Of What Worth Is Life If One Cannot Stand On His Own Legs!

April 12, 2012 at 9:15 PMApr (Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

It is fourteen days since he passed away- Haregod Lingappayya Acharya- my grandfather- Ajjayya. He passed away late in the evening on my 27th birthday- 30th March 2012.

Looking back at my relationship with my grandfather what do I recollect, I ask myself. The first image that comes to my mind when I think of my grandfather is of him working in his garage. He was a mechanic. It is impossible to imagine, for me, my grandfather without the garage like any actor cannot be imagined without the stage. An actor comes with his setting and so was my grandfather, memories of him comes with his larger self- the garage.

Memories flood my mind with the sound of the spanner turning the hammer hitting and the wheels turning, apart from the machine announcing its wellbeing through its mechanic sound.

Most of my pre-school days were spent in Byndoor with my grandparents. So memories of my early days have a major chunk of Byndoor in it. What I can remember from those days is my grandmother my aunt and obviously my grandfather. He would wake up before me and when I would wake up he would be praying to the God and then soon after having his breakfast he would go to his garage, attached to the house, and start with his work. He would work the entire day. He had to be called several times for lunch. Tea breaks paused his work and at times tea would be supplied to the garage itself as he would be too busy and more importantly too involved to walk two steps. He would work till evening and once he returned he would wash his soiled hands and light the lamp before God. Then he would go out for a while to meet his friends and then come back, have dinner and sleep.

Those days I did not know the word workaholic. But yeah that is what he was. But looking at his life deeply I see two threads of image getting intertwined- one of him working in the garage throughout the day and the other of him saying his silent prayers morning and evening. These images which mark my earliest memories of my grandfather define, to me, what my grandfather was. He lived the philosophy- work is worship. His real form of worshipping was not in the morning and evening but from morning to evening.

He had narrated his life story to me more than once. His story mainly spoke of how he repaired which machine when and how. He would explain how the owners of the machine- be it a tractor, a car, a scooter, a sewing machine etc- was brought to him and what problem the machine had and how he repaired them, going to the details of the nuts and bolts and other parts of the machine. His autobiography was the story of his labour.

He was 86 when he passed away and even at the age of 86 he had his shoes on. He was earning his bread and butter without relying on anyone else but his garage. He was working, even at the dusk of life, though the number of hours he could and did invest had decreased. In the last few years of his life he suffered from multiple problems. Still he continued to repair things. In the last few months his legs lost their strength and he couldn’t walk or stand without the help of a walker. That is where he started out losing his love for live and his inner strength collapsed. He had come to Manipal for treatment then and was with us for over couple of months. It appeared through his words that what had upset him was the fact that with the broken leg he will not be able to work anymore in the garage which demands a lot of standing and lying down on the floor.

When he couldn’t stand on his legs, he collapsed from within and the last act of life began. He not being able to stand on his legs and that leading to his lost interest for life and he seeing it as the unworthiness of life, as it related completely to his ability to work in the garage, became the ultimate metaphor of his life. It appears to me like his message saying- of what worth is life if one cannot stand on his own legs!

He believed that one should stand on his own legs for one’s living. He believed that nobody should be dependent on anybody for a living. So when he couldn’t stand on his legs, physically and metaphorically, his love for life ended. When he was in Manipal during one of the last months of his life when I, along with my cousin and grandmother, asked him to try and walk slowly, with the help of the walker, in a dramatic tone he had said, “I cannot keep a single step. My next step will be to Kailasa,” Kailasa being the imaginary paradise where people (rather the soul) go after the death of the body. That is where he had decided keep his next step and he did. Looking at his life through his eyes that is where the next step had to be for he lived the words ‘kaayakave kailaasa’ and if he couldn’t engage himself in ‘kaayaka’ there is no ‘kailaasa’ for him in his living. So the only other ‘kailaasa’ had to be the place for him.

If I say only about his obsession with work I would be giving a partial picture of my grandfather though his obsession for his work marks a major part of his life. Not always he would have work. When he did not he would sit with us asking about our lives. Not a very learned man who would narrate stories from mythology, like it is believed in the subcontinent. But a self-learnt mechanic he was who would narrate stories from the garage. He was short tempered and all of us feared him. He was warm and affectionate too. But like an old timer he thought it is not good to express too much of an affection.

It seems an hour before his death in the hospital a stranger boy came to visit the patient in the next bed and Ajjayya, without his glasses, kept asking if it was me. I think of it and write it down without hesitating to mention the lump in my throat and the swell in my eyes.

In one of his last days he asked me about “the course in Delhi” not knowing what M.Phil was but knowing that it was some course I was doing. I had told him that the course is over and my “final exam” (viva) was yet to take place. He asked me what would I do after that and I shared my plan of doing “yet another course” (PhD) in Delhi. His immediate question was, “What is the duration of this course?” I said it would take four to five years and laughingly he had said, “There is a walking stick that a friend had gifted me. However I don’t want to use it, so you take it with you when you join for that course.”

He never used a walking stick. He collapsed when he had to depend on a walker and couldn’t stand on his own legs. The only way to pay tributes to my grandfather- the man who lived the philosophy work is worship- is by standing on my own leg.

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5 Comments

  1. Sandeep said,

    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family …May his soul rest in peace…

  2. Ritika Jaipuriyar said,

    very touching sir.. very well narrated.. ! May ur grandfather rest in peace, he will be proud of you.. 🙂 !

  3. My Generational Stories | A Taxi Dog Diary said,

    […] Of What Worth Is Life If One Cannot Stand On His Own Legs! (acrazymindseye.wordpress.com) […]

  4. Shilpa said,

    As Ritika Mentioned very touchy.
    Great loss to our family!!!
    May his soul rest in peace..
    Love you Ajjaya..

  5. my pen from shrishaila said,

    Samvarta,
    It was touching narration about your Grand Father. People of that generation lived their life that way, but they were hard working and very independent .They worked all the time, when they stopped working they stopped living too.This applies to all of us !
    Shailaja

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