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Short Story About Grandfather and Grandson Relation

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River Flows Down The Stream

By Ashok Patwari

Grandpa paused for a while and intensely looked at Sunny’s face. He could see a flash of annoyance mingled with arrogance in his grandson’s eyes. And with that pause in grandpa’s latest discourse, Sunny felt a great relief. Grandpa’s sermons, which extended indefinitely and chronically bugged him over the years, usually ended up with his throwing a tantrum or running away from the room. But with this pause, it was a great relief to Sunny and his temper and expression started mellowing down even though he was visibly upset.

For Grandpa it was not an unusual event. Years ago he could see a similar expression on his son’s face - humiliation, anger, helplessness, revolt and aggression! Though his son used to appear less arrogant and more helpless than his grandson, at that time Grandpa himself used to get easily provoked and authoritative with his son.

Grandpa slowly scratched his face with his tremulous hand and then gently combed his long grey beard before he supported his right hand on the walker. He glanced over his hand. Old, dry, lustreless and wrinkled hand with several rough patches over his skin. And the prominent tortuous veins on the dorsum of his hand merging towards larger veins towards his wrist. Like small rivulets flowing towards large rivers and then finally drowning in to the deep sea. He remembered the vigorous sound produced by small rivulets while coming down with a gush from the mountains and water falls, the soft musical sound audible while the rivers passed through the plains and finally the stillness just before merging with the sea. Life, as he realized with the passage of time, was also like a river, fierce and ferocious when you are young, and slow and sloppy when one gets old.

Grandpa did not forget these milestones in his own life, as he crossed from one to the other. He remembered his days when he was a naughty school boy, an aggressive teenager, a reckless cyclist on the road and a strict disciplinarian both at home as well as at his workplace. Grandpa was really tough with Sunny’s father because at that time he believed he was capable of enforcing whatever he thought was right. He was a young father, but too conscious of his maturity and wisdom, and confident about his decisions. He was also convinced that the method of enforcing his views and decisions was the best and most effective. It was only retrospectively that he realized that after all some of his decisions weren’t all that wise.

Grandpa looked at his hand again. The small venules erupting from his fingers reminded him of his days when Sunny’s father was as young as Sunny. In those days, in a similar scenario with his son, Grandpa did not pause, but roared like a lion and shouted at his son, “Get lost if you don’t want to learn anything in your life!” It was a different matter that every time Grandpa handled his son in a harsh manner or rebuked him, he realized that he shouldn’t have been so harsh with him. Grandpa’s eyes blinked slowly and with that a subtle breeze of calmness moved across his grandson’s face, though he was still restless. Sunny had stopped fiddling with the wax.

It was a unique experience for him to see the candle melting away and the wax dripping down along the sides, flowing like a river and solidifying again in to a lump of wax. The colour change from clear to milky white and from a paste to firm streaks of wax also fascinated him. He had never experienced this before. The birthday candles were usually blown off as soon as they were lit on his birthdays.

On deepawali night his father placed the oil lamps and wax candles in such inaccessible places that Sunny always missed an opportunity to touch them. It was an unusual evening when the lights went off for a long time and the petrol-generator also gave up before power was restored. His mother fixed a candle on his study table because he had a test next morning.

Within minutes of watching the candle, the boy got so much fascinated by the melting wax that he pushed aside his note book and started picking up the wax paste and putting it back on the flame. The lump of milky wax changed in to thin clear fluid as soon as it touched the flame and again trickled down the side of the candle. Sunny enjoyed this game and tried to do it again and again.

After finishing his evening prayer when Grandpa looked across the open door, he noticed Sunny quietly playing with the flame. He could anticipate what could happen next. Therefore, without a second thought, he pulled himself up from the rocking chair, supported himself on to the walker and while trying his best to move fast and reach him as quickly as possible, he almost screamed, “ Sunny, what are you doing? You will hurt your finger.” Sunny was so absorbed with his game that he got startled and jumped from his seat when he unexpectedly heard his grandpa’s voice.

“I am not doing anything grandpa. I am doing my home work” Sunny responded while a pinch of wax paste was still clinging on his fingers. Grandpa could clearly see an unpleasant expression on Sunny’s face. With advancing age Grandpa had realized the importance of rectifying his mistake if he got another chance. Therefore, when he looked at Sunny’s expressions, he paused for a while and masked his face with a divine smile. With a low note from his vocal cords he slowly opened his mouth, “My child ! I am sorry if I have been harsh with you. These candles are dangerous.”

“Yes grandpa I know that. This flame is dangerous because it is fire and fire can hurt. I also know that outermost invisible part of the flame is the hottest. I know it well. I am not doing anything with the flame” he tried to be cool and respectful to his grandpa and assure him that he knows the basics. His strategy was also to convince his grandpa that he does not need any of these lectures and aimed at getting rid of the old man.

“Very right my son. I am proud of you. You know so much about things which I could never imagine when I was your age. You are certainly brighter than your father and grandfather for you know that the non- luminous zone of the flame is the hottest.” Grandpa genuinely praised him and sensing a change in his facial expression and a confident grin, he reactivated his old teaching style and communication skills, and continued, “It may appear strange that sometimes things which look innocuous may be dangerous, like the invisible zone of the flame! That is the reason I was telling you to keep your hands off the candle because….”

“O grandpa! You are a limit. How many times you will repeat the same thing? ” Sunny again started losing his patience with the old man.

