Nanaji and the Dirty Fellas

A baby has a way of making a man out of his father and a boy out of his grandfather. ~Angie Papadakis

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We have specific names for our relatives, to make it clear how they’re related to each other and from which side of the family they belong. For instance, paternal grandparents are Dada (grandfather) and Dadi (grandmother). So the moment a child refers to someone as Dada or Dadi, everyone knows it’s the son’s child. And if Nana (grandpa) or Nani (grandma) are used, everyone knows it is the daughter’s child.

The same goes for other relations. They are easily recognized as paternal or maternal relatives by the terms used to address them. There is no confusion about any relationship, unlike the common terms uncle and aunt or grandma, grandpa, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, etc. Each of these relatives is referred to by different names that make it clear how they are related to you.

To come back to my father and a few memories of our kids’ interactions with him. When he became a Nana, my kids and my sister’s kids called him Nanaji. The ‘ji’ is suffixed as a sign of respect for elders. As a father, he was a strict disciplinarian and had grown more reserved with the passing years. Everyone was still in awe of this man, who though mellowed with age, yet held a commanding demeanor, and a sarcastic sense of humor. 

My two boys learned to talk rather early, so their interaction with Nanaji began early too. By this time, Daddy had already transitioned to the grandparent level courtesy my elder sister’s son.

Daddy would use all his sarcastic humor on the kids, who just loved it! They were quick to retort and he would have his laugh. They often got into little ‘kiddie’ fights with him, and when we’d hear, “Dirty fella, I’m not talking to you,” we knew we would witness a wonderful, funny incident soon.

The First Grandson: Forgive and forget

One day, Daddy had a falling out with my elder sister’s son Hemant (pet name – Chiku). Chiku was three and a half then.

“Go away, I’m not talking to you, dirty fella!” says Nanaji to the scowling boy. 

Both walk off in a huff to their rooms; the grey-haired one hiding a broad grin and the younger one certainly miffed.

A few minutes later, a chubby face peeked into Nanaji’s room. He was ignored. The second and third attempts to reconcile were also met with a royal ignore! The fourth time, he came with a bunch of grapes as a peace offering. Nanaji refused to accept it, closed his eyes, and appeared to have fallen asleep.

Chiku stood and stared at him for a while. Then he decided it was too much. Enough is enough! He plucked two grapes off the bunch. Kept the bowl on the bedside table. Daddy was observing all this through his eyes that were closed to slits. He did not expect Chiku’s next move and thought the little guy had decided to eat the grapes himself. But his grandson had other plans. Before Nanaji could say, “dirty fella,” he deftly stuffed them into Nanaji’s nostrils and scampered out like a grinning monkey!

Thankfully, the grapes weren’t far in and he could snort them out easily! Then, he was in splits. He laughed so much. I can’t say what the dirty fella had expected, but I’m sure he hadn’t seen this coming. He crept back, confirmed it was a truce, and stepped into the room.

A while later, we saw them sitting together and eating the rest of the grapes.

The Second Grandson: Dirty is not good

Daddy would sit in the back verandah or in the back lawn and write when the weather was cooler in summer or warmer and sunny in winter. On one such day, Nanaji had an encounter with another three-and-a-half-year-old Ranjit (pet name Tintin), the elder son of yours truly.

Nanaji was immersed in his study and writing while Tintin played with his toys. Nanaji had an old, in fact very old, Bible which he loved, and in which he had written many notes on pages specially inserted into the binding. It had a thick, hard leather cover that was faded, well-worn for use, and cracked in places. It was open and lying face down on a table beside him.

Tintin sauntered over and looked at it. Apparently, he didn’t like the look of it. He screwed up his face and asked what book it was. Nanaji answered him without interrupting his work or looking up. A few moments later, he needed to refer to something in the Book, and well, it wasn’t on the table! he looked around and what do you think he saw?

“You dirty fella, what are you doing?” he exclaimed and jumped out of his chair to rescue his precious Bible from a washing.

