Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My strong Grandfather

While in the office at 1:00 pm on 4th of April, I received a call from my brother in the afternoon informing me that my Grandfather had died. I rushed home and then went to his place which is just on the floor above us in our apartment building. 
His body was lying there on the bed and his body was straight and stiff. People had started to gather. We needed to put a shirt on him as his body needed to be covered and prepared for the funeral. Ajay, the young man who did the job of taking care of him during the day time was there. My grandfather’s face was still looking fresh and alive except for the mouth which was open. I thought of closing it and felt the coldness and stiffness of the body. I could not close it. It was like a truth hitting the core of the heart, he Keshav Janardan Patwardhan was not going to return again to the life, at least not in this life, if one believes in the rebirth. As his body got cremated on the funeral pyre, in a flash of thought almost all of his memories had come to the forefront. The impressions he has left can not be wiped out. 
My grandfather was seven years old, when my great grandfather, passed away. His mother had already died and after the death of his father, his stepmother left him and his younger brother with his maternal grandmother for good and deserted them completely. Both the children grew up with their poor widowed grandmother in a small village called Golap which is 11 km away from the district town of Ratnagiri. Life was hard and their grandmother could just feed them and send them to the village school upto the primary level. After finishing the school, Anna Gogte, an entrepreneur settled in Mumbai and originally their neighbour from Golap village, asked my grandfather what he wanted to do further. Many were suggesting him to become a primary teacher since that job was easily available those days. But Anna Gogte suggested him to come to Mumbai with him and advised him to get into business where he would have been able to earn far more money than a salary of a primary teacher. My Grandfather came to Mumbai with him. After doing some odd jobs and staying at the place of Anna Gogate, he found his niche and found himself settled in the jewellery sector. 
While still on the job, he started to work independently and earn some extra money by doing some businesses such as bringing mangoes from the village and selling them in Mumbai. He had some serious disputes with the owner of the jewellery shop where he was working and he left the job there and then. He started working independently with some customers whom he knew from the previous job. It was the Trust built during the job, which helped him to settle in his new business. The entire jewellery business ran on the Trust rather than hall marks those days and it was the most crucial aspect since it involved huge investments and lifetime savings of the customers. Slowly he built his business but he never opened a shop and did his business entirely single handedly by visiting homes of the customers.
He had a keen sense of what was going to the future of certain things. He shifted himself to Vileparle from the Girgaum area where he was living while nobody from that place thought of shifting anywhere else. Vileparle is these days one of the most sought after suburb by the middle class households in Mumbai. As told to him by Anna Gogate, he really earned far more income than a primary teacher but he never aspired to get into upper class and move away from the roots. He instead invested in buying land at his native village Golap. His younger brother in spite of completing his high school remained in the village and worked on the land. Within a few years, Patwardhans, who came to the village of Golap as orphaned children and had inherited a small patch of land from their poor maternal grandmother, were proud owners of some mango orchards. He started selling mangoes from the family orchard now and started getting good returns since fruits were now coming directly from his own farm and not through any middlemen. 
My grandfather always used to tell us stories about his father who had earned fortune near Mumbai even after coming from a very poor background. These stories were never like a kind hearted “dear grandpa” type. He was a very strict and strong patriarch. I respected him a lot but at the same time feared and many times resented the undue discipline put on us by him. He never showed off his love and it was not to be easily seen even for my grand mother. She was a meek woman who adjusted herself for his life and never complained. She bore all the hardships that came along with the tough and frugal life he chose to live. He never spoke with her softly but still I could see him helping her with chores in the house and respecting her own time which she spent by participating in social activities with local women. That was very uncommon for the men of his time. I think that might had been his own way of expressing love. 

He did love some people around him and that too blindly. Same was his style while hating some people or things. That too was blind. I dont think he loved me much as a grandson but I am sure he liked me to be around. He used to send messages for me to go visit him once in a while and that had created a bond between him and me. Right from the childhood, I always obliged him and did the task which he gave them to me. I used to get bored by his real life stories of the past as some times he repeated the same stories again. He remained quite healthy till his last year. He used to say, “body is like your machine. It needs to be kept in movement and with proper energy supply.” I never took this saying of his seriously then but now after facing a number issues with the health, I am realising what he exactly meant by it.
He remained active in his business and kept a close control on it. His customers were like his followers. This following was a result of the Trust he had built over the years. He put in very hard work and did not compromise a single bit on quality. Even in mangoes, though it always restricted to bringing home production in the market, he tried to keep strict quality control on the entire supply chain right from production, transport, packaging and delivery. But the same controlling nature of his made me remain away from getting involved in this family business affair full time, even though I liked this mango business inspite of the hard labour involved in it. I grew up and went away from the home exploring different studies, jobs and personal yearnings, I dont repent this decision at all.

He is no more there. His personal wealth is now getting distributed amongst his sons and other members in the extended family. It is no longer a single person's fortune. This is happening as per the will he has signed but it will no longer remain under his control, as everybody will make use of his part as per his own wish. Nobody knows how he saw his business to be after him.

Even if he passed away, world moves ahead and mangoes on the trees he helped to plant have not stop from becoming mature and ripe. They need to be brought to the market and we have started taking them to the customers. The customers ask about my grandfather and feel sorry for the loss of a great person in whom they trusted. They say this as if the times have totally changed and these kinds of people are no longer to be easily found. They remember his and my grandmother's great hospitality and the perfection in service. I did not inherit his business (in fact no single person did) for it was not made up of money or assets but of the values not to be given by him to anybody, but which were just there for anybody to take and practice. It is just the question of whether one values these values. Sounds like universal truth!
You will always remain strongly in my memory my Grandfather!