When I was born, both my grandpas had been dead.
I have no idea how my dad’s dad looked, because he died long ago sometime in the nineteenth century, long after photography was invented (1827, Mr Google tells me), but long before “Daguerretype” came to India’s hoi polloi.
But I can see my mother’s dad if I close my eyes. Let me tell you why.
My mother had a framed five-by-seven black-and-white photo of her father. It showed an elderly man in his mid-sixties smiling pleasantly at you. So the picture would have been taken when granddad was my age.
And mother always placed the frame at a vantage point where she could see her old man as she got up from sleep. So, around sixty years ago, I learned how my grandpa had looked and thereafter, I saw Late Tara Bhushan Pal, a reasonably successful small-town lawyer and an amateur carpenter, almost every day for nearly fifty years until my ma passed away, and the framed picture lost its pride of place in our home.
That is how people are forgotten. That is how our world ends, slowly, almost imperceptibly. I don’t think the name Tara Bhushan crosses my mind even once in a year now. But I believe he was one of the better specimens of humans in his time. His wife died young, at the age of 37, but Tara Bhushan didn't marry again, which was quite unusual in his time and place. I am inclined to believe it showed devotion to a dead wife, but the view might be debated. What is beyond debate is the fact that he brought up his seven children single-handed on top of his legal practice. And from the stories I heard from ma, he was exceedingly affectionate towards his offspring.
Whenever I got angry, whenever I was rude, my mom reflected – obviously with a tinge of deep sadness – that her son hadn’t inherited the even temper of her father.
Tara Bhushan died with the reputation of never ever having lost his cool. And I am inclined to believe that the reputation was not unfounded when I think of Arindam and Monica, my cousins who too carry 25% of Tara Bhushan’s genes…. Both are pretty much unflappable.
This morning, as I got up and stood before the bathroom mirror with a toothbrush in hand, I was shocked.
Grandpa Tara Bhushan was looking at me benignly from behind the mirror.
Genes! ... What tricks they play!
Kolkata / 20 May 2017