This story goes back to the 90s when I was a little boy. My parents and I had moved to a new town. Every evening, I’d sit by the window of my house from where I could see the park below.
I'd see kids walking or playing with their grandparents and I couldn't help feeling sad.
I remember the first time I went to the park. I saw an old person sitting on a bench surrounded by many kids. Every time I went to the park, I’d see him on the same bench.
He brought candy for the kids and played with all of them.
One evening, I was playing with my ball and it landed near the old man. When I ran to get my ball, I saw him walking towards me with the ball in his hands. He gave me the ball and offered me a candy too. But I ran away.
The next day, he came and asked my name. I stood quietly without replying to him. My mom who was standing near me replied, "Suraj." The old man smiled and asked, “My son, do you know the meaning of 'Suraj'?”
I replied, "It means the sun." “Very good!” he said and then asked, “Tell me Suraj, why did you run away yesterday when I offered you candy?” I said that my mother had taught me not to take anything from strangers. He laughed loudly as if I had cracked a joke.
He shook my hand and said, “Now, we are friends, not strangers.”
Within a few days, we became good friends. When the clock struck 6 in the evening, I’d run to the park to meet my new friend. One day he mentioned that he observed me daily when I was peeping from the window of my house with a sad look on my face. He asked me the cause of my misery.
He gently asked, “Is there any problem, my son? You can share it with me!” After much coaxing, I replied, “My grandpa expired a few months ago. I miss him terribly.”
“Whenever I see anybody wearing a white kurta with a turban on his head, I remember all the moments spent with my grandpa.”
He hugged me affectionately and started telling me a story, his life story.
I was about to come into this world when my parents left our family home because of some issues. They settled in the town. Around 12 years later, I was sitting in school with my best friend Satyapal. When the bell rang, all of us ran out of the class.
When I reached the main gate, I saw my best friend hugging an old man with a kind face and a thick white mustache. Satyapal introduced me to the person saying, “Bhuvan, this is my grandpa.” I asked Satyapal, “Who is a grandpa?” The old guy gave me a strange smile and asked, “My dear Bhuvan, don’t you have your grandpa?”
I replied softly, "I really don’t know who a grandpa is, please tell me."
So the old guy held me in his arms and said, “A grandpa is the father of your father.”
Our conversation ended and as I walked to my school bus, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the old person had said. When I reached home, I threw my bag on the floor and asked mom, “Where is my grandpa?”
My mother was surprised but she looked at me calmly. Then she went towards the storeroom and brought an old photo album with a red cover. She started showing me black and white photographs and finally pointed out an old man saying, "Bhuvan, this is your grandpa."
My instant reaction was, “Where he is now? Why he is not with us?”
My mother fell silent. She told me to ask my dad when he returned from office. As soon as the doorbell rang, I ran towards the door to open it. Before my dad could even enter the house, I enquired, “Papa where is my grandpa? Mom didn’t tell me, please tell me where is he?”
My father looked at my mom and replied, "He is in the village." Being a curious child, I had a lot of questions. “Where is our village? Why doesn’t he stay with us? Can we go to meet him?”
I was desperate to meet my grandfather.
My father sternly replied, "No, we can’t go." When I asked why, he didn’t answer and ordered me to go to my room. That night, I cried a lot.
The next day, I saw my dad talking to my grandpa over the telephone. Grandpa was not well. He expressed a desire to meet me. After a long conversation, dad hung up and asked me to pack my bags.
The very next day, we left for Ratanpur, our village in Uttar Pradesh. I was extremely excited throughout the journey.
When we arrived at the station, it felt like the whole village had come to receive us with band-baaja and phoolon ke haar.
I saw a man standing quietly in the crowd with tears in his eyes and a big smile on his face. I instantly recognized my grandpa. When dad took me towards him, tears started rolling down his cheeks. He showered me with hugs and kisses.
All of us went to our huge home where my dad was born. I could see lush fields with cattle grazing all around.
Grandpa also showed me the places where my father played as a child.
Finally, we reached our home where we were welcomed with an aarti. All our relatives were very happy to see us. Each of them took me in their arms and played with me. Then grandpa carried me on his shoulder to show me the entire house where each room held memories of my father’s childhood.
In the evening, the entire village assembled to meet us, as my grandpa was the highly respected sarpanch.
The next morning grandpa asked me to accompany him to the village to familiarize me with the lifestyle of the villagers. We went for a ride on his bicycle and I was very excited. First, I met an aunty who was making pickles of various kinds. I decided to name her achar vali kaki, in the village, kaki meant aunty.
Then we met an old person similar to my grandpa who was making gud. He was my grandpa’s best friend and offered me tasty gud and milk. Next, we headed to the mela, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen in the town. It had games, balloons, sweet shops and so much more. We had a great time.
Every evening, grandpa would take me to the pond near the village, where he’d tell me stories and interesting incidents from his life and the village.
I also slept next to him at night, as he’d tell me stories of fairies and demons. Two weeks passed in the village and all of us were enjoying like a big happy family.
One morning, an unexpected thing happened. I woke up but my grandpa did not. I called him many times, I shouted, but he didn’t respond. I had to come to terms with the loss of my best friend.
The man who made me laugh, who told me the most interesting stories and gave me memories of a lifetime was gone.
A few days later, I went to the same pond that grandpa and I frequented. There I found a letter that was written by grandpa. It said, “I’ve enjoyed each and every moment with you. My life was complete the day I hugged you and kissed you. I’ve shared my entire life with you in the last fifteen days. Bhuvan bachhe, you completed my life. Thanks for being with me during the last days of my life.”
“I am going away from you but I will always be in your heart, my best friend.”
After we returned to town, I would feel sad when I saw other children enjoying with their grandpas. He concluded his story by saying, “Suraj, my grandpa is not with me but his name is always with me - Bhuvan Pratap Singh.”
After listening to his touching story and his love for his grandpa, I couldn’t control my tears. He wiped my eyes and gave me a tight hug. Then we ate ice cream and went back home. The next evening, I waited for him to come and play with me. But he didn’t come.
After a long wait, I returned home to discover the shocking news that Bhuvan dada was no more. Even I lost my best friend forever.
Now, I visit the park daily only to sit on the same bench where Bhuvan dada and I shared so many memories.
I knew that he wouldn’t come back, however, I realized that people may leave us forever but they always remain in our heart.
The relationship that kids share with their grandparents is precious and it goes on forever, even after they are long gone. We must cherish every moment spent with our grandparents before it's too late.