Siddhartha Gunti


My grandfather, my mom’s father, passed away few days ago at the age of 80. This post is me musing about him.

Let me make it clear though.

He wasn’t the best grandfather. He took me in his arms apparently once. Our conversations always ended in a minute.

Sometimes, my mother wishes he were a better father. Sometimes, she muses how it would have been if her father showed her the love she thinks she deserved.

In contrast, my paternal grandfather was the text-book cheerleader. His every word, action and time with me were filled with as much love he could piece together. He passed away in my teens. I miss him.

This is me musing about a different kind of grandfather.

How far will you go to have a son?

My grandparents wanted a son. They gave birth to a daughter.
They went after it again. They gave birth to another daughter. And again. And again. After 6 daughters, they had a son.

They thought that they hit the “gold mine” finally and went again. It was a daughter again. That’s when they stopped.

In many of his decisions, later in life, the love for son was so clear that you can’t look past it even if you wish to.

That was always a lens I looked at him with.

How do you love 8 children?

With 8 kids by early thirties and one small textiles business, I always wondered what he might have felt.

He had 8 hungry mouths to feed. Hungry for food and love. How can 1 lower middle class person get these ships to their destinations? Which includes 7 daughters to be married off with dowries.

He was cut-throat frugal in finances. My mom’s childhood stories always follow the same theme- how they had to fight for 1/7th share of a boiled egg.

But I understand him. The number for his daughters was 1/7th. But I am sure for him it was 7 times the responsibility. There is no way he could have given his daughters the life they have, without being that frugal.

But, he was also frugal in love. There were almost no stories from my mom about how much her father loved her. I guess being strict takes away the liberty of showcasing love. Atleast when the multiple is 7.

His frugal love would lead to decisions that I thought were bonkers. One of the daughters stole money from his cabinet when she was a 12 year old. His solution? Got her married before she stole another time. No other daughter stole from him after that. Atleast they weren’t caught.

The problem with being frugal in love though- when you do that repeatedly, it becomes a part of you. So his love towards his grandkids was even lesser than what his kids got.

Things you learn.

For a grandfather with whom I rarely spoke, he taught quite a few things.

I learnt that there should be some quirky habits that bring out the inner child in you.

He loved Cricket. There was that sparkle in his eyes every time a match was going on. For someone who was 80, he enjoyed the matches like a 18 year old.

He loved playing the cards game, Rammi. My last memories of him were when I played against him and how childlike playful he was in that game. His kids would inherit his habit and continue to bond over the game.

He loved food. Not the food you order online. The food he made by his own hands. Even in his 70s, he would venture into kitchen to cook himself delicious meals. I didn’t taste them enough but my mom got a good amount of the art from him. And for that, I am grateful.

I learnt that when you love your wife and when she loves you back, you could take on even a herculean task like raising 8 kids. He had less love, by choice or fate, for his friends, kids and grandkids. But I knew he loved his wife so much that other things didn’t matter. When my grandmother passed away a decade ago, she took a piece of him along with her. The piece that was left… that was an altogether different kind of grandfather.

In his final years, he had a tough time. Tough time staying in his daughters’ homes. Tough time staying even in his son’s home. So when his son moved to another country for work, he moved to an old-age home.

I learnt that old age is tough.

My grandfather never had time to make friends in his younger years. So naturally he never developed that habit. Which showed an effect in his old age and he ended up spending more and more time by himself.

His daughters would end up visiting him to keep him company. He called my mom more times in his last years than what he did rest of his life combined.

One day, the daughters found a journal he kept. He scribbled that he would want his daughters to take him with them. Reading those words from a person who didn’t know how to show love to his daughters… those words broke my mom.

A life well lived.

I think we tend to over weigh the last years of life. But when I look at him as a whole,

He lived a life full of good health, took care of a huge-ass family, ran a business enough to leave his son secure and figured out a couple of hobbies that he was excited about. And that is a life hard to match up to.

Importantly, he loved his wife enough to not care about the world.

Rest in peace thathayya. I hope you are whole again.

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