“Wake up Shivaansh! Wake up!” Mr. Jelaji, my Ridgewood dorm parent, said early in the morning of March 29 last year. I asked him why he was waking me up at 8 o’clock in the morning. He said that there was an emergency at home and that I was to go get my phone from the gadget cupboard and call my father as soon as possible.
“Okay, sure!” I said, taking out my phone from under the pillow as I was hiding it. Being Dorm Council had its advantages after all. Switching on my phone, I reminded myself that my life could not possibly get any worse—I was already having conflicts with many of my close ones at the time—so I needn’t worry.
I checked my phone and I saw that my notifications were bombarded with my father’s missed calls and texts messages that said, “Call me ASAP Shiva.”
I freaked out. My dad had never acted like that before. The missed calls started coming at 2 o’clock in the night and rang until about seven in the morning. I knew something was terribly wrong so I called my dad right away.
The next thing that happened was one of the most desolate moments of my life.
My dad was crying on the phone. I asked him, “What happened?” He kept crying, almost inaudibly … “Papa! What happened?” I kept asking. My heart was getting heavy, my eyes were starting to tear up, and I was completely clueless about what was going on. He tried talking but he just wasn’t able to. I told him to first stop crying, take deep breaths, and then try talking. He took about a minute to stop crying and then said, “Baba [grandfather] is no more.”
“Oh,” I said. I did not know how to react. I did not ask him how he was doing. Instead, I told him to take care and that I would call him later in the day. I could not keep my emotions in for much longer. I wept and wept and wept.
I called my mother after some time and she explained to me that Baba passed away in his sleep at about 1:30 in the morning. Apparently, that is one of the best ways to die. So at least he passed away peacefully and not while he was suffering.
But the shocking bit is that my father and Baba had been talking till about midnight before Baba went to sleep. An hour later, my aunt and uncle came back from a friend’s place and went to check on the 89-year-old. Baba had not taken his medicine before falling asleep, so they tried waking him up but all their efforts were in vain. Realizing that he was dead, they woke my dad up right away. My father was devastated. No one slept that night. My mother, who was at her mother’s place at the time, took a flight just hours later to reach home. When she returned, she was with my father the entire time, desperately trying to console him.
Later that day was Jazz Jam. I hid my emotions. I tried acting like nothing had happened and everything was perfectly fine. But there was a lot going on in my brain.
My grandfather meant a great deal to me. He was the most humble man I have ever met to this day. He always had stories about the British Raj and little Shivaansh being a hero in random, made-up stories of his. There used to be a time when I was closer to him than my parents. I knew that if it ever seemed like I had no one in my life, he would be there for me. Baba was always there for me when I needed any help. He was truly inspirational.
Sometimes, I wonder how my uncle and father feel. I don’t have the courage to bring Baba up in front of them; what if they are still not over the fact that their father is no more? The last time I was home with him in the winter break and for some reason, I took him for granted.
I did not talk to him much. I didn’t even wish him goodbye before I left for Woodstock. That is something I will always regret. I was so far away from him when he passed away.
Although I know whatever happened was inevitable, I wish I could talk to him for one last time—I wish I could listen to his stories one last time.
It’s been a year and I still miss him so much. And whenever I feel a little lonely, I tell myself that he is still watching over me and that everything will be alright.
Edited by Aarti Malhotra.