Truly Grand in every sense of the word, my grandfather means the world to me. Growing up with grandparents is such a blessing. I was three years old when Arvind, my younger brother was born in Bangalore. After spending three years in Pondicherry (about 200 miles from Bangalore) on the East Coast, I got to move to Bangalore, where my mother’s parents lived. My father’s parents passed away before I was born, and I never got to see them, but I was extremely lucky to be able to grow up with my mother’s parents.
Grandparents, somehow, always know the right thing to do and say. They have more experience than our parents no doubt, and that teaches them a few tricks ☺ Their patience and love, and their gentle way of teaching us as children has left an indelible impression on both of us, and we will always appreciate them for this.
I remember asking my grandfather (Tatha) to narrate a new story every night – and he would tell me the most wondrous stories of King Vikramadiya, of Wise Sages, of Tenali Rama, and many many more from the Upanishads and the Puranas. Each night, Arvind and I would look forward to story time with Tatha. And Tatha would relate them with such interest and attention to detail, that he would make the story come alive in our mind’s eye. Each story had a moral to it – and through these wondrous and light hearted stories, Tatha was able to instill a sense of morality and uprightness in both of us. When we were with Tatha, there was always time for fun – and he would spoil us with toys and chocolates – at one point I had very few teeth left – mostly chocolate stained ones 🙂
Tatha was also the one who evoked the traveler in us – every summer, he would take my grandma, Arvind and me on a journey to temples, national parks and monuments. He was learned in such a wide range of knowledge on so many different topics, and he had such a unique way of interpreting stories and the myriad symbols in the temples. He would explain why different towns or cities were named that way, and would get us thinking rationally and encouraged us to cultivate a scientific temper.
For Tatha, the world was a beautiful play of Divine consciousness – in the plants, in the animals and birds, and in people, Tatha saw that Divine spark. A deeply spiritual man, he was not one for following rituals and superstitions. He always told us about the Oneness of Divinity – and that it was one Divinity that manifested in so many thousand forms. He encouraged us to question prevalent customs and rituals, and never believed in the rigid separation that the caste system had caused in society. Explaining that the ancients used the “Varna” system to help continue trades and professions, because it was easier in those days to learn from your father, he believed that all individuals were created equal and that everyone had a right to education. His belief was mirrored in the way he approached Vedic education coupled with modern science at the schools that he helped start.
Tatha’s role was crucial in starting two big organizations dedicated to spirituality, science, and service.Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth, an educational non-profit institution and VISTA-India, an institution dedicated to women empowerment. Right from a young age, he inspired us to share, and share alike. When he would bring us a chocolate, he would encourage us to share it with the other children in the neighborhood. Whenever someone would come home, he would ask us to come and meet with and spend time with them. He helped us cultivate our social skills and got us to feel comfortable and friendly with people of all ages. He would take us to meet with the children of Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth and the young women learning tailoring and computer skills at VISTA-India and encouraged us to continue on the path of service to society.
Today, both Arvind and I feel extremely grateful to Tatha for all his love, guidance, and support, in becoming who we are. He once told me, that when most men pass, they go horizontally, after spending many years of relative quiet. He said that he did not want to go that way, he preferred to serve and pass away vertical, in action. This statement of his remains true. He returned from the VISTA-India Project site two weeks ago, and was ready to return on May 16th. However, his health condition did not allow him to do so, and he passed away on June 7, 2011.
He always taught us to pray – not just for ourselves, but for the welfare of all life in creation. On this day, I pray for the welfare of all life, and seek blessings for this noble soul. Even after his passing, he will always live on in my heart and in the way I look at the world. He is truly my GRAND Father, and he has made my life so Grand.