had defined his roots. Men like him, truly deserve to be called, the Sons of Soil!

His white clothes were not only a reflection of his resolve and simplicity but also told the tales of a generation’s sacrifices and resolve in the face of adversities. It is them who built this nation. It is their values that we all take pride in calling “Indian family values”.

They sowed what we reap, and that is a lesson I never forget.

Epilogue

My grandfather passed away last year. Over the past year, my family and I, have talked in detail about his life and legacy. But the fundamental shortcoming of reminiscing and discussing one's legacy is that it starts from the point of them passing away. We tend to gravitate towards the world that they left behind more than the memories they created on the way!  Thus, the beautiful intricacies of their life often go unnoticed.

So, to honor his life, over the course of next few weeks, I would be posting short anecdotes signifying how I would like him to be remembered.

While these stories are personal and unique, I am sure they would resonate with a larger audience. The emotions, experiences and challenges of the Greatest Indian Generation inspire us all and we grew up listening to them. It is, therefore, my sincere hope that in the life of my grandfather, my readers would find the stories of the great patriarchs and matriarchs of their homes too.

Read Part I Here

December 27, 2019

The Undefeated: A Life Worth Writing About - Part I

The Undefeated


His walk had the enthusiasm and exuberance, uncharacteristic for an Intensive Care Unit (I.C.U). At least it felt so to the two sets of eyes that looked at him when he entered the room. Strangers walking in and out of a room in a hospital is not unusual, but his gait seemed to have disturbed the monotony that had defined the past 2.5 months for these women.


Therefore, he was received with more irritation than skepticism. Brief introductions ensued and the young man continued towards the bed.

An old and frail man laid there. Unconscious.

They could sense the familiar unease in him, that every visitor had shown, in the months gone by. Reactions of disbelief, shock, trauma and grief had become commonplace.

This could not have happened to “Him”.  “He” was indestructible, and the laws of Nature were not supposed to get to him!

The young man, initially perturbed at finding him in this situation, steadied himself and addressed the ladies.

“I am one of His assistants and was fighting a case on His behalf in the State High Court. He prepared the whole case and trained us for every eventuality. Even though he was not present at the hearings, it seemed he had played it in his mind, all along.”

He paused, looked at Him again, smiled and continued.

“And WE WON!”

The case hearing had been recorded and he had come a long way to play that for Him. He put the headphones on Him and played the recording from his phone.

His face beamed; His fist unclenched; His fingers moved; He may also have smiled a little.

And just like that, He – Advocate Shri Pratap Chandra Mathur – my grandfather – my dear Nana, while in a coma, registered another win in his name.

Till the end, he remained undefeated.

Life 1: Death 0


                            #Amreading, #Amwriting, #Blog, #Blogging, #Family, #Fiction, #Grandfather, #Grandparents, #India, #Indian, #Inspiration, #Love, #Motivation, #NonFiction, #ShortStories,



Epilogue

My grandfather passed away earlier this year. Today, December 27th, is his birthday. Over the past year, my family and I, have talked in detail about his life and legacy. But the fundamental shortcoming of reminiscing and discussing one's legacy is that it starts from the point of them passing away. We tend to gravitate towards the world that they left behind more than the memories they created on the way!  Thus, the beautiful intricacies of their life often go unnoticed.

So, to honor his life, over the course of next few weeks, I would be posting short anecdotes signifying how I would like him to be remembered.

While these stories are personal and unique, I am sure they would resonate with a larger audience. The emotions, experiences and challenges of the Greatest Indian Generation inspire us all and we grew up listening to them. It is, therefore, my sincere hope that in the life of my grandfather, my readers would find the stories of the great patriarchs and matriarchs of their homes too.