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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Doraisamy Renggayya - My Grandpa, My Hero


My posting today would be very very long... I will talk about my grandpa's death and his personality. Whoever sees me as what I am today is mostly because of him.

Thatha was not a person who regularly needed to go to hospital. He was a healthy person whom at the age of 74 still could travel from Indonesia to India to drop me off for my study. The only problem that he had that we knew was Arthritis. At times he would say that his legs or his arms or his back would feel uncomfortable and since I am the only person at home who could give good massage (I am the masseuse of the house), I would do that for him. It was quite often at night when he felt uncomfortable, I would massage his back and legs before he slept. As an old man his body was as hard as steel. I would sweat a river massaging him.

Thatha was not a demanding person as a man. He would not ask us to make coffee or bring this or bring that. He would do all his chores by himself even though we had maid at home. He loved coffee and he would serve his own coffee throughout the day. Only once in a while when he was maybe not in the mood, he would ask me or mom to make him coffee.

He would drop his own dirty laundry to the laundry basket after his bath. He never let us take it. He would polish his own shoes and if he felt not so well due to flu or stomach ache, he never complained. Even on his death bed also the pain he was going through was much but he did not complain.

He was a man who never stayed in a hospital for this sickness or that sickness, he hated hospital, he hated injections. If he got a fever and we wanted to bring him to hospital, he would behave like a kid who was scared of needle and told us that he would be ready to drink all the medicated tea but he would not agree to the hospital. If there is one person I knew perfectly well who never complain, it would be Thatha. He never complained.

It was almost end of October 2011 and my third semester exam was also getting near. I got a call from grandma on Saturday 22nd October. She said that thatha is hospitalized. I could not be more shocked as it never happened. I said I wanted to talk to him, but he could not talk properly as he got breathing problem. The doctor said that he got liquid in his lungs which made him difficult to breathe. I never heard him speak that way. His voice was a tenor voice with clear pronunciation. He had excellent pronunciation. When he speaks English, he would sound exactly like British. When he speaks Tamil, he would sound exactly as if he was Native Tamil Nadu. BUT when he spoke Indonesian, it would sound funny as he would use the formal language. He grew up in Tamil and English medium. His words are always clear and easily understood. He was not a person who murmur or blabber. But that Saturday on phone, he lisp. My heart truly broke that day. I could not stop crying the whole day. Mom was blank. I kept calling home to check on him.

He did not want to stay in the hospital for long so by evening time, they have brought him back home. He talked to me and mom. I remembered asking him.
“Why are you sick?” while crying.
“The sickness has come. What could I do?” he could still manage a silly answer at such situation.
“Do you want us to come back home?” I asked again and he said “NO. It’s okay. I will be fine soon. Don’t worry.”
Then he spoke briefly with mom but then it seemed he could not speak for a long time as for the breathing problem. I could not sleep properly for the night. I could not stop thinking of him. I prayed that he would be fine soon as I want to see him again, cheerful as always. When first I got an announcement that I got the scholarship to Mysore, he said to me in Tamil “Nalla padichithu va” which means “Study well and return”. I was so confident that he would not leave me before I return but God was willing a different thing.

The next day, on Sunday, I called again. In the morning he was okay and I was happy. I thought the crisis was over, but in the afternoon, again he was suffering that he had to be admitted again. That Sunday was the last time he set foot on his own home alive. He was hospitalized. I could not stay in India anymore. I went to college but my mind was not there at all. I felt that my body was on fire. I could not be in India AT ALL. I HAVE TO GO HOME. On Monday morning we called and my aunt said that he is not in a very good shape. He talked to me but I could not understand what he said properly. I HAVE TO GO HOME. I was praying to God that I got a ticket immediately. I booked a ticket on Monday evening to fly on Wednesday. I was booking it online with complete help of Nath. I am sure I would not be able to fly on Wednesday if not because of her. I needed to get an Exit Permit from the Commissioner office to leave the country. That exit permit usually issued after one week but due to emergency I was given that in 4 hour-time on that Tuesday. I thank the department for that. Bless them.

One friend booked the taxi for me as it was not possible for us to get on a bus at such mood and Alfred accompanied me and mom until we reached Bangalore. Poor him. He was not in a very good shape either but he managed to sit in the car for that long hours. I do not know how to thank those people who had given me all the hands they had when I was totally in panic and not able to think straightly.

I embark from Mysore at 11am on Wednesday. I had to wait for 8 hours in Malaysia to get the first flight to Medan on the next day. Finally I reached home around 9am. My uncle was there and he said “He is waiting for you. You both have to go to hospital immediately”. To be honest, I felt like slapping him for saying such words. He was not waiting for us. He had to live longer. He has to keep his promise. He has to welcome me when I finished my education and returned home safely. He must not leave me. HE MUST NOT.

