“The power to express is the road to success,” he told me. And that was eleven years ago. At some point early on, he must have realized that my future was in journalism. Yet as I’ve searched for something to say, I’ve found it difficult to actually express through just a few examples, the love my grandfather had for his family. Everyone else will talk about his contributions to science or what a great intellect he had, but as a granddaughter, I fondly remember those times when he was simply “Thatha,” a family man, a loving grandfather.
There were times in India, because I wasn’t used to sleeping in a house so big, I would sleep in between my grandmother and grandfather. They would never sleep continuously through the night because they would have intermittent conversations throughout the night. Sometimes I would awake to my grandfather humming a tune to a some Thyagaraja song and reciting the words. Thatha, being no singer himself, would turn to my Patti and ask, “Lali, how does it go?” and with my grandfather providing the lyrics, and my grandmother the tune, they would make music in the middle of the night. Like this, they were quite a perfect couple.
But he was also very loving toward me. He always knew I had a sweet tooth–I suppose this was a trait that I had inherited from him. His favorite American candy bar was the Kit-Kat. The Kit-Kat jingle may go “Break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar,” but only Thatha would break off a piece and save it for his granddaughter. Sometimes, when I’d come home from school, he would ask me to look in the refrigerator for an after-school snack. Sure enough, I would find the remaining half of a Kit-Kat, saved especially for me. My sister wasn’t as much of a chocoholic, so I’m proud to say he did this only for me.
I remember another time when my family was driving to Atlanta and I was absolutely bored out of mind. I must have been 6 or 8 years old at the most, and sitting between my Thatha and Patti in the back seat, I began making up a story off the top of my head. About ten minutes into this ridiculous story, the rest of my family–with good reason– had stopped listening. Twenty minutes later when I finished the story, I noticed Thatha had been the only one to listen, start to finish, to my story. When I asked him later why he even bothered to listen to the silly ramblings of an 8-year-old girl, he said it was because he wanted to encourage my creativity.
It wasn’t just my creativity that he’d encouraged. He had always encouraged me in my artistic pursuits such as Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam. Just two weeks ago when we were practicing for my mother’s recital, he actually stood to the side and watched me as I practiced the Thillana.
When I told him I wanted to go into journalism, he was the most supportive. He had always instilled in me a love for the English language and for writing. He was a firm believer in the pen being mightier than the sword. He had given me so many books and countless notebook filled with his favorite Shakespeare phrases; in one of them the inscription read:” To my dear grand-daughter, Amritha. The power to influence depends on the power to express.” I remember the many times he made me sit down as he dictated verses he found most eloquent in book he had read as a child. I still have those notebooks with me.
So I want to say, Thatha, thank you. You will always be the smartest I knew, and I only hope I can fulfill the dreams you had for me. I will always love and remember you.