My grandfather is the second generation, our great-grandfather being the first to have been educated. Our family was also among the first to be converted to Christianity in my village. My grandfather’s favourite pastime was humming hymnals, and writing letters to his grandchildren (a habit he inculcated much later). Among his group, he was known as the kindest and quietest gentleman, a trait he embraced till his last days.
There in the village, there was a young woman at a marriageable age. She was the eldest, her family being one of the most respected in the pagan community that had refused to be converted to Christianity. She was engaged to be married but, unfortunately, the fiance passed away. In her time, it was a bad omen when the fiance passed and thus was rare for men to approach for marriage. It was around this time that someone had told my grandfather about this woman who was otherwise one of the most eligible in the village. Although she was older by five years, with a heart for her sad story and the fact that she was hands-on with her farming skills, he decided to ask for her hand in marriage. It was not the best of choice for a Christian to ask the hand in marriage of that of a Pagan but my great-grandfather couldn’t care less. And that was how he married my grandmother.
My grandmother, now hundred years of age, fondly recalls her husband as the man who took care of everything. At this age, his memories are among the few that makes her smile. Such was my grandfather- warm, generous, hospitable and pure; he was everything good about life.
And this very man is responsible for instilling in me the passion to write. I started writing at quite a young age since I was in my 4th standard. He would encourage us to write to him even if our letters had few words –
Na maringphali khala? Ithumva ringphadalei.
How are you doing? We are also doing great.
As he stayed in Imphal, he would tell us to update everything we were doing. From telling him about exam results to wishing he would send us fruits, the letters always went back and forth. And somehow, the writing bug bit me hard. In my childish attempt to enact everything to him in the letters, I must’ve somehow picked up this trait of storytelling. When he passed, I was still in college without even the slightest idea of publishing a collection of poems. Oh! I hope he is looking down on me and smiling away even though the poems tell of stories that are far from pleasant.
To this day, my grandfather smells like the sweet sugarcane he would often cut into cubes for us; his memories dawn on me like the bright bunch of red grapes that once hung over his pond. And for this, I hope that my stories will be everything to you that my grandfather has been to me- inspiring, warm and comforting.
Your storyteller from Ukhrul-Manipur. Hello from the cold mountains 🙂