I went to hospital immediately. I went there with mom and grandma. I could not stop crying even on the way. I never thought such thing would happen. In my mind he was always a healthy man who will live forever. I forgot that he was also human being. I forgot that he was old. Maybe in my subconscious mind I know this day would come, but I never wanted to accept that.

When I reached hospital at 10am, he was sleeping. They said last night he did not sleep as he found so much trouble in breathing. The pain was too much. When we reached to his room, I saw him lying on the bed with the oxygen mask on his face. Mom touched him and he was awake. He was smiling broadly after he saw us. He blessed me as usual. He put his hand on my head when I tried to hug him. He smells good as usual. That’s funny but that day in the hospital I realized that no matter how hot the day was, how sweaty his body was, he never smelled bad. No bad body odor. He always smells good and that day in the hospital, it was no different. He had been in hospital for almost 5 days and I am sure he did not take proper bath either, and I still could smell his Drakkar Noir. That was one his favorite perfumes.

Around 12pm, his breathing started to give him so much trouble again. But in the middle he was running his fingers on his head and he said “My hair is too long already. The first thing I want to do after reaching home is to have a haircut”. I did not know whether I should laugh or cry for that.

He was perfectly aware of what was going on around him. He was in hospital for 5 days that day and he said that he could not see properly either. Until his age of 75, he did not have any cataract problem. All he had was glasses for reading. When we were asking “What day is tomorrow?” in our conversation around him, he could just pop in and say “It’s Friday”. I did not know how he got the trace of days so quickly in such a critical condition.

The doctor suggested that he required to be admitted to the ICU and we did so at 2pm. His condition was hopeless that time. We wanted the water to be sucked out from his lungs but the doctors said that his condition was too weak and it was not possible to make such incision to insert the pipe to his lungs. But after he was admitted to the ICU, his breathing was somehow stable. He was no longer suffering in pain. I wish I could share his pain.

I know how difficult it was not to be able to breathe because when I was 3 or 4 years old, I experienced that. I could neither breathe through my nose nor my mouth because my respiration system was blocked with liquid. I know what he was going through, but maybe what he was going through was 100 fold compared to what I went through.

My feeling that day was empty. I wanted him to go. I could not watch him suffer. I was sitting outside the ICU room and subconsciously I was saying a prayer. I still remember that prayer.
“God, I know everyone has an expiration date. If today is thatha’s, then please take him soon without making him suffer that way. I have never seen him on a hospital bed being sick like that my entire life. Give me 80% of the pain so that he did not feel that way. I can’t see him like that. If it is no longer possible to heal him, please take him.”
I did not know what else to do. I have been trying to make him happy since I was aware what life is. I had tried to be a good grandchild and not ruining his good name. I had tried to follow his advice. I had tried not to do things which I knew he could not take. At that time, I wanted to share his pain, but I could not.

I was totally tired that day but I did not feel like leaving him. For almost 2 days I was at airports, roads, and flights. At 3pm that day, grandma asked me to go home, eat something, take bath and come back to hospital. I did. I went home along with mom. I took my bath. I ate. We planned to go back to hospital at 6pm, but at 5pm, we got a call from grandma that he was no longer there.

He was gone. They said he was breathing very slowly in the end until finally at 5pm sharp, he let go his last breath. I was not there. Sometimes I am glad that I was not there at his last breath. I would not be strong enough to see that. All I needed to know was that he went peacefully without suffering any pain in the last minute. He did not die in pain. That was all which was important.

After I heard the news, I remembered I went to the prayer room and said “Thank you to let him die in peace”.

His life-less body came home in an ambulance at 8pm that night. He went out that house alive; he came back life-less, motion-less. I opened the gate and stood near the garage which was 10m from the ambulance when they opened the door and I saw him covered with Hospital light blue blanket from head to leg. I could not accept that he was gone.

He was laid at home for the night. I slept on his lap that night. His cheeks were rigid and cold, but he was smiling a bit. The next day around 10am he was bathed and shaved, but he did not have the hair cut that he wished. His hair was fine. He looked so handsome in the silk ivory color dhoti and matching top. He looked a lot younger. He looked like when he was in his late 50s even though he was 75 that time.

Finally sometime after noon that day, he had his final round when he was taken in the hearse to the cremation site. There was a big bus in which his picture was placed in front of the car, the same picture was placed in front of the hearse. I was sitting beside his coffin, expecting that somehow he would wake up and ask “What happened? Why are you people putting me inside here?” but he never did. He came silently, no breath, no words, no motions.

