I've known you – perhaps better and longer than I've known anything else. Your fullness, your precise shade of grey.
Dipped littlefeet into pools of night. Placed fingers, hesitant, by your waves. Whispered things, things-I-cannot-tell, to your tides. Emptied myself – tears, questions, recriminations, panic – all of it – into greywater, knowing, trusting, with fiveyearold trust, that you'd hold it. Hold me.
Today, sea-of-my-city, keeper of my soul, custodian of all my secrets, I give you my grandfather.
You may not know him like I do. Seeing, as you must, but a fistful of ash, an urn of charcoal, milk and dust.
Let me acquaint you then with the man who is. Who was. It's only fair.
He was tall, very tall – ninety-one years, ninety-one feet of remembering. His face smiled, and his wrinkles, soft folds, said that he let life touch him. His hands were soft, as soft as your waters, and his voice, when he had it, was resonant, sure, and for the most part, unselfconscious.
You should know too that there were things that changed in the last month. He seemed taller somehow, almost as though he had moved past scales and integers, and his wrinkles, always deep, became cups of light. He was luminous, a glowing orb, shining the way fading-stars-of-the-milky-way do. So on the last day, when he said, sans dentures, with large, baby eyes – clearly, all too clearly, with just the hint of a lisp, "Doctor. D-o-w-n-h-i-l-l. It's all downhill", I sensed: he was leaving.
And he left.
Beloved sea of my beloved city, first among all I love, he's with you today. My grandfather.
My grandfather, you must remember, loved music. Travelling with him meant cranking up the stereo. And if there was no stereo, he'd sing – ancient ragas – darbari kannada – his favourite. There was a tune for every mood, a note for every God, a melody for each hour of silence.
Not that he minded silence. No. For, his second love was altogether quiet – the little garden patch, those pots of plants by his windows. He pruned them himself – their leaves, their stems, watered their roots, urged them quietly to blossom. So each morning, his most-adored of flowers, purple, no, pink, would greet him, wordlessly. On tiptoes.
More than pink-stillness though, beyond even song, my grandfather loved my grandmother. All four feet, ten inches of her. There were no grandiloquent gestures in this relationship, nothing obvious. Yet, on mornings when my grandmother slept too long, my grandfather would nudge her gently, walk to a tape-recorder, and play for her a singer she has always loved. And my grandmother would smile, rub her eyes. Wake up.
Sea-of-my-city, treasured friend, you hold in you a man who believed in perfection. When my grandfather would write, each alphabet would be exact, each flourish, decidedly measured. When he'd speak, he'd say, with a firm nod, that it was always the Queen's English. Impeccable. And even as the tubes criss-crossed through his chest, he asked the nurse to keep his pink shirt buttoned.
Sea of my city, collector of Orions, today you have the father of my mother.
Let your waves be gentle, deliberate – never awkward or tangled, never cluttered. Let them blush violently, turn pink. Let them hum to him, high then low, mournful, like a stereo's raga. Let them tell him of my grandmother, and my grandmother of him.
Most of all, dear sea of mine, tell my thatha – my only thatha – tell him I miss him. Tell him to come back home.