Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Big Little Man.

His head was round and stature short. His shoulders were broad and he walked with his head held high. His moustache reminded me of Charlie Chaplin and his calm made me happy. I called him Papaji, and the world called him Dr. G.R Sachdev. He was my Nanaji (maternal grandfather.) 

Born 96 years ago, he was illness free and strong as a mule with an unshakeable belief in all things good.  Life threw him quite a few twists and turns and yet he never uttered a foul word. A few weeks ago he moved on to a world where the angels and his wife of 60 years reside.  He was and will always continue to be an inspiration of an honest simple life, well lived.  Most kids are lucky if they can bond with one or two of their grandparents. I have been blessed to have actually lived with all four of my grandparents during childhood. I spent my tweenage with both sets of my paternal and maternal grandparents.  Papaji taught me how to live life in a positive way.  

As an 11 year old I remember waking up to his saintly chants at 5.30am and covering my head with as many pillows as I could. I remember the walks and feeding the ducks. I asked him, "why do you feed them every day?" He said, "some of them are my ancestors," and I remember looking at him quizzically. 

Papaji was a man of little words. He didn't say much but what he said was always meaningful. Today as he continues his journey into another world, leaving us behind to think and ponder about all he taught. I realized that most of my life beliefs came from his quotes. He was an ardent admirer of Saint Kabir and his verses.  

Every time I said something wrong as a tween, he would recite: 

"Aisee Vani Boliye, Mun Ka Aapa Khoye
Apna Tan Sheetal Kare, Auran Ko Sukh Hoye"

Translation: Speak such words, sans ego's ploy
Body remains composed, giving the listener joy

While reciting he didn't necessarily look at me or talk to me. He would many a times be a totally different room and pretend to be talking to himself. Always staying away from confrontations, he believed in the simple fact, that when one believes in God, it all eventually falls into place. 

Born almost a century ago, he may have been little in stature, but he had a very big heart and was progressive in his thinking. While his generation prayed for sons, he took pride in his three daughters and two sons. He believed in education and gave good quality education to all his five children thus allowing them to thrive as independent adults. 

Age and Father time don't stop for anyone. We can be as young at heart as we desire, but there comes a time when this machinery starts clucking and clanking. He has been with us for so long, I never thought he would go away. And partially that's his fault, he always said, I have an agreement with God, "I want to complete my century before I go." And we would smile and say not only century, beyond that because you need to see your great - grandkids get married too; and he would then throw his hands up, rub his bald head and laugh loudly.  

Sending him off has been very hard. Maybe because he was the last of the grandparents to go. Every time a grandparent goes away, so does a stream of unbiased blessings. Yes, it is selfish, but I miss those blessings. 

For some little girls, it is their dad who tastes the first dish they cook but for me it was my Papaji. I had made bharta and roti. Bharta was not even close to being good and roti was not circular and yet he ate it and gave me a prize too :) I like to think that's why every time he came over he looked forward to what I was cooking. Any time he came to stay with me, he wanted  Gobi ka Parantha and Diet Coke. Yes, he loved Diet Coke. If we would leave him unsupervised, he would gulp down the 2 liter in minutes :) 

He was a stickler for time and schedule and believed: 

 "Waqt bahut balwan hota hain...Pal mein Shehanshah, pal mein rank" 

Translation: Time is very powerful. One minute you are the king, the next a servant." 

I learnt how to respect time at a very young age from him and to date do not appreciate those who keep others waiting.  

"Funny how we listen when they are gone." 

With every new memory comes a fresh tear. Today as hard as it is, I am bidding him farewell. He will always be alive to me.

His life and its journey through it re-affirms my belief in the circle of life. He lived his prime years in India, spent his senior years around the globe with his children and in his final phase, life magically whisked him across the seven seas to India. He passed away in the same place where once he bid farewell to his beloved wife. With that his life completed its full circle. 

Papaji, you were and are beyond all of us; continue to be the fiercely independent honest big little man that you are.  

Here's another one of your favorites: 

"Maati kahe kumhaar se, Tu kyun rondhe moye….
Ik din aisa aayega, Main rondhungi toyeee….

"Translation: “Soil says to potter, why do you crush me. One day will come, when i will crush you ”
This Gobi Parantha is for you Papaji. Have fun and continue to celebrate .. the sounds of Sukhmani and the brilliance of St. Kabir couplets will now liven up the heavens too. And, oh.. say Hi to Naniji for all of us. We love you. 


  1. Shilpa, so sorry to hear the demise of your Nanaji. Our deepest condolences are with you and your family. May his soul rest in peace and harmony.

    This is a beautiful tribute written not by Shilpa of today but the Shilpa of yesterday, young and innocent. This blog has given us the opportunity to revisit your childhood affinity with your Nanaji. Thanks!

  2. Shilpa, lived a moment with your Nanaji through this blog...thanks for sharing it! Losing a grandparent is indeed a big loss but then that's way of life and it has to move on... Our deepest condolences for you and family. May his soul rest in peace...

  3. Shil you have written from the heart. I have met your Nanaji when I came with you to Delhi and I loved him too. Your blog took me back to the sweet memories with my grandfather. The values of life are instilled in Us by way of example by them. Their gentle advice has always stood us in good stead. They still remain alive in our heart and through us following their path in life.