Tomorrow in Islamabad, there is a memorial for Dada, the poet. What started out as a dua quickly spiralled into a proper proper event because of the number of people who wanted to be a part of it. “He is a public figure” Binny said. “You have to respect that.” Agreed.
Charged with the task of writing something more personal on behalf of the grankies, I finally sat down to pen the swirl of thoughts that have been in my head since he passed away almost 2 weeks ago.
Do I write in first person or we? How does one write for 12 people, encompassing all that he was to us individually? Where does one find the balance in that fine tug of war that everyuone has when they share grandparents? We have all been favourites, have had our own special anectdotes and irks and connects. How to do justice to the love and legacy?
Surprisingly it was easier than I imagined. But also far less. On a public podium time is less so one must be succinct. All emotions should be displayed efficiently, so even though I feel I did some kind of justice, I am still brimming with memories and words. So I opened this window, which has been lying unattended now for almost 8 months, my last entry being my big reveal from back in April. That reveal is now almost 7 months old and as yet unblogged about. But back to Dada, I had a lot more to say, all about me and him.
Early photographs tell me that the I was quite the lovely by virtue of being the first girl in the family, and that too from his son. Yes Dada could be quite archaic about things like that. I had HIS name. I was his son’s daughter and of course I was the first girl. Together Baagi B and I enjoyed quite the undivided love till Binny Najla cale along a couple of years later.
Though my real relationship with dada began circa 1991, there are many pleasant vague associations of times he came to stay with is in Abu Dhabi. I don’t remember too much clearly except that he always got the master bedroom and for the time he and Daddo were there, it felt festive. Once we moved back is when I think he really came to life for me.
In our family solar system (thank you for this analogy Baagi B) Dada was the sun really and all planets revolve around it. we all knew that that was how it worked. Dada was all important and everything relating to him in that house at 35/s was priority. The silence in the afternoon when he was napping. The quietness around the study area when he was writing. The shaam ki chai. The programs on TV. The AC in his room that was always a sign of decadent luxury. All these details built him up as this important somewhat inaccessible man who was also our grandfather who also wrote Jeevay Pakistan. A mixed up series of feelings for a 15 year old.
And then the conversations started. He was excited by my A level Literature choice. What books are you doing? Which poets are you reading? And the all important question for 1993, what will you do with all this? For someone who was a penniless poet in love with a woman 6 years older than him, he really wanted some very clear answers from me then. I told him that and he had had a good laugh and told Daddo that I was “badtameez” (rude) just like her.
Two years later at the brink of joining Art School, he wanted to know why I left Literature. “I am not leaving it Dada- just changing its form. Its all connected,” I would insist. And he would just argue some more. I don’t think I will ever forget my family walking in and taking over the front row at my Convocation 4 years later, with Dada and Daddo sitting right up from with shiny eyes. I felt like a star. He told me he has never been prouder of anyone- that my Convocation was the best one he had ever seen. I am sure he said the same to everyone but that moment was mine.
A year into my careered life found me at his place, asking him for a loan to buy my first car. “I promise I will pay it back at Rs.10k a month” I said. “how much do you make?” he asked. “13K” I said proudly. “What car?” “A volkswagen” His eyes shone and he said, “Its a wonderful car- I had one too” Without another moments hesitation, he handed me the keys to his precious seedhay haath walee daraz and said take the cash. I paid him back at the promised rate, which he accepted without any expression till the day of my last payment, when he called and proudly told my mom. “This girl will go very far.” She never told me that till today, when I called her to ask what I should write in my tribute to her.
He always wanted to know about my projects, about my work. What I was reading and why I didn’t want to get married. I do, I would say, but only to the right person. He got that bit, having been the romantic soul himself. I loved his and daddos story, especially the bit that he fell in love with her handwriting first. The typographer in me always cheered a bit at that.
The night I brought k to meet the family, Dada was most amused. “This is not how we do things” he said in his pseduo scolding style, after which he proceeded to talk to k, asking him some questions about love and life. “Good man” he said, later, that being the only indication that all was indeed to his liking. I suspect he knew that even if it wasn’t I had inherited his spirit to do exactly what I wanted.
Dada was so used to having everyone do as he asked that when someone didn’t or argued a case or called him out on something, he was genuinely delighted. He would thrill in the argument, wanting to be proved otherwise just for the sake of it. You should be proud I am your grandfather, he would tell me and I would say I am, just as proud as you are to have me for a grand daughter.
I am missing you so much today. To be continued.