“London Paris Berlin Rome Moscow New-York Washington Geneva Vienna”
This is the earliest lesson I remember I learnt in my childhood.
Tall, big glasses, clean shaved, benign face with wrinkled eyes n mildly sunken cheek. That’s how I remember my grandfather. And he daily used to make me learn these names.
The then new arrival to this planet, merely orbiting the sun 4th time, I hardly knew what these weird names meant. With immensely confused tongue, somehow I managed to give these sounds an outer garb of speech.
Stories of my grandpa used to be a great source of fun n childish glee. With incentive of an extra story, I was made to gulp down the milk from my glass till its last drop. And Oh.. stories were they.. so innocent and beautiful with no twists n complications, just plain simple stories, used to impress a profound impact upon my young heart. In the backyard of our home amid sunny winter afternoons, countless hours I spent on his laps, playing arbitrary games n engaging with him in some fairy-tale conversation.
Poison of time spares none. Acting slowly n continuously, it took away that ‘me’ , who could laugh whole-heartedly just after long obstinate crying spell. I lost my childhood n soon was 12. Stories no longer entertained me.
Grandpa then started teaching me basic science n told me many real life stories of various famous scientists. From him for the first time I learnt the famous equation E=mc^2 . Sometimes quoting Aristotle, he would explain various things for which I was still too young. Not able to digest those terse philosophy, I used to run away from him.
Gradually the innocent school books started taking horrible forms. Syllabus increased exponentially every year. I no longer was able to spend time with my grandpa. Learning, that used to be so much fun on his lap few years back, became a burden soon. Though I always wanted to be with him, but the pressure of school, coaching n self study made it almost impossible. Now I think, what’s the use of such education system that somehow disconnects you from your loved ones.
It was 2006. I showed my high school score card to him. For the first time I saw his eyes beaming with proud n happiness with such an intensity.
In the forthcoming days I became busier. I was absorbed in preparation for intermediate exam. In front of my room, there is a narrow veranda. Sometimes I used to see him through the window, strolling or sitting there, thinking something or murmuring something to himself.
Sometimes staggering through the corridor, he used to knock at my door just to hear my voice. He would ask ” Have you dined yet” ? although he knew that I dined long ago. Sometimes I used to observe him very closely. He had become older with more wrinkles on his face. The tall figure was no longer straight n firm. He had become more absent minded.
Days passed by. It was 2008. I handed him my 12th mark-sheet. He hugged me and patted my back. He always used to say in fun- ” Before science n maths exam, instead of praying to God, pray to Einstein”
It was the end of October 2008.Wrapping him around my arms I was sitting in a van, along with my father n grandma. I could clearly see fear on his face. Never I saw him this much nervous. He was terrified. The van was parked outside our home ready to leave for hospital. Just as the van started, he told me that he is afraid he might fall off from the van. I tightened my grip around him n assured him that he would be fine. Suddenly a strong feeling seized me that that might be my last chance of holding him alive close to me. For the first time in my life I saw tears wetting his when the van drove away from home.
The last time I saw him alive, he was lying in the hospital bed, pale and cold. When I entered the room he even was not able to recognize me for a moment. But a minute later I saw that familiar smile and affection that he always had for me. He barely managed to speak. He was a big admirer of Einstein. I asked him to quote that famous equation. To my surprise, the man who was a minute ago not able to recognize me, quoted accurately Einstein’s equation. We all were happy n somewhat relieved seeing this. But looking at his condition, we all knew very well, he would not make it. I just wanted to hear something positive from him before leaving the hospital room that day. I was very happy after his reply.
He was 89 by 15th of November 2008. And ever remained so.
Though I still play on his lap sometimes in my nocturnal voyages, where I find myself again as a little kid, listening to his rapturous stories…