From Dawn to Dusk


It’s the beginning of April. Mercury is rising high, and the summer has started scorching us already. Along with the heat, my window brings in gallons of dust that coats the books on the bookshelf resting right below it. Even though I like my books placed near the window, I am tired of the everyday dusting. I decided to change the location of the bookrest. I pulled it to a new corner now, and sat down beside it to wipe the dust off my books. Within no time coughing and sneezing took me over; thanks to my hypersensitivity to dust!

The cleaning scuffle brought me memories of my grandpa or Ajaa as I called him. During my childhood, my parents took me and my sisters to our grandparents’ place every summer. It used to be a delightful affair. I can still reminiscence the delicious smell of ilish machh (fish curry) and steamed rice from the kitchen, the intoxicating scent of ripe mangoes and lemon pickles from the courtyard, and the smothering fragrance of books from the living room. I can clearly remember the huge shelves of books at Ajaa’s place. I think it is humanly impossible to count the number of books that he owned.  Saying he had huge shelves of books is an understatement; actually it was a massive library of books. I was a tiny girl back then, and used to be amazed by the bounty of his books which seemed to tower upon me! But as quoted by my mother – a bibliophile by birth, I used to adore the library. I always wanted to own books from there, but was too young to read what was in store back then.

Even if I could not read the voluminous books then, the wisdom within was passed on to me by Ajaa. How? Well, post lunch used to be story time. He narrated stories from all corners of the world. He had an ocean of variety in his narrations – from cultures and civilizations to religion and spiritualism; from literature and mythology to philosophy and politics. The themes of narrations may sound a little overwhelming for a little one to understand. But Ajaa was a tale-teller. He was a versatile orator for he could mold anything into a tale to suit the needs of the listener! As good an orator that he was, he was also a voracious reader, and an even more avid writer.

Few years down the line, I fell in love with English literature. I shared this love with Ajaa. He was a professor of English literature. His arm chair rocked while he read aloud the excerpts from the classics, poetry, and ballads, and I remember how much he enjoyed doing so. There used to be lengthy discussions on what the author had written, on what we individually deciphered and why. These discussions gradually expanded from the realm of literature to the realm of history, and slowly to philosophy. Some of the best books that I have read were his recommendations. I find it hard to estimate how much Ajaa read in his lifetime. Once I asked him, “Why do you read so much? And to top it, why do you write so much?” He had replied, “I read because I want to absorb as much life as I can for books are so full of life. And a lifetime of reading will remain incomplete without a lifetime of writing. So I write to let the life evaporate that I absorbed and pass it on to others.”

As I grew up, the trips to Ajaa’s place became less frequent. However our meetings didn’t. This time he started coming over more often, and used to bring mangoes, ilish machh, and pickles. I used to run to the door to get the bags from him and be greeted by the warmest hug in this world. Ajaa was an ardent reader of the Bhagwat Gita, and his reading of the scripture had become limitless those days. It was the beginning of my encounter with the Gita. Ajaa read out the divine dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna. He read from page to page, and expounded the slokas. It was through his elucidation of the Gita that I realized that this holy discourse by the Lord is actually a realization of the own Self. It is not a book about the Hindu religion as many think; rather it’s like a guide, a friend who stands by you always, and presages you of pitfalls.

Ajaa was not keeping well those days; old age had begun to constrict its grip on him but he didn’t stop visiting us. The time was also the commencement of my writing voyage. One of those days I asked him, “Ajaa, I want to be as good a reader as you, and I want to write as much as you, probably more; but I worry whether I can pass on what I absorb. What if all that I write already exists, is already written by someone else? What is the point of writing if it does not serve its purpose?” He replied, “Why do you want to be like me? You are who you are, and how God made you. Be proud of it! I know you pine to write, so write on. Fear not who, how, when and why is going to read what you write. Do you know how many interpretations of the Gita exist? Thousands and thousands of them, still it’s being re-written. Your inspiration has to come from somewhere, and possibly what inspires you may inspire someone else too. So start writing, and one day everything will fall into place. Always remember:

Karmani ave adhikars te
–you have the power to act only
ma phalesu kadachana
–you do not have the power to influence the result
ma karmaphal hetur bhoo
–therefore you must act without the anticipation of the result
ma sangostu akramani
–without succumbing to inaction.”

By the time my first essay was published in my school magazine, Ajaa passed away.  A warrior as he was, he suffered no pain, no misery during death. The Hindu religious customs forbid women to enter the cremation ground.  I flouted the custom for I wanted to accompany Ajaa in his last journey from this earth. His corpse lay serenely and I felt he was talking to me even after death. He was quoting another excerpt from the Gita that death is inevitable, that which is born is sure to die, and so do not fear death; do not cry that your Ajaa is no more for his soul still lives and he is right there in your heart. As much as I wanted not to cry, tears rolled down incessantly.

