The Favorite14 mins 476 14 mins 476
Ravi could not control his laughter and was asking the cousins, do you remember his most favorite? Kiran could not control her laughter too. She knows what Ravi was talking about. Devi was surprised that she doesn’t know what the others were talking about. Ravi stopped laughing and said his favorite thing is shouting at Srini all the time and all the cousins joined in unison to laugh at Srini. Srini walking towards them was angry that everyone is laughing. Everyone felt it was because they are laughing at him, but actually he was angry because he just completed the last rites to his grandfather just an hour ago and they are laughing.
Srini is really, really close to his grandfather. It is not that the other cousins are not close to him but they all know this is an eventuality. He lived for 104 years and he died doing what he liked the most, spending his time at the god’s abode. The cousins have agreed the point that he had a full life and now is his time to leave the physical life. Srini, on the other hand, missed his grandfather a lot. Partly because he did not make in time to see his grandfather before his death. But the main reason is that he never had the answer to one question his cousins asked him about the grandfather.
What is the question? Why is he so sad if he could not answer that one question about his grandfather? Before I tell you what it is, I have to tell you why this question is asked that day.
The cousins were discussing how to make grandfather’s memory special. Everyone had different ideas. Srini wanted to start a scholarship to kids who are students of bhakthi and divinity. Devi suggested to have a fund and donate food for needy every month on the date of his birthday. Kiran felt that needs lot of planning, time, and efforts. She suggested that can be planned leisurely in few days. Then, she told everyone about how the next door neighbors celebrated their grandfathers passing away. The grandkids called near and dear to house and server everyone the favorite food of their grandfather, which included Vanilla Ice cream, cashew nut pulao, and gave everyone their grandfather’s favorite item to carry with him everywhere the big silver ring. Kiran suggested we should do something like this. Immediately all the cousins turned to Srini with the question
“What is grandfather’s favorite item/food?”
When Srini could not answer, they started teasing him. Srini was the closest to grandfather. Wherever the grandfather was to go, Srini has to accompany him. It doesn’t matter it is a school day or not. Srini doesn’t remember a moment of his life where his grandfather was not part of it, before he had to go to another city for his graduation studies. For that matter the grandfather made a promise that he will go with his grandson wherever he had to go. But his health and age did not allow him to follow his grandson and Srini had to leave for hostel with moist eyes.
Today the pain for Srini was doubled when Kiran asked him what his grandfather favorite item is. If you ask Srini what book his grandfather liked the most, he knows the answer. It is his Bhagavadgita. However, he for sure knows his grandfather would have not liked Bhagavadgita to be handed as a gift. If you ask Srini, who his grandfather liked the most? Without a second of thought, Srini would have replied it is his spiritual guru who is also Srini’s great-grandfather. Srini for some reason not had a single drop of tears in his eye. He felt he is dead inside after losing his grandfather. He decide that he will find out what is his grandfather’s favorite food is, whatever it takes.
He recollected all his memories with his grandfather to decide where to start. His grandfather had a best friend. He lives in a close by village. He thought that is the best possible place he will get to know what his grandfather favorite food is. He just informed his boss over a mail that he needs to be off from work for an undefined number of days. He started his journey to his grandfather’s friend’s house.
He remembers the route to the friend’s house like back of his hand. He started on his way in his old Bajaj Chetak scooter. The drive is about an hour away from his Grandfather’s house. The quite breeze from the road side trees relaxed him a little. His brain started to created doubts. Does that man still live in the same place? Even if he is around do he remember Srini or his grandfather? He is not as old as his grandfather but he is sure into north of nineties. What will he do if this do not span out? Where should he go next? He was trying to remember other important things in their time together for some clues. Srini remembered the story he told about the Varanasi trip his grandfather and grandmother had before his grandmother passed away.
