Hand Shake

It was a Tuesday morning that rocked me from the bed. My sister called me on WhatsApp and said her father-in-law was no more. The first word that came out of my mouth was “Aiyo”. In southern India, this word is used for expressing distress, regret, or grief; ‘Oh no!’, ‘Oh dear!’.”

Some say that in Hindu mythology, Aiyo is the name of the wife of Yama, the god of death. Hence, in many traditional South Indian households, it is still considered inauspicious to use the term injudiciously, especially at twilight (the time after the sun has set and before it gets completely dark)

These are moments when I thought about his life and what he meant to me and my family. I was mentioning this to my mother yesterday how his family was our first family when my sister got married. Her in laws travelled with my mother to lots of places and they accompanied her and helped us settle in our first home after marriage. I personally enjoyed meeting and speaking to them and those are memories that I remembered immediately in that first hour after the call.

It used to be that way. But in my last visit I couldn’t meet him. We had just come out of covid and we were there for a marriage for a couple of days. I thought about it a couple of times but decided to give it a miss as it was too short a visit. I regretted when I heard the news that I didn’t get a chance to meet him in Jan’22. Last year I had visited him and I noticed that he was very silent. He was not speaking much and I was comparing it to the times when we used to have lots of laughter and we discussed a host of things from politics to sports to travel. He served in the Indian Air Force and I saw the video of the guard of honour on the funeral day. My mother said that it was a send off he rightly deserved.

After losing his wife 9 years back and his father in law who passed away last year, I am sure he would have become quieter inside and thanks to the pandemic of two years, a lot of relatives would have stopped visiting compared to earlier times. For the past 8 years he had a caretaker and several times I used to wonder how a person from another part of the country could learn and converse in our language. That person made a big difference to the entire family as he took care of him very well.

Being from the defence forces he loved to play sports in his prime and I guess his favourite was badminton. He travelled all over the country and had a couple of overseas trips, saw and enjoyed life with his grandchildren. I met one of his childhood friends who retired as a scientist and is pursuing his passion for literature. He remembered him as “a man full of smiles” and quoted these lines which he had seen many decades ago on a poster

A passing festival of smiles

No moment is our own

Remember momentary crane

That you must fly alone…

Everyone has his or her quota of setbacks in life and he was also dealt a tough hand in the latter part of his life. His vision started deteriorating and slowly it turned dark. That did not crush his spirit as he bounced back and thanks to the caretaker for 8 years who took charge and gave him that support to navigate through life.

He will be remembered all throughout my life as one who told me great stories and I will not forget his voice. So we lost the last member of our first family and I will miss going to his house and meeting him. We only go to a place to meet a person and suddenly like a ton of bricks it hit me that we may not go to that house again. I am dedicating this message to him for being such a loving father in law to my sister and great family man to us from the first family. Unlike everyone , he used to shake hands by clasping the other person’s hand in both his hands. It was a gesture that conveyed warmth, friendship, honesty and trust.

I will definitely miss that handshake.

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