After his death, his library was sorted out. There must have been more than fifty odd boxes of books. They were donated to a local library, and few were kept at home. I wanted to keep some but no one cared to give me one. I wanted to keep a lot of his belongings – his thick-rimmed spectacles, the fountain pen with which he wrote, the arm chair on which he sat and read….perhaps there is no end to what all I wanted to keep. But did it really matter? What really matters is I treasure him for what a wonderful human being he was, for all the priceless words he said, and the spirit he instilled in me to write. Today I write, not voraciously but I do caring little of the consequence. I wish he was here today to read what I write or perhaps he is reading silently. He demonstrated an inimitable way of life to me, and this I strive to follow. My ode to him:

From dawn to dusk he read

And from dusk to dawn he wrote

Spreading life as he tread

Until it was only ashes that he wore.

Today as I cleaned and marveled my books, I came across Who Will Cry When You Die? For a moment I pondered, and turned the book to read an ancient Sanskrit saying, “When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries while you rejoice.” Books on self-help are generally not my cup of tea but I had decided to keep this one. Why? It’s because of the ancient Sanskrit quote on the back cover of the book which I had heard from Ajaa. True to the saying, when he passed away I cried while I know that he rejoiced.

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48 thoughts on “From Dawn to Dusk

  1. Dust is a problem for any book lover, I guess. Unfortunately, it takes time and concentration to fully dedicate to just one book, so the others end up waiting in the dust 😦

    1. Thank you for the comment, and the follow. 🙂
      Not only they wait, they keep growing old, and fall sick. 😦
      However, books are the best of friends, anytime. So I keep going back to them time and again…and wiping off dust that accumulates.

      1. I know exactly what you mean. But somehow, as they grow old they taste better, like wine 🙂
        I have a book from the 1910s and its smell is just amazing!

  2. What a marvelous Tribute To your ‘Aaja ” Lopa!
    fantastic, yes he is no more with you but has defintely blessed you with his power and art of writing which you so adored.
    One sign of a great writer is no matter what they write they draw the readers in to the world they weave..just like you did today
    Marvelous is such a small word Lopa and you deserve something big more profound for this write up
    The way you started the whole journey from weather to you memory of childhood days to tribute absolutely brilliant
    Love you
    and a big hug for this memoir

    1. I don’t have words dear Soma to express how much your thoughts on this write-up mean to me.
      Your warm hug gives me peace and love, and the spirit to write on. You are a blessing in my life with your lovely and encouraging words. I am so speechless after seeing the hug you have linked here!
      Thank you for being there…thanks a ton. 🙂

  3. Didi, I liked your post very much !!!! It’s so good 🙂 After reading your post, I learnt a lot about our grandfather (your ‘ajaa’ and my ‘bapa’) because I don’t remember him much as I was barely three when he passed away……. I have only heard about him from nana and mummy.
    While reading your post, I can feel the his presence…… Your writing skill is so good !!!!!
    Waiting for your next post …… 🙂 🙂

    1. Hey Moni sweetheart!
      It’s my pleasure indeed that you came to know about our beloved grandpa because of this memoir.
      A grand thank you for reading and feeling connected. It’s an honor that you re-read it!
      God Bless!

  4. omg speechless just speechless, it just shook me completely…
    perfect flashback quoted beautifuly, it can serve as a source of inspiration to many….
    actualy this write up of urs speaks alot.. i would say dis is definitely one of the best amongst al that u wrote….
    all applauses and aapreciations, well deserved hats off congrats…
    must say u hav reached the top rung of the ladder and i can bet u noone can beat u.. so go on, success is all urs…
    keep up the good work!!!
    we all are proud of u!!!

    1. Hey Rinni!
      You are always a great pillar of support and encouragement in my journey of writing.
      It’s so so delightful to read your comments always.
      You say things right from your heart, and that makes all that you say even more special.
      Many many thanks my sweetheart.
      God Bless. 🙂

      1. its my pleasure always…
        and to hear such words of praise from u is my honour….
        and u dnt have to say thanx to me.. u always wil have a spl place in my life…

  5. What a beautiful piece of writing. You have certainly done your Ajaa proud. He sounds like he was a wonderful man and it is great that he can continue through your writing. (I know I will be taking some of his wise advice) You paint such a vibrant picture of your childhood and I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

    1. It’s an honor to hear these words of appreciation.
      Thank you very much for the encouragement.
      I am thoroughly glad that you enjoyed the write-up.
      Childhood is everyone’s cherished time lap in one’s life, and for me it became even more cherishable because of Ajaa.
      Thanks a lot.

