Tell me that story again Chintu, she said looking at me with her pretty pretty eyes. How could I say no to that! Sure, I smiled. And so the tale began.
My name is Chintu. Chakarapani , but I don’t like that name. Everybody calls me Chintu. Even my teachers. I’m 10 years old. My daddy’s name is Shekar. My amma, her name is Shoba. Amma hates it when I call her mommy. J I do that sometimes just to irritate her. She smiles it off and pretends to be angry. We live in London. This is my first visit here to Chennai, tatha(grand pa) I concluded.
Oh, that’s wonderful Chintu.
Tatha, its February you know. What did you get Paati(grand ma) for valentines ?, I innocently asked.
Valentines, hmmm, he paused. Back in those days, it was not a big thing here like its these days. She was the love of my life. I fell in love with her at an age where I did not understand what it meant to be in love. I collected enough coins to buy her chocolates. She loved it. I think I was a few years older than what you are today, when I first gave her those chocolates.
Every year from then on, I’d make it a point to give her chocolates. It was the only time of the year when I’d get her chocolates. I later found out that she dint really like chocolates. She was a strange one. Chocolates dint interest her. Nothing that I bought for her interested her.
When we turned 18, that year I proposed to her. Only this time, I dint give her chocolates. I still remember. I gave her this small figurine of Radha krishn. I told her that she was my radha, and forever I’d remain her Krishn. She smiled. It was the most beautiful smile that one could ever see. It was so graceful and warm that it could melt your heart away. I was mesmerized by it. I stood dazed. I was surprised at my courage of coping with the truth of the moment. Those days, everything was hush hush. It was a mountain of a challenge to even tell people how we felt about them.
I half expected her to scream. Half my heart wished she’d say yes. I was also prepared to get slapped by her. It was ok. She was totally worth getting slapped. I looked her in her eyes and asked her hand for marriage. I don’t know how long I had to wait to hear her response. It felt like a lifetime.
That’s right. She was my radha. I was her krishn.
He paused. I saw his eyes tear up a little. I was too young to realize the magnitude of emotions that were at play back then.
I miss her chintu. Sharada. I miss her, he concluded.
Aiyyo, Tatha, I interrupted. Paati’s name is vasantha. Not Sharadha. I laughed at him, teased him a little. You are telling me lies. I laughed and ran away.
That evening I asked my daddy about tatha’s valentine gifts. Daddy told me that Tatha was sick. He had trouble remembering. He could not recollect his past.
So Tatha lied? I questioned. I was young. My questions were simple and direct back then. I was yet to meet life and understand the complications of such simplicity.
Its not lies kanna, my dad comforted me. Tatha does not know the difference. Someday when you grow old, you’ll understand.
Ok pa, I smiled.
The next day, Tatha fell very ill. They had to rush him to the hospital. They put him in this special room. I SEE You or something. Made sense. It was a glass room of sorts. Everybody could see the bed surrounded by curtains. No wonder they called it the I see you. I was still angry with my tatha for telling me lies. Amma had always told me that it was wrong to lie. She would be angry with tatha too. Lying is bad. Even if its tatha. Especially if its tatha. Old people should not lie, I reasoned out.
Hi little one came a voice. It was some old uncle. He was as old as my tatha. I looked up to see his face. He was bald. Whatever little hair he had, they were white.
Hi , I replied.
And you are? He asked me.
I’m chintu. I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. Amma will be angry if she finds me talking to you.
That’s ok. I’m Gupta uncle. I’m a friend of Guna, your grandfather. We have always been friends. I guess, we became friends when we were as old as what you are today. I’ve known him all my life.
Oh, really? I asked.
So did tatha always lie? He lied to me you know.
Hmm.. He told you lies did he? Let him come out. I shall scold him.
Oooookay, I smiled. Uncle, I asked him about valentines day and he said he got my grand ma chocolates. He even called her Sharada. My paati’s name is Vasanta. That’s how I know he lied.Its not good to lie. Lying is bad. God will punish if we lie.
Ah, He said Sharada did he now, Gupta smiled.
Chintu, your grandfather is a lot of things. But he is not a liar. Sharada is , rather was supposed to be your grandmother. A week before their marriage, she … god called her. Guna has never been the same ever since. I’m surprised. With his Alzheimer’s, I’m very surprised that he still remembers her.
What is Al Jai ,,, I struggled.
Alzheimer’s? It’s like a fever. When we have it, we can’t remember much. You are too young to understand what I just told you kiddo, but trust me, your grandfather is not a liar. You should be proud of him.
I felt immediately guilty. I grew restless. I wanted to apologize for calling him a liar. Amma always did tell that when we make mistakes, we should ask sorry. With tatha in the I see you, they wouldn’t let me go see him. I was miserable and deeply upset when I saw my dad walk towards me. He looked sad. He looked like he was crying. He carried me and said, Your tatha … God called him kanna.
That was decades ago. I still remember the incident like it all happened yesterday. I dint understand much of it back then. I do today. That’s exactly why I knew you were the one when you told me that your name was Sharada. My family, Sharada is something that we cherish a lot sweetheart.