'Thatha', in Tamil, means 'Grandfather'.... Though for me, this word has been the substitute for many other synonyms like - parent, teacher, guardian, pillar, strength and what not...
My dear thatha, I need to thank you -
1) For always being there for me no matter what the situation or circumstance
2) For showering me with your unconditional love & blessings 24/7/365 days
3) For taking care of me more as a daughter than a grand-kid
4) For showing utmost concern irrespective of whether you were 50 or 75 yrs old
5) For ensuring I got the best of all worlds my entire life with you
Why you mean so much to me is because -
1) You kept vigil patiently outside the hospital room and slept on the cold floors while your hours-old first grand-kid struggled to breathe in the incubator for being born prematurely
2) For your family, you were always strict, strong & rigid while you turned soft, mellow & caring for me
3) You would always send me gifts while I grew up in a far away land in my early years
4) You would always speak to me on an international phone call every Friday to check on how your little princess is doing
5) You would always call me your "Koyandai" - little baby in Tamil (which hit me hard after you left as I have no one who calls me that now in the same way as you did)
6) You never reprimanded or shouted at me but always chose to pick / correct my brother. It just proved how much you loved me.
7) Every year during vacations you would come to the airport to pick us up & see us off without fail. Not once do I remember you saying - I am old now. I cant come to see you off at the airport.
7) You open-heartedly welcomed your grand-kid to come stay with you to ensure she can complete her higher studies in Mumbai
8) In the absence of my parents, you accompanied me to my numerous admission processes there-after without any excuse
9) You cooked for me & made dishes the way mom would make (not once did you allow me to enter the kitchen for fear of me getting hurt)
10) When I was seriously ill during my final year practicals, you climbed 5 floors to my college & waited for me to complete the exams to take me back home
11) You treated my college-mates & friends specially & made them feel at home always
12) You left an everlasting mark on all my college staff - right from the principal to my professors (they still remember you)
13) You always accompanied me to all my dance competitions or programmes & equally rejoiced with me when I won the prize
14) You collected & treasured snaps of my childhood
15) You adjusted when I was having trouble with the generation gap in my initial years in Mumbai as an adult
16) You wanted me to take the job in Mumbai than the one in Pune just so that I dont go far away from you
17) You never complained that I never called you during my 7-month tenure in UK
18) You always had a soft corner for 2 people in your family - one was your son and the other was ME !
I never got to know my maternal grandmom the way I got to know & live with my maternal grandpa but I now realise that God wanted me to experience the love of both grandparents in one human being - in 'YOU'.
The 'Nirapara' ritual (filling up of a brass vessel with rice or sugar till it overflows to God; praying to Lord Ayyappa to always bless us with enough food & having no days of hunger) which you started for my good health 26 yrs back still continues.... thanks to you...
And today, being your 3rd death anniversary reminds me of the last moments you spent on the hospital bed besides those 2 people who have remained your favorites since their births - your son & me ! When I come to think of it, I feel blessed that I got to see you at the end. I needed that to feel your presence thereon every time.
I can never thank you enough for the role you have played in my life. I really miss you Thatha ! May your soul rest in peace !