centenary

Tomorrow, Ram would have been 100 years old. Ram was many things, a respected jurist, a seasoned diplomat, a well versed scholar, a bon vivant, a fine gourmet, a wine aficionado, a caring and humane soul, a loving husband, a tender grandfather, but to me he was simply Tatu, my papa.

I came into his life when he was well passed his debonair youth and hence the time we spend together was somewhat truncated. Yet he made up for the loss of time by showering me with abundant and sometime stifling love and by packing what time we had with abundant and thrilling experiences. Was I not the little girl who was taken to dine at Maxim's in a tĂȘte a tĂȘte when I was barely five! Yes Ram taught me many things: from absolute surrender to a greater force, to an unwavering faith in the destiny of India; from the delights of life king size to the undiluted joy of sharing a humble meal, from erudite books of diverse culture to the soothing lilt of a bhojpuri lullaby.

Life with him had been a thrilling coaster ride of intense sensations and experiences laced with lessons in humility and humanity. When he left almost two decades ago it was left to me to put all I had learnt from him to good use and try and craft something he would have been proud of. The challenge was not easy but had to be met. I must admit it took some time and a lot of false starts. The obvious things to do was to write a book and I did try but when the pages were written and reread, they paled into insignificance when compared to the force they were meant to represent. They were simply cast away in the bottom of a drawer waiting to be resurrected some day. This was not the way to go.

Yet deep in my heart I knew that Tatu's legacy was far greater than what was bequeathed in tangible ways. All he had taught me in overt and covert ways were not meant to remain embedded in my mind and memory. That would be almost insulting. Every word he had uttered had to have a greater meaning. I spent many hours sifting through all he had said over the years and trying to find the quasi Delphic answers. And they did come. How could I have forgotten his dying words murmured to a friend in my presence when India was burning over the temple/mosque issue: Have faith in India he repeated incessantly. I understood that what needed to be done had to have a larger meaning. But how could I ever achieve it? It would take some time for the puzzle to be unravelled. And it did when I remembered the answer he had given me when I had asked as a child: where do I find God. He simply said: in the eyes of the poorest, most deprived child. Project why was born at least in my heart.

Tomorrow it is the project why children who will celebrate Ram's centenary. For the past month they have been practising with all their hearts. There will be song and dance and even a play based on Kamala's life that has been written by the staff and children as the yellowed pages were indeed resuscitated and turned into a book where Ram and Kamala's lives are rightly embedded in a child's story where they truly belong.