Grandpa had never asked me to dine with him privately. He was trying to be very Western nowadays. He’d started ever since grandma died. At least that’s what I heard. When I was born, he insisted that I called him grandpa. My family consisted of appa, amma and grandpa. He always spoke to me in English. For a farmer who lived in a village, that was an achievement. In fact, it might have been a sign of early senility. Grandpa was 85 now. I always thought of him as a virus. Viruses are organisms that are neither modern nor ancestral. I could never quite decide if grandpa was youthful or was indeed very old. A private dinner. It sounded so odd, so western and I could only conclude that Grandpa too was bored with all the tamil sitcoms and had begun to watch then English channels.When I reached home that day, I wondered where we were going to privately dine. There was only one dining room. Grandpa had set the table in his room. Mom had cooked and had laid everything there.
“First things first boy, you will call me thaatha from now on”
“ What did you say grandpa.”
“Haven’t you been taught to obey your elders boy ?”
“You young fellows, you go with other girls on something. What is that”
“Ah, yes. I think I’m going to have a date with your grandmother. Hell or heaven, it doesn’t matter. While she was here, she fed me really well. She was very much a part of the sins I committed. If I’m going to hell, then she’s already there. I want to prepare for it, so she’d accept me. I still look handsome don’t you think. My wrinkles, are they too much”
“ Thaatha. Grandma must be wrinkled too. I don’t think it would worry her”
“ You’re forgetting boy. She was never beautiful. While I was married to her, the only thing I looked forward to when I came home was her food. She made this dish – masial. Your mother can’t cook it. My experiments in the kitchen have failed abysmally. She also had a very nice smile. A timid scary smile. My moustache always scared her. She wore a red bindi all over her forehead. Like I was going to die and she wanted to reassure herself that she still had a husband or something. She was never beautiful on the outside, but every other quality made up for it. I was never beautiful on the inside, but I was a handsome dude”
“Dude, thaatha ?”
“Yes dude. And you’re supposed to say that I’m just as good on the inside as I am on the outside. So tell me. My twinkling eyes, my dashing smile, my stubble, my tan. I make quite a handsome old man ?”
“I’m certain thaatha.”
That night I told him everything I knew about impressing women. He listened patiently, and interjected when he didn’t understand. It was the strangest conversation I ever had. It happens to be the best conversation I ever had. He showed me a painting he’d made of grandma, smiling. She did have a pretty smile. Even if it was Madhubala in the painting.
For three days in a row he went to bed clad in a suit. Every morning he’d get up and tell me that he was stood up again, and would go into the kitchen to see if he could get the masial right. He’d scream at mom.
“It is yellow, and it tastes strange, but nice. With all your experience in the kitchen, this must be easy for you to understand”
On the fourth day, he came running out of the kitchen “ginger, ginger”. His heart couldn’t take the excitement and he was admitted to the hospital immediately. Over the phone, he explained to my mother how “masial”, had to be prepared, with ginger. I took it to the hospital, where dad was almost in tears.
When I walked in, he asked me. “How do I look, boy”.
“ Very handsome thaatha. You’re going to sweep grandma off her feet”
“I don’t want to break my heart and end up back in Earth you know. Your grandma is going to stay rooted in hell”
“Heaven, grandpa”, I said in tears.
Grandpa was very eager to see if his masial had come out right. It had, thankfully.
“Bon appetit son”
Those were the last words I heard from my grandpa. The last words I heard from virus thaatha.
PS : Category - CREATIVE