Srini, I think that was 1965 when I and your grandmother went for a trip to Varanasi. We were married when we were very young. I think your grandmother was only 15 at that time. This means I have known her almost all her life. What surprised me about her when we travelled was she conversed so fluently in Hindi. For a village bred from Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, this was unbelievable. She also was a very tough woman, I can see in many of the vendors face how scared are they of your grandmother. But the thing she did later was the most wonder for me. In Varanasi, she left her food to god Mysore Pak. All her life I have never seen her asking me for any other thing than Mysore Pak. Remember this, she was not even 60 at that time, I was sad she will not be able to have her favorite food again. But she never asked me what food I left to god. Srini, recollected the story from his memories of his grandfather. But he cursed himself today for not asking his grandfather what is his favorite food was, on that day. He felt like a fool.
Srini reached his destination. To his luck and good fortune the house did not change much. He went in and knocked on the door. The old man he was looking for came to the door. His expression told Srini that he did not forgot Srini. The old man Raghuramaiah hugged Srini. Srini was very, very happy. He thought he will get what he wanted right away. But the next word from Raghuramaiah broke his heart. Raghuramaiah asked Srini, “How are you Sriramulu?” It was his grandfather that Srini reminded Raghuramaiah. These made Srini realize not only did the man forget Srini, but he also lost hold of time. Otherwise, how confuse Srini to Srini’s grandfather. Even though, everyone tells Srini that he looks like his grandfather, Srini is too young to be confused for his grandfather. Srini as a courtesy spoke to Raghuramaiah.
Raghuramaiah was so excited to speak to Srini, in his mind he is talking to his friend Sriramulu. He started recollecting all the childhood stories. How they all used to run to the small store near the school and buy all these sweets and candies. Raghuramaiah continued to tell more about what he liked to eat during the recess and how she liked the mango dipped in salt was his favorite. Srini started to get into the conversation, felt he will find something about his grandfather’s favorite food. He asked Raghuramaiah, do you remember what I used to eat? Raghuramaiah replied you never ate anything. Even as a kid you were strict about what you ate. There ends the last hope of Srini. He spent a little more time with Raghuramaiah and started back home with more disappointment than he started with.
On his way back, he started to search again into his memories of the grandfather to find if some story will have the answer. Srini vaguely remembered how his grandfather used to buy him salt biscuits every day before Srini was to go to school. He was trying to remember if his grandfather had one with him or not. No, he has not had one. Then, he recollected one more food memory. His grandfather had this secret stash of nuts. There are these apricots that Srini liked so much that he used to finish all of them in a day. His cousins, brothers, and sisters never had a clue of the secret place. Srini was trying to recollect what the nuts which his grandfather liked so much were. He remembered, why? It was because one of the clients of his grandfather brought them from a trip to Kerala. He just hid them in a secret place so that all his grandkids won’t finish in a day. His love for Srini, let him reveal the secret place to Srini and Srini the naughty he is finished it anyway in a day.
Srini was trying to recollect if there was anything else his grandfather stored in that secret place for himself. He don’t remember any, he searched that place for treats many times after that. He stopped on his way home at this tea shop near Koyyuru as he felt a little tired. On seeing the board with Koyyuru he remembered there was a younger cousin of his grandfather who lived in this Koyyuru. He jumped into action turned his Bajaj towards his grandaunt’s house. It has been very long time he came there but he remembers that the house is very near the Shiva temple and the Shiva temple can be seen from any corner of the village. Without much searching he reached her house. The grandaunt was not home, she went to the temple. He introduced himself to her sons and told he came here to meet her. They were all happy to see him and asked him to wait till she is back. He was waiting at the steps of the house things started to come back to him, how he and his grandfather used to come once in a year to give the grandaunt the share of the farming money.
At that time Srini did not know why his grandfather was paying her money. He only was excited to come to her when she used to give him various snacks and sweets. Now, he can understand why? The family was less privileged than their own. He also recollected an occasion when his grandfather told him the cousin is so young to him he always felt her like a daughter to him. The grandaunt came back from temple and started crying the moment she has seen Srini.