“Honey, I know that you are a wonderful kid. You know all about science” Grandpa again tried to be careful and diplomatic, “what I meant was that the melting wax which is trickling down from the candle is quite hot, it can hurt. This wax is even worse than the flame itself because it sticks….”  “O come on Grandpa, I am not stupid. How can this wax hurt? There is no fire in it.” Sunny appealed.

“Yes my sweet heart”, though nervous, grandpa still felt that his grandson was receptive and could very well imagine himself very close to a successful counselling session with his grandson, “ You are right. There is no fire in it but the temperature ….”

“Okay grandpa” Sunny interrupted him politely, “I will not touch it. O.K. Now let me study for my test” he declared a unilateral ceasefire and started working on his worksheet.

Grandpa felt victorious, perhaps first time so easily with his children and grand children. And he had reasons to have that illusion. The outcome was much better than his encounter with his son forty years ago when the curtain dropped only after he finally slapped him for fiddling with the candle. Like a victorious warrior his kyphosis improved a bit and with a bit of grandeur he slowly returned to his favourite rocking chair, one of his favourite resting places for intellectual thinking.

He rested his back against the back of the chair and heaved a sigh of relief. After all he had succeeded in his mission. While watching his grandson quietly studying under the candle light, he reassured himself “It is possible! May be it requires a different approach. Behaviour does not change by using force or authority. One has to be patient, friendly, respectful to the sensitivity of the younger generation and then only a transfer of time tested experiences from one generation to other generation can take place.” He closed his eyes with absolute satisfaction. After all he got the answer to his question which bothered him all his life.

“May be it is a natural process and God’s wish to keep us far from being perfect” his own grand father used to tell Grandpa, “River always flows down the stream; it is not possible to go too far against the stream. One spends ones life in knowing things, learning realities, analysing options, reviewing decisions and gradually becoming wordly - wise. But once you start moving towards perfection He calls you back. I wish we could get another lease of life to practice what we learn with our own experience. But this does not happen. It never ever will” he would sound very pessimistic,” for it is God’s wish, Man has to be imperfect! And he only learns from his own mistakes, and some of us don’t even learn from our own experience. ”

With his eyes closed Grandpa could very clearly see in the darkness, without his glasses, colourful images of his childhood, his grandfather telling him “don’t ever throw a stone towards a beehive….” On a large black canvas spread all over his filed of vision he could visualise specks of colour which gradually transformed into images. He recognized his own face when he was a kid, his innocent looking expression, pretending to fly his kite and hiding a small stone in his nicker, his grand father leaving the scene with satisfaction, and then that misadventure with the beehive within minutes, his screams and running home with a swollen face, one image merged into another till he could see nothing but the black canvas. Grandpa smiled to himself and looked at Sunny who was diligently writing something on his note book.

Grandpa himself did not understand many things when he was young. But with time he realized that what his grand father said was right, though in the heart of his hearts he was always optimistic that there must be some way to use experiences as a resource for the next generation. But his grandfather was firm in his views “You can not start a game from the middle. It has to start from the base, bottom, and zero! There is no way to transfer experiences to the next generation- real life experiences, successes and failures, fun and follies, satisfaction and regrets. Everybody is curious, wants to explore things by himself and unveil the hidden mysteries of life, gain experience through own failures and successes. What the older generations have experienced is history, and history is always in past tense! Nobody wants to live in the past; nobody tries to learn from history knowing pretty well that history repeats itself.”

Grandpa did not pay attention to most of the things he was taught when he was a young boy but retrospectively he was quite impressed by his grandfather when he himself experienced and confirmed that whatever his grandfather used to teach him was absolutely right. His grandfather’s words still echoed in his ears “We do not want to learn from the experiences of others. The founder of Maurya Dynasty, the Great Chandragupta Maurya, had seen it all.

A prince discriminated by his own royal family, a fugitive from Magadh who escaped from royal conspiracies, a beneficiary of Kautalya’s wisdom and political diplomacy ,who conquered the throne of Magadh, avenged all his adversaries, and a great warrior who decided to embrace Jainism at the fag end of his life. Before renunciating the world and taking on to his journey to priesthood he did tell his grandson Ashoka never to use his Royal Sword because as soon as it is out of its case it brings death and destruction with it. But Prince Ashoka had to learn everything by himself and undergo the pain of transformation from ‘Chanda Ashok’ (Devil Ashok) to ‘Dharam Ashok’ (Saint Ashok) after winning the historic battle of Kalinga when he conquered the land but without any people – only their corpses. Emperor Ashoka learnt his lesson and later spread the message of Lord Buddha and spirit of non-violence across the globe. But was that an end to human conflicts, battles and destruction. If that was so there would have been no Hiroshima!”

Grandpa had started accepting what his grand father had told him years ago but his own experience with Sunny changed his opinion. The way his grandson agreed and accepted his suggestion vindicated his personal belief that it is the method not the concept which is failing us in empowering our younger generation with useful experience and wisdom. He was convinced that it is possible to transfer the gains to the next generation provided we change our strategy and treat them with respect. Grandpa was satisfied with the fruitful interaction he had with Sunny. A scream coming from Sunny’s room interrupted Grandpa’s thoughts. He could see his grandson rushing towards bathroom for cold water to soothe his fingers scalded with hot wax!

Contributing Story Teller Ashok Patwari, New York USA

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