Thursday, March 08, 2007
On Tuesday, I saw my aunt Revathy after 15 months. It was a shock to see the transformation wrought by the killer disease. But I was then able to see her in another light altogether. I saw what she was: a being of pure light / love, distilled essence of her father / my grandfather, in whom she had been able to see something of what he was.
Revathy adored and revered her father, SV Kailaspathy (1904-90).
In the poem “Reclamation” in Last Possibilities of Light, Revathy wrote:
…You stood on your head every morning;
and spun thread
as Gandhi did,
and you had a history
we knew nothing about, so profound
was your reticence. …
Hard to imagine then, as I lent
my shoulder to your enfeebled step,
that there were epic journeys
you made, quite casually;
icy Himalayan pathways
and sun-baked Mohenjo-Daro,
circling the Shwe-Dagon, and briefly
It’s as if I am bound in some way,
to keep the hours, to imagine
what I do not know for certain.
From the corner of my eye, I catch
you running through fields, hands clutching
stolen green guavas, and then at last,
memory becomes my inheritance.
In an essay Revathy wrote last year on Chowk, she recalled:
The life we lived in Bombay where I was born, was the one set by my father’s example whose fairly impoverished beginnings and subsequent rise as a government officer by dint of hard work and complete integrity was held up to us as the standard. This still works for me. He lived largely within himself, a gentle, reticent man, whose principles of behaviour have profound resonances for his children.
He adored Gandhi, adopted his simplicity, celibacy (after I the youngest, was born), his complete openness where religion was concerned. The stories passed down by my mother concerned his having mainly Muslim friends in school and college, among whom he enjoyed feasting and keeping the Ramzaan fast. He loved the Urdu language and long after we were grown, practiced its prescribed courtesies when guests entered the house.
After reading this I wrote to Revathy:
Thank you for this account, which expresses exactly how I remember Thatha, and I can now see how much I too have been formed by his example.
“…Stuff happening, and one is not best equipped to write buoyant, cheerful notes. Glad you felt the truth of whatever I had to say about Thatha. He is probably more relevant to us now than at any other time. Feel the huge shift in what the world has become since his lifetime.”
Revathy most ably received the baton and passed it on, in the grand relay race of life.
The awesome mystery of Death ... Death unites the living, Death illuminates life. Revathy has gifted her loved ones the most supreme gift, the gift of her Death, through which she assumes eternal life.