It has been a year since you have been gone; there hasn’t been a day when I did not think about you. You left a hole in my heart, one that will never heal. I feel you around me, every time I smile I can see you smile, every time I cry, I miss your shoulder and wonder what you would have said to me. Although I believe that you are in a better place, what wouldn’t I give up to have you by my side? I loved you from the day I was born, and will love you till my heart beats. May Allah grant you the highest place in Paradise.
When I was young, I was often asked to write essays for homework. I was never enthusiastic about it, since homework was not one of my favorite things to do. Some of the topics I was told to write about were: “If I were an Apple or a Tree,” “My Best Friend,” “Morning Walk,” and so on. For the first time in my life, I feel like writing one, as if this is the most important essay of my life; one about my grandfather, Totha, a man I will always love with my heart and soul. He was the man who played an instrumental role in my upbringing.
He was a great man. What I liked most about him was his generosity; he had such a big heart. I remember when someone asked him for help, he would help them regardless. When it came to doing things for family and friends he did everything he could to make their life easier and happier without expecting anything in return.
I tend to fall short of words when I describe the love he has given me. It can be hard for me to recall a day of my childhood without him, for he was involved in a huge part of my life. Every morning he would walk with me to the bus stop, and in the afternoon he would be waiting there for me to take me home. I would wait for him to tell me stories. Among them my favorites were Kashmiri folk tales, such as “Gule Bakawali,” and “Princess who loved salt.” I would love hearing them over and over again. At night, when I was sleepy and didn’t want to eat, I remember he would sneak fruits into bed and trick me into eating them. He would have me sit on his shoulders, and would take me along everywhere he went, such as the market, park, lakes, or mosque. You name it. The ride on the motor boat between Hazratbal mosque and Char Chinari was my favorite. I would hold on to his Dusa (shawl) or sleeve of his Pheran and follow him around. He never seemed to get tired. Countless times in a day I would mess around with his personal belongings, but he would never get upset. Every year, he would plant a new fruit tree, exclusively for me and my sister. By law, we had to be the first ones to eat the fruits every year. As we grew older, so did the fruit trees.
1989, I had my matriculation exam. I was very nervous. Everyday he came with me to the examination center, and would wait outside until I was done. On the day of my English test, there was a bomb blast in Kashmir, probably the first one. Kashmir had never seen anything like this before. Chaos was in the air, and I began to cry. I had no idea how I would get to the examination center. Back then, things like this were not common. There was no way to communicate with other people, and cell phones did not exist. He came to me and said that if the test was not postponed he would take me to the examination center no matter what it took. We walked, hitch hiked, and ran just to get there. I may have been late, but we made it. That one day would have otherwise cost me an extra year of schooling.
I left Kashmir soon after I graduated tenth grade. My education was on top of my grandfather’s priority list. He would visit me three times a year, and would bring loads of fruits from the trees he had planted for me. Kashmiri was the only language he could speak, yet he managed to travel from one end of country to another just to see me and my sister.
My friends fell in love with him, and many of them did not know a single word of Kashmiri. They looked forward to seeing him and all the goodies he would get for us. All my friends would call him “Thoats”. They would often tell him that he was blindly in love with me and my sister. Once, he lost a part of his finger at the train station when he was travelling to Madras to see me, but never mentioned it. It just wasn’t important to him. My sister and I were the queens of his heart, and he would happily give his life for us.
As I got older, my life began to get busy, and simultaneously, age began to show on him. My sister and I got married and moved thousands of miles away from him. I still remember how happy he was on our wedding. The distance and age slowly got to him. I believe it was more about the separation than the age. He had not done anything other than care for us. The saddest part was that when he needed me the most I was never there for him, and I regret it. The guilt and regret will always remain in my heart.
Grandparents are the best things that happen to a child; their unconditional love, forgiving heart, and soft touch to me are like natural fertilizers. Today, my grandfather is not with us and I sit in my shame and guilt. One of the most beautiful chapters of my life has come to an end. I couldn’t do much for him but I pray that may Allah grant him paradise and make me as good of a grandparent as he was for me. Ameen