Tintin had carried off the heavy, thick Bible and dunked it into a tub full of water, that was kept for two small tortoises Nanaji had bought for him. He was just getting into the washing part when it was retrieved.

“What are you doing, you dirty fella? Why did you put it in the water?”

“It was dirty so I was washing it,” replied the “dirty fella” blissfully unaware of the damage he could have caused.

Nanaji found the explanation quite plausible, and though he was worried about the Bible, he couldn’t stop laughing.

Once again, this little escapade didn’t cause major damage. Except for some notes pages getting smudged with ink (he used fountain pens which had to be refilled with ink poured out from a bottle!), so a wet page meant the ink would smudge. And, of course, a loss of Daddy’s personal notes. Apart from this, the Bible was not irretrievably damaged. We just needed to dry it out. This took a long time given the volume of pages! Thankfully, we had a few sunny days!

This was one time when the grandson antics got me a bit worried. I knew how much that antique Bible meant to Daddy. Besides its worthiness in its antiquity, it had been his companion and guide for many years. I thought that this time, the ‘dirty fella’ and his mom would have to bear the brunt of some annoyance if not anger!

I shouldn’t have worried and trusted the Daddy I’ve known since I was a girl. 

Though some note pages and notes had gone, Daddy didn’t worry much about that. He could rewrite them. But after drying out, a few of the pages were a bit crinkled like an unironed shirt and the cover looked more thumped and weary than it did before!

The third Grandson: A Lesson in Etiquette

Nanaji got a lesson in etiquette and right practice from yet another of his dirty fellas when he came on a holiday to Rajasthan. This time, it was Vineet (pet name Viny), not quite three yet. He is my younger son.

The days passed off fast, and Nanaji and the boys had a rollicking time. Then, it was time to leave. Our little one was over-eager to help. He tried to push and tug bags to a waiting taxi. Everyone was mightily impressed by the offer of help, as all the bags were too big and too heavy for him to even budge a centimeter.

Yet, he was lending the proverbial helping hand. He’d place his little hand on a bag being carried or rolled out! He hung around Nanaji, who once again saw through all the show, and was waiting to get his last laugh before leaving.

All the bags were stowed in the trunk. Mum was in the taxi and it was time to say the G’byes. Nanaji got into the taxi, but he didn’t close the door. Instead, he kept making small talk with his “dirty fellas.” We tried to hurry him but he kept stalling. Finally, what he was waiting for happened. Afraid that it would be too late, Viny took the initiative to inform his Nanaji about Rajasthani customs.

“Nanaji,” he said seriously, “jab koi jaata hai na, woh kuch de kar jaata hai.” (Trans: Nanaji, when someone leaves, he gives something and goes.)

Nanaji was thrilled. He got his laughs. He dug into his pockets and handed both the boys some money. It was customary, in those days, for elderly relatives to give the kids some money before they left. Needless to describe the glee with which the cash was handed over to mother dear (me!) as Viny rattled off all that he would buy with it, including a car.

I didn’t spoil his joy by telling him that he would fall a bit short of cash for a car!

Just for the record, he was thinking of buying a real-life size car… LOL

So #grateful for the memories.

“Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave another.”~Richard Garnett




Suffer The Idiots

When I walked down the streets in Viña del Mar and later here, in this uncrowded city of Saint John, the best things were the absence of milling crowds, horrendous traffic, and the incessant honking of cars! Of course, the air was clean, there were sidewalks that were sidewalks and not garbage dumps or taken over by street hawkers. 

Though the traffic is heavy and sometimes unruly in cities like Santiago or Toronto, it’s still a better scenario than the traffic in India! On my last visit to India, after years, I had forgotten how it was. I was clutching the seat, stifling expletives, and praying I reach my destination in one piece as we made our way through.