She was sad that she could not make it to see her cousin one last time. There is a marriage in the house and she cannot go. People might feel what these old beliefs are. But she knows Ramulu her cousin would have not liked her being in his home on this occasion. She was crying inconsolably. Srini still had no tears in his eyes. He was still disappointed with himself. After few minutes passed Srini told her why he is here. She was stumped too. She started telling, your grandfather was a very simple man. He never had specific requests for food or restrictions. His only rule is he will eat only after taking a bath and he wanted whoever cooks to take a bath before. She continued he was married already by the time I was even able to walk or talk. I don’t know exactly but heard everyone saying he became more responsible and strict after getting married. He really took his role as a husband very sincerely. He never used to say no to anything your grandmother asked for. In the process I don’t remember anyone asking him what he wanted. Your grandmother was also a great woman. She used to make sure all his needs are met. May be if she is alive today she would know what he likes the most. Srini was disappointed again as he felt he is going to fail in his task. He was to say his goodbyes for the day and was about to go back. His grandaunt had other plans, she said to him to not leave it. She asked him to come with him to show something important about his grandfather.
They both were walking as the streets were narrow and it will be tough to take the scooter. They were reaching a big house. Srini has no recollection of seeing this ever before. As they were entering the house he has seen a big sweet factory and some people making the prasadam for temple. He asked her why we are here. This place belongs to your grandfather. He wanted me to have the rents from this place. Part of it is given for temple activities but rest of it is given for rent and we get decent money from it. I educated my sons, married off my kids from this money. Today they and their kids are making good money. I feel it is time I should handover this to you. I tried to do give back the handling to your grandfather, he was adamant. Srini said, how you think I can take this when he himself wanted this with you. I cannot do this against his wishes.
On his way back he has seen a man hugging him and crying. He is the cook for the temple. He respected Srini’s grandfather a lot. He was there at home yesterday to pay his respect. He had lot of stories to share about Srini’s grandfather. He told how he fought everyone in the village for the cook’s marriage. The cook was a poor man but the girl he liked was rich. It is not a big love story or something, but a revolution during those times. He also told the story of how he got the cook’s sister remarried after she turned a widow. The cook has lost his job for few months because of this. Sriramulu supported the family in all this. He later arranged with temple to have him as cook and there is no looking back.
Srini was happy to hear good things about his grandfather, but every story he is hearing making him feel worthless. As his favorite grandson he did not even know what his grandfather favorite food is. Srini was thinking, this man is a cook my grandfather would have had some conversation about food. May be this man knows what my grandfather likes. He wanted to give a last try and went ahead asked the cook what he came here for. The cook started thinking. After a few minutes he started to speak to Srini. For your grandfather nothing was special except you. Because of his responsibilities or his time management in those days he could not spend enough time with your father. He was very proud of your father, but he never knew him that much. The moment you are born he has seen his own son in you, which were one of the reasons he spent all his time with you. He took you everywhere and wanted to make sure never miss any of your life experiences. This made him Srini more disappointed, he don’t want to continue the conversation and said bye to him and started walking back.
The conversation reminded the grandaunt talking about how grandfather loved Srini the most. She also wanted to talk to Srini about it. Srini realized this and wanted to run away. He took his scooter parked outside and started his journey back to his house. Srini in the morning was disappointed that he missed the last days of his grandfather. Now, he is devastated that the only favorite for his grandfather was himself and he doesn’t even know what he liked to eat. The disappointing of all this is, Srini never understood the importance of his grandfather’s love in his life. He still could not cry. He thought for a second to lie to his cousins and pass of mysore pak, grandmother’s favorite, as his grandfather’s favorite. But he could not do it. He said he had no idea.
The next day everyone is invited to pay respects and have a last meal in his memory. Everyone who came that day was reminding Srini how his grandfather was proud of him and how his life was made up of only memories of Srini etc. Srini could not cry yet. He is still disappointed. He stepped out to get some air. He has seen someone approaching the house in a big tractor. As the tractor got close he realized who it is. That is the temple cook who he met yesterday. He was running towards Srini. Srini did not understand what the hurry was. The man was very happy to see Srini, he started to say something. After you left I was thinking of that question you asked me a lot. I told one of my helpers about this, they told me your grandfather always came back to the kitchen to have the sweet kesari. So, I decided to make this for that man and brought it today. Srini was finally relieved he started serving the kesari to everyone. He did not forget to keep the first serving to himself as his grandfather’s remembrance. He did not eat it right away. That evening after everyone left when he was alone in his grandfather’s chambers he took a bite and cried his heart out.