In Memory of Pa… a Tribute to my Grandfather

In Memory of Pa… a Tribute to my Grandfather

I last interacted with my grandfather a few days before he passed away peacefully in his sleep in August 2018 at the age of 91.
During the last few years, Alzheimer’s disease ravaged his memory to the point that he didn’t recognise me anymore but as I stood at his bedside on that fateful day, he silently held my hand, his strong grip a surprising contrast to his frail body.
I stayed with him awhile in comfortable silence, then kissed him gently on his forehead. He reached his hand up to touch the spot on his forehead in acknowledgement and I said goodbye. It’s a memory I’ll always cherish. This is my tribute to him.  

Anybody who knew Sookram Gangadeen knew he was a talker. He could talk your ear out for hours on topics ranging from the good ol‘ days to his travels, health, yoga or his career.

As he got older, and his short-term memory began to deteriorate, his long-term memory seemed to have sharpened. Now he delivered his stories in HD – with 4K detail and clarity. And since he soon forgot the story he had just told… we were destined to hear the same story again and again… and again, sometimes three times during the same conversation.

I confess that my siblings, cousins and I often strategised about how to escape these long chats. Many times we involved Granny’s help in our getaway plans but as an adult, I became fascinated by these stories that gave insight into the man I knew as Pa.

He was a man passionate about education. He told us stories about having to walk from his home at Quarry Village to Siparia Union Presbyterian and back each day.

He talked about his teachers and his love for arithmetic and science. And if you ever witnessed his writing, you would know his penmanship was art.

Unfortunately, his traditional education ended after primary school. Although he was a promising student, his family couldn’t afford to send him to secondary school.

An ambitious young man, he was not deterred. He became a tailor by trade and as my cousin Keaton reminded me recently, Pa made all his grandsons high waist, baby blue trousers when we were children… I can’t say I’m disappointed I didn’t get one too.

Pa began his career as a yard boy at Apex, one of Petrotrin’s predecessor companies. He enrolled in correspondence courses from England and was able to move up through the organisation, before retiring as an assistant stock analyst.

Of course, he was keen on his children and grandchildren exceeding his success. I’ve heard my aunts talk about how strict he was as a parent.

Thankfully, he got that out of his system by the time I – his first grandchild – came around.

However, he did project his love for math and science unto me – I remember one year he brought me back a chemistry set after a trip to New York.

Alas, it was an investment wasted on me but thankfully my brothers took up the science route, much to Pa’s delight.

Nevertheless, he was always keen to know how I was doing in school and then later on, in my career. He celebrated my successes and was eager to share them – much to my embarrassment – with anyone who would listen.

Pa  had a strong sense of responsibility and devotion to his family, a trait I am grateful that my own father inherited.

He always spoke of my grandmother with devotion, letting me know that he had things in place to ensure that she would be well-cared for after his passing.

And for those who knew him in these later years, he was prone to scandalise us all with choice industrial language when he couldn’t find her around the house.

Pa was a passionate yogi before yoga became trendy. I remember marvelling at his ability to do headstands, especially in his old age, though I was wise enough not to attempt this gravity-defying move unsupervised.

He was well-read on many subjects but especially enjoyed studying ayurvedic medicine. If you only mentioned to Pa that you’re sick… he would whip out one of his books, ready with a remedy just for you.

As a perennial allergy/sinus sufferer myself, Pa taught me a technique to help unblock a stuffy nose back when I was a child. I still don’t understand the science behind putting a fist under the opposite arm, but somehow it clears the stuffiness.

As I’ve had time to reflect on my grandfather’s nine decades of life, I am comforted that his was a life well-lived. He was not a perfect man but he was honourable and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to call him Pa for the last 3 of those decades.

May he rest in peace.

***Nasal Congestion Clearing Technique I learnt from Pa:
If your left nostril is stuffy, make a fist with your left hand and place it under your right arm. Repeat with your right fist under your left arm for right side stuffiness. Try it. It really works!

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