Remembering Dadaji

Madrid, Spain

The funeral pyre,

The heat of its fire.

The cries and tears

The memories and bonds

Are all broken now.
Sorry! I could not see you.

He cried,

Sorry! I left you alone

He wept.

Sorry! I was not there

He wrote.
As smoke carried his grandpa

He stood there.

The smoke is what were are

he once said

and smoke is what he became

in the end.

My grandfather, Gopi Ram, passed away yesterday due to complications from CoVID. I dearly miss him. I am terribly sad that I could not see him in time as I was too busy getting my paperwork in Spain. He kept asking me when I would go and I kept having reasons. But, I guess, I could not meet him in the end. I missed it. Only a few could. The state is a black box. They took him and wrapped him in a protocol. The whole family is shocked and helpless. We are emotionally quarantining.


As I mourn his death, I write this as a memoir to him and his memory in me.

My grandfather came from a agrarian background. He was born in those times when personal histories were not tracked and little do I know of his background. He was one of the few in his entire family who worked hard and made sure that he is educated. All of us and my cousins are indebted to his spirit of educating every single one of his grandchildren. Most of them have PhDs (except a few like me) and are leading researchers and educators, thanks to him.

Born in a colonial India, he studied in Urdu, English, and Hindi. His English was way better than mine is today. I remember sitting in the less polluted Delhi sun, besides him, as he read to me and corrected my homework. He went on to work with the Railways while India was getting its independence from our previous rulers. He was an engineer and a Doer. One can still spot his name on some train stations in India. The one in Benares (now Varanasi) bears his name, my cousin tells me. He was scholarly and was once one of the best students in the state in old times. The ‘Maker’ in me was born out of his upbringing. We would make things with his fancy tool case filled with Victorian Colonial tools. He exposed me to the idea of crafting things from hands and how one should always respect the tools. He was a true maker till the very last weeks. Making and repairing his tools, appliances, and vehicles.

A government worker, I often have heard stories of him being transferred because he took his stand on things that mattered and that is what he told us all from a young age. Be on the side of hard-work, struggle, and patience. Believe in yourself and god. Never tell anyone off and help whoever you can. He used to teach us. He was transferred a lot and picked up languages wherever he went. I learned this from him. My uncles were all born in different cities as the family moved until finally they all settled in what is now Delhi. But, he would still tell stories of his upbringing in small villages of Haryana.


He was a fan of tea and would make it for me and my grandmother. In those tea times, I used to sit in his room. We used to all stay together in a big house. F-55 was our address, until we moved and separated. All the elderly in the locality would come and have tea with us. The local pundit would join sometimes and so would our neighbors. They would talk about politics and we would watch TV all the time. He was the only one who had a good cable TV and I remember watching Discovery Channel in Hindi all day.


In India, kids are (or used to be) mostly raised by the family as a unit. The family as a unit is strong and takes care of everyone. The government just exists to take taxes and do some construction. The family is the institution that raises you and provides you with your values and moral code of conduct. In my particular case, my upbringing, after I was 5 years old was influenced by my grandparents more than usual. In 1997, my siblings were born and they were affected by Cerebral Palsy. My parents would take them to doctors all around the country and I would stay with my grandparents in these times. He would dress me up and take me to the school bus stop and then later pick me up as well. I have fond memories of my grandfather cooking for me and taking me to the roadside guy, who also cuts hair.

In the evenings, he taught me how to ride the bicycle and later his scooty (a two stroke two wheeler without gear). My friends would be surprised to see me ride it at a young age, underage of course. My grandfather, said that we should be independent. Only an independent person, can help the society. I remember his routine of taking out tiny pebbles stuck in tyres of his scooter as they reduce the life of the tyres. I do that with my running shoes as well. He always took care of whatever he had. “You should take care of things and they will take care of you”. Obviously, the Airbnb generation wont get that.


He was a devout Hindu and use to go to temple everyday. He was involved with charity and always told us that even in times of hardship one should remember the almighty. Every Tuesdays, I and my father used to visit him at his place. We had moved as our old house was not disabled friendly and my siblings were getting too old to carry 3 floors. He used to get something sweet for me on every Tuesday. I get my sweet tooth from him, for those of you who know me. He used to enquire about my studies and work and told me to not hesitate in any way to ask if I needed some support. He was very kind. Then, I would eay half my dinner as my grandparents would force me to do so and I would eat the other half at home. After dinner, he would ask me to take one of his ‘seenkhs’, a twig from neem tree to floss the teeth after having food. I loved the bitter taste and would have the twig sticking out of my mouth to look cool. So, Tuesdays were half-dinner neem twig days.

He was an immensely active person. Hyperactivity flows in our family. I get it from him as well. Even a few days before his untimely death, he would go on walks and go shopping on his now ‘electric’ scooty, all by himself. He had been operated for a bypass about a decade back and have been doing fine since then.

I remember him calling me on my birthday every year. I guess, there will be no call this year and I wished him happy birthday on 1st April recently. I did write to him sometimes and I guess tomorrow there will be no good morning from him on my Whatsapp anymore. He used to send my images of gods and moral values, so they can take care of me. I guess, as he becomes a star now, those images would protect me and make sure I am taken care of.


I feel sad to have sometimes ignored his sending me random messages. I am sorry! I was being a bad pota ! I am terribly sad for my ignorance. Sometimes, we just leave people in background and forget how foundational they are to us. Until, there is an earthquake and the pillows are filled with tears.

I had a similar feeling when my maternal grandmother (nani) passed away. I was typically close to her and my paternal grandfather (dada). Both have now passed away. I feel their absence, loss of care.


I guess, I cannot do anything anymore. As helpless as we have become, these days, in all our fictional liberties. The whole country is burning with fire from the pyres and dug up for graves. My loss remains a small part of it. A systemic failure of our ‘ancient’ culture. As India becomes a global unicorn birthing machine, we still struggle to treat our sick and remain hungry. What good is such wealth ?, just numbers and so is my grandfather, a number in the death count of your news daily. All that has become of life is just petty numbers. My grandfather used to tell me to never get attached to wealth and always be attached to morals and values.

I will mourn him as much as I can, alone, away from my parents and family. The best way to do that is follow what he dreamt of me to do. To be a good person and respect and help everyone be a better version of themselves. I hope I find a closure and he finds peace.

Om shanti !

Dear friends/readers in India, please stay safe and take care of your elderly. This is like a war where the government has given up and is still stuck in a colonial hangover. Our elderly and weak are on the battlefront as still find ways to tackle these viruses.