This post is dedicated to my Dada ji who passed away on January 26, 2016. May your soul rest in peace.
My Dada ji was a strong, authentic man, who worked very hard his entire life to support his family on a small salary of a school teacher. His goal was to have all of his children educated so that they could always be successful and respected in their lives. When the grandchildren came into the picture, he wanted to make sure that they were even more educated than his children.
I was the eldest grandchild who lived 7,488 kilometers away from him, in a city that he had never set foot in. With our language and geographical barriers, communication was scarce. Somehow, our bond was formed when he found out that I liked one thing: books.
"They don't have books over there and Shikha likes books," he said. Out of concern, my Dada ji made it his mission to send back books during my father's short visits.
I received my first set of books in second grade when I was still getting used to the English language. He knew that I was learning English, and all of them were aimed to help me improve my vocabulary. My Dada ji sent me my first translation of Shakespeare's work, which became very dear to me. At the time, I didn't even know who Shakespeare was. I was just thrilled to escape into other worlds which lay hidden amongst many words.
By fourth grade, my Dada ji began to send more books to prepare me for middle and high school.
Science books were sent.
Literature books were sent.
Comic books were sent.
Philosophy books were sent.
Math books were sent, but never touched. Math was too intimidating for little Shikha.
All of the books were lovingly displayed on a tall bookcase.
In seventh grade, Dada ji asked my father,"What does Shikha want to read now? Tell her to give me her book list." Out of excitement, book lists were sent and on the return of my father from his business trips, books were received. This exchange went on for many years.
Once, my Dada ji couldn't find a book that I had listed. He went to all of the book stores in New Delhi to look for it, and became frustrated that he could not get his granddaughter a book that she had asked for. "She never asks for anything, and I could not even get this for her," he sulked. My father had to insist that I could live without it, and he shouldn't get too upset about it.
I remember finally being able to go to New Delhi in tenth grade, and the first thing he asked for was my book list.
"If you give it to me now, then all of the books will be ready for you by the time you leave," he said.
"Dada ji, nahin. I will come with you to get them."
Dada ji staunchly refused to be accompanied by anyone to his favorite book stores. With a rikshaw and by foot, he would always bring back a heavy bag that was equivalent to the love and strength of his heart.
Dada ji is one of the reasons why I can read and speak in English. Without him, I would not have been where I am today. He kept me intellectually stimulated when I felt deprived and introduced me to so many new subjects. Thank you for everything, Dada ji. I will always remember you, and you will always be in my heart. Rest in peace.