To My Grandfather

To My Grandfather

Your presence will always be with us and will guide us to live our own lives with integrity.

Rupam Modi

I can't believe it. I really can't. Every time, I pick up the phone, I still expect to hear your low voice, your hearty laughter, your sage wisdom. It hasn't yet processed that I will never see you again or speak to you on the phone, that I will never be able to discuss the news with you, that I will never get to tell you how school is going.

You were a man of few words but when you did speak, everyone stopped and listened. I could feel the greatness within you. Sometimes as a kid, I would come and sit with you just to see if I could absorb some of the respect you were so often given.

As I grew older, our conversations grew less frequent with a 12 hour time difference and 9000 miles separating us. On the phone, you'd always inquire about school and I'd fumble through my limited Gujarati vocabulary to let you know that all was well.

Whenever we made the journey across the ocean, everyone would gather in the kitchen and talk constantly about anything and everything. But I would come and sit next to you in the living room to read my book as you read your newspaper, content in our shared silence. I didn't need words to tell me that I was always welcome to come and sit with you to read or watch one of your favorite sitcoms. A warm smile from you would tell me all I needed to know.

Not having the most verbose relationship, I didn't know much about this early life of yours before you became my "grandpa." I knew you had worked for the government and you had written a book but I didn't know about who you were, what experiences you'd had, what trials you had to endure. Because at the time, it wasn't important. You were warm and kind and you were family. Everything else just seemed to be details.

But now, I want to know more. I want to know everything. The paradox I find myself contemplating is how I had all the time in the world to ask these questions but I waited until the source of the answers had passed on. So I went to the next best source of information, a literal piece of you that still lives on: your book.

In this autobiography of yours, I found tidbits of wisdom and knowledge on every page. With my parents translating some of the more difficult sections, I began to put a more all-encompassing picture together. A boy that excelled in school, that thrived on learning and understanding the world better. A young man that found his passion in public service, in helping others with integrity and compassion as the Deputy Commissioner of his hometown. A man that may have been of few spoken words but could write prose and poetry with such eloquence that it could move you to tears.

But time and time again, what stood out was your willingness to fight injustice. You were always willing to sacrifice for an ideal, for a cause bigger than yourself. And everyone -- your teachers, your co-workers, your friends, and your family too -- admired you for it.

So I want to say thank you for setting an example for how we should lead our lives. Your presence will always be a part of us and will guide us to live our own lives with integrity and to strive to make the world a better place.

As for me, everyone always commented on how alike we were and to me, that is the highest compliment. If I can impact as many lives as you did, if I can share our love for writing with more people, if I can set an example for others, I will consider it all as a homage to you.

We love you. We will miss you more than you will ever know. Rest in peace, Grandpa.

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