Fables always fascinated us, but Grandpa fascinated us more. I vividly remember my childhood days spent at our ancestral house in the native land, away from the hustle-bustle of the city. It was a ritual for us to visit our ancestral house every summer and as a kid, we looked forward to Gramps more than the lush greenery and the extra playtime we received.
There in the midst of the lush greenery of our garden gramps always used to sit on a rocking chair, surrounded by books and stories. He was an imaginative man and we used to call him our very own “story” factory. Chocolates did amuse and fascinate us, but not as great as our very own story factory.
Each summer we listen to loads of stories and when we go back to the city with heavy heart, we carry with ourselves a truckload of a story to keep us amused and going for a whole year. Our Gramps, the storyteller imparted his knowledge and wisdom through his stories. Little did we know as little kids huddled around his chair lost in the spinning tales he spun, we were in our own imaginary land where Cinderella found her “night out” and Little Red Hood caught up in the wolf’s hand?
But gramps never struck to the traditional storyline as many other gramps or storytellers did. His version was as different as his and carried away an aroma of age-old wisdom along with it. Whenever we shared our stories with the other little kids in our class, they amused, shocked and bewildered at our Gramps version, but loved it nonetheless. We became the invincible stars of our class.
Whenever I recall us, it recalls our gang of cousins-me the eldest, responsible sister, little Ria at least five years younger to me, Raju, a year or so younger to me and Rakesh, a little older than Ria. We all lived in different cities and spoke different languages, but whenever we come back to our Gramps places, we become one and speak a language oozing love and affection.
Our parents that always left us under the electronics or maid’s mercy, once and for all stop restricting us to our strict deadlines and timetable. For they all are scared of Gramps. Everyone is, except us; for to us, he is the sweetest grandpa that one can ever wish to have. Yet to the World that chooses to wrong him he can be the scariest creature on the Earth.
The whole village respected him and I once came to witness his scary image. That image is still stuck in my head and returns as nightmares every now and then. A villager had wronged him and chose to speak against him and there Gramps blew up on him. The sharp temper, vile words and cruel attitude he posed through the poor man who shrunk on seeing this face of gramps, still shakes me to the core.
Of all the stories that he has ever told us, today particularly, a story strikes my head and chooses not to leave it until I get this out of the chest. Gramps always kept on retelling this story to us and us never once ceased to listen to it or even think of getting bored. It was the most unique and wonderful tale that he has ever recited. After all, it was a masterpiece lived and created by his efforts.
The story goes on somewhat like this. Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there lived a poor, yet contented family. He was first born of a large family of six, including his parents. This made him a frail boy as he became the responsibility of all in the family. Thus, the little boy grew up accustomed to poverty.
Many teased him for his torn trousers, for his tall, lanky look and he bore it all, bearing the bullies bullying him for faults, none his. This made his bullies only stronger and they bullied him more and more. The little boy took it all by him, let his head down and took it all at once. Every night he cried himself to sleep, for the harsh words of the bullies haunted him day and night. He believed and trusted their harsh words, blamed himself for being frail and helpless.
These continued and he grew older day by day, year after year, but this pain was too hard to manage alone. He knew if he left it at that this pain of worthlessness and helplessness will eat him up one day. So, he turned up to his trusted confidant—who else, his mom. If someone was a better storyteller, it must be his mom. His mom was so smart that she’d teach them the greatest life lessons through the bedtime stories she’d tell them every day.
She somehow managed to pacify the ever-flowing tears of the little boy and patted him, laying him on her lap. Then she weaved magic through her words. She told him a story that he’d never forget in a lifetime.
“Do you know why a dog bark or a snake dances before the enemy before it bites or spits the venom on them?” the calm mom asked the now riled up little boy.
The boy nodded his answer as “no”. Mom smiled and continued, “Have you seen a dog bark at you without a cause, without you disturbing it first?” The little boy listened with rapt attention, but was a little lost and confused. Like a good storyteller, the mom could sense this state of confusion in her audience without him verbally expressing it.
“Okay, dear. N, w wait. Let me tell you a story.” The mother smiled a kind smile down at the little boy, who beamed at the mention of story. “Once there lived a dog, okay, let’s name him as Ramu. He was a faithful little dog, but a furious one. He bitted all and barked at all. So, none approached him and none was his friend. He was lonely and tired. So, when a wise sage passed by, he approached him and told his story. The wise sage advised him to be a calm and loving individual doing no harm to none. Ramu followed it dutifully. But do you know what followed next?
He tried pleasing all, being good to all and now that all realized that he is no longer that scary little dog, they become too friendly, even to the extent of bullying him. Little children threw stones at him and found it as a great source of amusement. Others stepped on him and he literally became a doormat, invisible and highly tormented.
One day, he decided he had had enough and went in search of that wise sage. The wise sage looking at his pathetically wounded body understood the matter at once. He replied immediately, “ I told you to be good to those who are good to you. Why did God give you the ability to bite? It’s to protect you at the hard times. Thus, bark, bite and be ferocious to those who aren’t kind to you. Now, this will teach them a lesson.”
Ramu finally understood what the sage meant and followed it. From then on none troubled him and those who dared to knew what they were up to.
Now, my little boy, what do you learn from it?”
The little boy looked up determined and learnt his lesson immediately. “ I must bite those that torment me!” replied the boy.
Mom laughed a hearty laugh and replied, “ Not to bite dear, but to talk back. Why did God give you a tongue? Be sharp and witty and retort back to those who bully you. They’d never dare to bully you again.”
Thus, the boy learnt the greatest lesson of life. Be good only to those who are good to you and so did we.
It was these lips that spake this story and made us understand this lesson, thus helping us to stand up for ourselves at adverse times.
Will these lips never speak again? Will these hands never move all over and create castles on the air? Will they choose to remain immobile and lifeless as they are now and choose to rot down in the depth of the Earth?
I stared at the lifeless body surviving his last breaths with the help of the life support. Gramps, will you choose to never come back again and is it our end here. Here, during your last breaths, you taught us another great lesson. Nothing is eternal in this life, so is our Gramps, but your stories will stay immortals, passing mouth and mouth and leaving till the generation of human survives and goes on.
You may perish gramps, but not your stories and this would be your story of your life.
PS: “Her” Short Stories is a section of this blog where I share my short stories. These are tales inspired by real life incidents, writing prompts and writing gigs that I had written it for. Each short story I post here, generally has a backstory to itself. I’d tell the backstory in this section.
I wrote it for my second short story recital in All India Radio, which unfortunately never happen. Still, this story is one of those stories that is very close to my heart. Today, unfortunately, a friend of mine lost her grandad. I know it’s a huge loss, but remember his body might have left this Earth, but his fables and words of wisdom would live with you forever. I dedicate this story to her. May God and her grandad give her strength to overcome this tough phase with a brave face.