As the oldest grandchild, I had the honor to say final words at the funeral before the cremation started. Now, I could not remember properly what I said. The only thing I remember is that I asked forgiveness in case he ever felt that I did not show the love that I have on him. I wanted him to know that I do love him in all ways and that I promised to continue his legacy as best as I could. Inside my heart I prayed that he would keep coming to my dreams, which he does. He often comes in my dreams. He would walk with me at the park letting me hold his hand. He would hug me. He would bless me. I also ever dreamed that he called me on the phone telling that he got a post as Director of a University. That was funny dream, but I know he is happy up there and that is enough.

I never had the chance to show my marks card to him. He would be the first to see any of my exam result during my study time, but that time he did not see them. My marks cards remained in my suitcase.

He asked me to study and return, but he did not wait for me. He left me in the middle.

I always wanted him to speak on my wedding as he had mostly done that. He was one of the community elders and some good friends or relatives would want him to give a blessing and speak some words for the bride and groom. I always wanted him to do that on my wedding, but I did not have the chance. One person told me that I was the one who killed my grandpa for not getting married when I was supposed to. I did not expect that person could be happy on my misery, but NOW… IF there is one thing I know for sure, I did not kill him. No one killed him. He went because the time had come for him to go. No one is responsible for that except the God itself.

Thatha will be present on my wedding one day. He will speak in my heart and he will bless me all during the ceremony just as he always did.

Losing him is the hardest part of my life. The only man figure I had in my life who has been man enough to guide me, protect me and wise enough to make me understand certain things had gone permanently out of my life. It felt like losing one leg.

However, life goes on with one destination… Death. Yes, Death is my destination. I will be with thatha again someday. I no longer have the zest to live but as long as I’m still breathing, the only thing I could do is to be thankful to still be able to live and share some good things to my surrounding, to enjoy every single moment I have on this earth, to help as much as I could, to laugh as loud as I could… because I know if I keep walking, one day I will reach my destination. And at the gate, I know that thatha would pick me up.
D. Renggayya - My Hero, The Strongest Man Figure I Ever Had in My Life

Profile of Thatha That Came Into My Mind Now

Born in Medan, Indonesia on 12 June 1936
Died in Medan, Indonesia (after travelling all over the world) on 27 October 2011

Favorite Color : Brown

Favorite Flower : Jasmine (he said the smell is gentle and the flowers look cute as they are white and tiny)

Favorite Dish : Mutton Curry with Dosa, Tuna Fish or King Fish or Prawn Sambal with Rice, Chapati with Daal, Lamb Chop with Black Pepper Cream Gravy

Favorite Evening Snacks : Peanut (we would ask him to stop eating that as it's high in cholesterol, but he would grab handful, put them in his pocket, and keep eating), French Fries, Black Glutinous Rice Porridge with Fresh Coconut Milk, Vada, and Chocolate (if I opened one bar, took a bite, and put in the fridge, the next day it would be gone)

Favorite Beverage : Black Coffee (his favorite brand is Maxwell House and Brazilian Nescafe), Teh Tarik (Milk Tea with Spice), Scotch on the rocks, Dry Gin, Fruit Cocktail, and Punch (he is a decent drinker - I've never seen him drunk and blabber. Perfect Gentleman)

Cigarette Brand : Ardath (For short period of time when he was in his 50s, I remember he smoked Indonesian Cigar called Adipati. I remember this because the empty box of the cigars has become the box to keep my marbles)

Favorite Fruits : Papaya, Mango, Boiled Kepok Banana (he likes the fruits sweet. If they are not sweet, he would say that the farmers forgot to put some sugar on them and pour honey or whatever syrup we have in the fridge before eating them hahahaha)

Perfumes : Drakkar Noir, Tabac Original, Polo Black, and Hugo Boss

Hair Product : Gatsby Cream (I remember when I was a kid, I put that on my hair and my hair looked darn ridiculous)

Last Car Driven : Maroon colored Toyota Land Cruiser Hardtop (Imagine an old man at his 70s driving an Off-Road Jeep. He's the coolest grandpa ever hahahaha)

Last Two-wheeler Ridden : Pale Green colored Piaggio Vespa (he owned it since 1972 and the condition is still A1 till the end. I tried to ride it but it was too heavy. The engine is truly heavy)

Favorite Reading Material : Newspaper (he loved Politics), Tamil Magazines (Chembaruti from Malaysian Edition was his favorite), Thirukkural, Books by Irving Fisher, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Jeffrey Archer.

Favorite Singers : Jim Reeves and Kannadasan

Early Education : Khalsa School (English Medium School in Medan which now no longer exist)

Higher Education : Edinburgh University, Scotland

Career : Started his career as a Teacher in Khalsa and ended up a Trainer and Purchasing Manager in Mobil Oil Indonesia (now Exxon Mobil).

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