  6. Dear Lopamudra,
    After reading your every write up, I never feel at loss of words to describe it, because every time you stir up a different emotion, invoke a different feeling and tote me to an entirely different world-a world full of smiles, chastity & innocence. Such is your write up this time-pure & divine (too heavy words I suppose. Perhaps I am turning senile 🙂 )
    This time when I was reading your write up, I was transported to a classroom – 7th or 8th standard and Sudha teacher is reading out this story from our CBSE Eng. Literature textbook and we sit mesmerized listening to it on a sunny afternoon.(I wish those days come back!)
    My grandpa is also an avid reader, writer, story teller & a bibliophile although his readings and writings are mostly spiritual in context (related to Sri Aurobindo’s life and his teachings) and not as diverse as your grandpa’s. But, it fills with me spell-bounding awe, just imagining the depth and vastness of their knowledge.(‘their’ meaning the generation of our grand parents).
    Lastly, I would wrap my lengthy reply (as always!) with the same note: I dutifully, eagerly, earnestly, hungrily 😉 look forward to your next piece of writing.
    With love,
    Devneet

    1. Wow!
      Many many thanks Devneet for this wonderful comment. Your lengthy comments are most welcome always. 🙂
      It makes me really happy that my writing instills that much joy in you that you feel to write at length about it! Indeed it’s an honor to hear such remarks. Your remembrance of Sudha Ma’am that you account to this write-up, is I’ve to say, purely my delight.
      Thanks a lot for the encouragement, Devneet!

  7. A minor correction in my above reply, please replace the word ‘vast’ with ‘diverse’ in the sentence ” and not as vast as your grandpa’s” (Correct emotion convey hona chaiye na!) 🙂

  8. Hey lopa! I really loved this article. It is simple, inspiring and says so much about your grandpa. I really “feel” his wise words as if he is talking to me….

    Excellent writing!

      1. Hi Manaswi!
        Thank you so much for your comments. It’s always nice to hear from you and I am really elated that you enjoyed reading the article…and same pinch for being a book lover 😉
        Thanks again. Keep coming! 🙂

      2. Well Lopa, you have a talent to keep making your readers come back to read some more! And you definitely keep the commenters happy with your charming replies! ; )

      3. My pleasure dear Manaswi. 🙂
        It’s so delightful to know when some one comes back to my blog to read more.
        Come often…always welcome to lopascribes!

  9. excelent work……….reminiscing the old memories at Ajja’s place…….Always felt as if he is around and looking at us,blessing us………..Thanks sweety its a treassure that you have written……….ur writtings just touch the heart.

    1. It’s right from the heart…and probably that’s the reason it’s touching. It gives me pleasure and honor at the same time that you consider it thought provoking as well. Thank you so much!

      I would really like to know what thought-trail did you venture into. Do share.

    1. Thanks Abhishek…thanks indeed for the encouragement to write frequently!
      I keep collecting thoughts, and the day something or some incident has the clout to push me over to type the words for those thoughts…I write on. 🙂
      I am working out my way to become a voracious writer, just as a voracious reader I am.
      Thanks for coming along, reading, enjoying and commenting.

      1. I just not enjoying your writing, i am learning a lot from it.. as i am a technical writer (from past 1.5 years) your blogs helps me to improve my vocabulary. Your flow of thoughts is amazing.. when i go though your write ups.. its so well written that I can feel it is happening in front of my eyes or I am watching a movie.

      2. Wow!
        That’s a compliment indeed!
        Thank you so much Abhishek!
        It’s really very joyful, and satisfying to know that someone is actually learning from what I write, and am so glad that it’s helping you. But to be very honest, I myself feel I have a long way to go…I keep learning new things and try to implement them in my write-ups…and as far as the flow of thoughts goes..it has surely improved owing to my job as a technical writer that demands a lot of clarity and connectivity in the writing. Your encouragement pushes me to write even better. Thanks a ton!

  10. Wonderful post about your wonderful love for your wonderful Ajaa…. 🙂
    He sure read and wrote a lot but he is more than anything an incredible wise soul.. I say IS because he never died… He lives in the world of spirits and in your heart and memories… so you have him with you always…
    I remember the same feeling when I lost my father, I would have kept any memory of him, any small thing, any little object he ever owned… But in fact after years and years, I realized that I had it all, because I always have him in my heart.
    All my love to you, dear Lopa,you awaken in us new memories and you make so much beauty live in the images you paint with your words… and I am proud of you just like your Ajaa!!!! >:)< 🙂

    1. I am so happy after reading your comment, my dear Ela!
      It really brings me great joy to hear these words from you. Thank you thank you for reading the post, and I am glad that you liked it, and could relate to it.
      You are absolutely right that Ajaa is still with me.
      Thanks for reinforcing this thought in me.
      Love and Hugs. 🙂

      1. I am sure that they are always with us… invisible and protective…
        Thank You, you are brilliant and wise and beautiful!!!
        >:)< Love and Hugs dear Lopa :* 🙂

  11. Wow…
    Let me tell you this..
    This is one of the best posts I have read so far.. 🙂
    Excellently put down 🙂 beautiful narration…!!!
    Keep writing wonders…!!!

  12. Excellent.Sweety , I wish he was here today to read what u write or perhaps he is reading silently.This is an Outstanding and heart touching article.Sweety i m proud of you.I miss my Nana (ur Aaja) a lot.Love you.Namita Nani.

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