Dada

I went down to sit with Dada last weekend. He was sitting with Yashas. Unusually, he only nodded when he recognized me through eyes brought down by diabetes. I sat opposite him. He was silent. After a while, he went inside, walking weakly and slowly, brought a small cloth suitcase, and sitting down, opened it on his lap. It was full of envelopes, many empty, some with hundred and five hundred rupee notes and some with used cheque books, a fixed deposit certificate, other bank papers. Yashas got up to go, having to study for a class test, but Dada asked him to sit down.

I ran up and brought a plastic multi-chamber folder and asked Dada to use it for all the stuff about him. He was delighted, and expressed happiness like he always does with the simplest of gifts. Suddenly, with fondness in his voice he said, today is my birthday, Shashi, my official birthday (september) is fake because my parents only gave it for registry for school admission.

I remember from my childhood, Dada never cared much for birthdays and always brusquely brushed away any greeting. I hesitated and then said happy birthday. Yashas joined me. Dada’s face wrinkled shyly and happily. He gave me an envelope, thick with rupees: he had had Yashas prepare it when I had been upstairs minutes before. Go to the prayer room, kneel and accept this envelope, he told me. I have not been able to refuse him in a lifetime, and again now, standing before him, robust Dada now half-blind and smiling and weak, I couldn’t refuse. I opened the envelope a little later and saw 5000 rupees - a big slice off his government pension. A message on the envelope, written by Yashas and dictated by Dada, said, given on the occasion of my birthday.

He didn’t stop. For each person, Yashas, Amma, Shaivalini, Prasad Mava, Sujaya, he asked Yashas to put cash in the envelopes and write a message. Afterwards, we called Bharat and Shalini and asked them to come greet Dada. He gave them cheques. Each one of us fell at Dada’s feet as we received the envelope. He blessed us; he had never allowed anyone to fall at his feet in his prime, loudly asking people to not do it, recoiling if someone tried it, even at marriages. In her turn, receiving her envelope at Dada’s feet, and his blessings, amma almost came to tears.

Then, he fell back into silence.