Earlier, when I was living there, I couldn’t ever take a walk along streets for fear of many things besides being hit or worse by a vehicle; two-wheeler, three-wheeler (cycle rickshaw) or four-wheeler. And if I ever even entertained the thought of going for a morning or evening walk (which I never did), I’d run the risk of motorbike-borne chain snatchers doing me some harm. Over the years away from there, I hoped things had changed only to be disappointed on my visit last year. The traffic had doubled, the population too, and about safety on walks; here’s what I heard from my niece who was a victim of chain snatchers.

She has a pet dog which she takes for a walk when she returns from work. One day, around eight o’ clock, she was out with the dog and two guys on a motorbike came alongside and gave a vicious kick to the dog which went flying some distance. Before my niece could react, she was hit so hard, she too landed on the ground some distance from where she had been. She was stunned and her dog lay immobile and quiet.

Through the haze, she heard a rough, threatening voice asking for her mobile phone, and whatever jewelry she had on. Long story short, she had no serious injury. She moaned the loss of her phone and jewelry. Her dog survived after undergoing some emergency treatment. But it was scary!

So you can imagine how much I appreciate what I found here. I need my walks… I have osteoarthritis among other things and walks are a must for me. #grateful

But since this topic was triggered by another post in my old journal, I am going to share something about one of my regular trips to work in India.



Suffer The Idiots

2011, the Ceat Tyre advertisement warning: “The streets are filled with idiots…” brought home the truth a couple of days back. I had a busy schedule with a new assignment keeping me on the edge. So, I wasn’t sitting so easy in the car as we drove out to work.

Barely fifty yards into the drive and the car screeched to a halt; my heart almost popped out of my mouth! We had barely missed a child of about 3 yrs. who had decided to cross the road on her own. Her parents, a young couple, stood by the road and called out to her but didn’t think it prudent to stop her physically. As if that wasn’t enough, they had a younger one, about a year and a half, running along ahead of them in the middle of the road! If like me, you’re thinking that both of them would have been shaken, you’re in for as big a surprise as I was. They just stood there, apparently unperturbed, and gave us the kind of dirty looks one could kill someone with.

The kind that said, “Don’t you know there are unattended kids on the road?”

“There are idiots on the road,” I muttered, “and they have to be out so early and in my way!”

When my heart made its way slowly, back to where it belonged, I settled in, praised the driver for his quick reflexes and cautioned him to keep alert.

Things went smoothly, we were on a stretch that does not have much traffic so early in the morning and I was thankful for that; it was premature. I lurched forward as the brakes hit the floorboard once again. Thankfully, I had on my back support and neck support.

Another “idiot” had conveniently stopped his car in the middle of a turn around a traffic island. He was talking on his mobile phone. He was so engrossed in his conversation that he remained blissfully unaware of his foolish action and its potentially disastrous consequences. He did not hear the screech of the brakes and neither did he notice the strike down dead looks we gave him as we drove off.

“Please God, no more,” I pleaded as my heart took its time settling into a more comfortable rhythm. 

It shook me up nice and proper and I decided it would be better to close my eyes for a while and shut out the idiotic chaos. Before that, I gave the driver, who was new, directions about the route he would take to my workplace. We would be getting into the rush hour traffic and I had some time for a bit of shuteye. 

It was taking too long to reach my destination. Was the congestion heavier or was there a traffic jam? I opened my eyes and looked out. There was no traffic jam; in fact, there was no familiar landmark either! Where were we? A wrong left turn and many other wrong right and left turns had brought us to unfamiliar territory. The driver sheepishly admitted we were lost and he had forgotten to get his mobile phone.

“As if the idiots on the roads were not enough. I had to get one in the car too!” I muttered.

“Kya baat hai ma’am?” he asked. (What is it ma’am or what’s the matter?)

“Kuch nahin,” was my deceptively sweet reply. (Nothing (at all))

As he asked passers-by, autorickshaw drivers, cycle-rickshaw drivers and whoever was kind enough to stop and give us directions (none of the few cars, that passed, stopped), I searched for my own phone in every pocket in my handbag. It wasn’t there. 

Well, well, there was another idiot in the car who had forgotten to carry her phone!

Ah! Suffer the #idiots!