Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back from the Dead

Which may, given the circumstances, be almost taken as a ghastly attempt at a fairly morbid joke. Then again, I didn't think very highly of my great-uncle who died last week, and I don't feel hypocritical enough to cover it up now that he is dead. Actually, that was one of the issues I have been struggling with these last few days.

My father and later my mother have always been very close to him and his wife. Mostly his wife, but my father looked up to his uncle a lot too. But this same man said very nasty things about my brother and I, when we were both very vulnerable, and the smut has not been forgotten. I don't think I ever shall forget, because both times it set off a chain of incidents which completely altered the relationship my brother and I had with the rest of our extended family. We were both young when we left Cal, and we had what I suppose was an idealised picture of our relatives, as ever-loving and understanding. I don't blame my great-uncle for the behaviour of my relatives, but I will never be able to understand how a man who prided himself on his morals could cast dirt on a granddaughter.

That had a longer fallout than anybody had expected. I stopped visiting that house much. Considering it was a place where I had spent a good part of my youth and also that it housed a lot of my favourite relatives (Cousin T and her parents, my great-aunt), that was a difficult exile, even if self-imposed. A less evident consequence was that I stopped touching my elders' feet. I could not bring myself to show him that act of respect and since he was the eldest in our family (his wife is the seniormost, going by blood, but obviously, he would be her elder) that pretty much meant I stopped doing pranam for everybody. It stood out but I refused to compromise on this. Most people attributed it to my bad upbringing and left it at that. Last week, when he died, I finally made my peace with him and touched his cold feet in a final gesture of respect. It unburdened my heart.

I will not pretend I loved him nor will I try to find good things to say about him. And I will not deny all the good he has done to other people. He is gone and I have ended my grudge. Nor is it necessary to feign sadness, because I am truly grieved for my great-aunt. Whatever I may think of him as a dadu, he was a very caring husband, and she feels the loss so keenly.

My father flew down for a day. Since The Bhablet had met him only a fortnight before that, at Hyd, he recognised my father for the first time, and joyfully jumped into his arms. I cannot describe my father's face, but I hope he never forgets it either. He always makes a big fuss over this much-awaited grandchild -- I have been receiving speculative looks for years, and I believe that thought was what reconciled him to my marriage in the end -- but this time they were both enjoying each other's company. The Bhablet missed him and Dimma (my mother) when we returned from Hyd. He kept looking for them. I hate how that kid keeps breaking my heart, just by a look or a plaintive "dadadada".

While on the subject, The Bhablet will be a year old come next Tuesday. This has been preying on my mind all month. I find myself clinging on to him, forcing cuddles he does not want, smacking down kisses that annoy him. I am losing my baby here. Anybody want to trade him in for a younger model? I'm open to exchanges and have great baby boy clothes.

9 comments:

Grafxgurl said...

oh lord i feel old now.

dipali said...

I guess that we are all products of our times. Which does not exonerate your late great-uncle from his unkindness to two young ones from his own family. If he had issues with you and your brother, perhaps he could have had a one-on-one talk with you and sorted things out. Sorry that it has marred so many of your relationships. This is the way of the world....good, bad, ugly.

Your Dad must have been thrilled to bits with the Bhablet's response to him. Hey, when do we catch up? (M will be coming next week, not this).

D said...

We do feel compelled to say nice things about people who are dead, but sometimes, as I guess in your case, there are no nice things to recall about that person.

There's another observation I'd like to make here: about elders and the respect they demand because they are so many years our seniors. Age doesn't necessarily make a person wise and I have struggled to come to terms with expectations of showing respect to a person only because he is so old. It doesn't come naturally to me for I believe even elders can be mean and horrible and restrict our growth.

the mad momma said...

hmm... to d. just because you managed to survive a long time doesnt mean you are necessarily kind or wise or worthy of respect. Even though one shouldnt speak ill of the dead. So may his soul rest in peace. and hell - i'm looking to trade in my older models too...

Rohini said...

Well, I think what you did was brave. I hate myself for putting up with crap from the so-called elders but end up doing so anyway because of some silly notions of respect due to elders, who don't necessarily deserve it...

Anitha said...

You are a brave, honest woman Sue.

Sue said...

Grafx -- Because he will be a year old? And where does that leave me, do you think?

The blog's much appreciated, just thought you'd like to hear that.

Dipali -- Not free till the weekend, I'm afraid. How about we meet when M does arrive? Would love to meet her, I'm sure.

D -- I didn't say there were no nice things at all. I just said I personally have problems remembering the good because the bad was so bad.

MM -- I don't think I have been speaking ill of the dead as such. I said far worse when he was alive. :) Now in fact I feel released from the grudge, and at the funeral today, I actually thought of some pleasant memories from childhood days.

Rohini -- Between him and my MIL, they gave me the strength to stand up for my beliefs. Perhaps I should remember to thank them for that...

Anitha -- Thank you. Not sure I deserved that, but I'll take it anyway.

Sparx said...

Sue

Such an strong post - I respect your honesty about your uncle.

I too gave my son a lot of unwanted hugs around his first birthday! They're so independent at this age, they're beginning to want more independence and fewer hugs - so gt them while we can!

Sue said...

Sparx -- I must confess I follow the spud's career with a lot of interest since he and The Bhablet seem to reach milestones around the same age, do the same stuff. And yes, it was your post the day before Charlie's birthday that started me off. I've been mooning about my son turning a year old ever since. *Sigh*