Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mr. S. P. Narayanaswamy

Mr. S. P. Narayanaswamy is my maternal grandfather. He was born in a village called Senkalipuram, near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. He is an Electrical Engineer. He was born at least 20 years before independence and worked under the British. He always had a royal gait, a back straight as an arrow which made him look extremely handsome in his British styled trousers and a well oiled obedient hair combed back without a partition. We used to call him Ravippa.

He passed away in his sleep at 5 am on August 24, 2006. He was 86 years old.

He was a staunch believer in the British discipline and followed it religiously throughout his life, which we as Indians never learned. After seeing the country rot for 60 years after independence and having seen the Britishers being demonized in the country, he taught me that not always is the depiction of a villain completely true, even if it is your own school books that show it that way. He showed me that the harbor in Madras, the aerodrome and the railway infrastructure were build by the Indians only because of the proper goading of the Imperialist.

He worked in his brothers company Thyagarajan and Co., and later on joined Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC). He retired as a Chief Engineer from NLC. My mother, as well as my sister were born in his home in Neyveli. After he retired from NLC, he built his home in Madras (as he always liked to call it) which is where I was born. Soon after, he was diagnosed with oral cancer at an age of 60 although he was not addicted to any form of tobacco. He was diagnosed early on and he survived through radiation therapy. The therapy powdered his left jaw bone away.

I only remember him from then. I have not seen him with his full jaw. He still was the most majestic man with his full sleeved shirt tucked neatly into the pants with razor sharp crease ("katthi maadiri crease-a iron pannanum") and shoe polished like a mirror. And none of which he let anyone else do it for him. He never seemed to be sad or sorry about his cancer or his jaw. He was always a cheerful man. I have only seen him smile, all the time! through his injuries, his sickness and health.

He is a very proud man. Nobody pitied him because he was not pitiful. He will never be pitiful. He always took care of himself, in cancer and in old age. He did not rest at home permanently after his radiation therapy and started working as an Electrical Circuit Designer for a private builder till his cataract in his eye ruined that too when he was 75. Yes, he was an active earning member of his family till he was 75.

He is the kindest person I have ever seen, always having a watchful eye over the grandkids, teaching them the morals, admonishing the wrong doings with a slap on the back that only generates a loud thud but never hurts! Every time I visited him, I remember how he would smell my palms and exactly guess the previous meal that I had had, including the pickle, even if it had been a couple of hours before! I am not sure if he really asked my mom behind my back, or I always ate the same "pappu sadham, murungakkai Sambhar thottundu thayir sadham" (Lentil rice for the first course and yogurt rice with spicy sambhar for the second course).

I do not remember his stories often, but many come to my mind today.

Once, when he was working as an apprentice for an electrical company on board a docked ship. His was so busy working along with his colleague onboard that he did not hear the sound of the air horn. The ship started moving and the first thing that came to mind was to jump and reach the shore as it was a cruiser it would not stop for two young interns... and being young he was not very rational. But he did not do that only because he had a set of imported tool set which he could not afford to jump with. It turned out to be a silly joke as the Captain lowered a boat and sent them safe back to the harbour.

There was this other story where, he was on a bus to Kadaloor. He was stretching and having tea in one of the stops on the way. His co-passenger with whom he had been making polite conversation during the trip was now trying his best with kili-joshiam (parrot fortune tellers). The kili-joshiam guy was starting to make some very weird statements about his future and suddenly pulled out a newspaper to show a most wanted announcement and arrested him on the spot. Ravippa was actually travelling with a felon! He was astounded at the professionalism of the the kili-joshiam guy who was in reality a CID officer.
Sorry Ravippa, I cannot really remember the details. Now, no one will know the real story.

He was a real funny man, very kind, punctual, dedicated, clean, religious and very straight forward. He had a very good handwriting in English, Tamil and Sanskrit. He always used to write letters in the British way, without a single unnecessary adjective and definitely without a single spelling mistake.

I miss you.


Blogger The Insane Genius said...

My condolences dude...Cant really think of anything more to say..

Thursday, August 24, 2006 at 5:56:00 AM CDT  
Blogger rads said...

Am sorry to hear that, but I must say if it's any consolation, he's lived a rich life.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 at 11:39:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Ravi said...

A touching tribute for your loved grandpa. My heartfelt condolences..

Saturday, August 26, 2006 at 12:33:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Deepa said...

Very sorry and Iam sure he'd be so proud if he had been reading your piece from up there.

Monday, August 28, 2006 at 1:45:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Hip Grandma said...

sorry abt your grandpa.I can understand your loss.i've felt the same when I lost mine 36 years back.grandparents are treasures.

Monday, August 28, 2006 at 11:03:00 AM CDT  

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