A Tribute to my Kandivali DadaSun, 27th Nov '05, 12:05 am::

A Tribute to my Kandivali Dada: I just received the unfortunate news that my mom's father, Navnitlal Modi (Kandivali Dada) passed away earlier today. He was over 74yrs old and had been of weak health for a while. Lately it had gotten worse and he was admitted to the hospital a few days ago. However, before he passed away, he blessed my cousin Khushboo and her new groom Nirav on the occasion of their marriage ceremony. And he was present when my cousin Kunal was engaged to be married. His four sons and one daughter (my mom) loved him dearly and had been with him throughout his long, eventful life.

I remember my summer vacation days as a naughty little scoundrel causing trouble every moment when I stayed with my mother's side of the family in the Kandivali suburbs of Mumbai, India. After his wife (my mom's mom) passed away due to cancer in early 1990's, I saw Dadaji as the quintessential Indian Sage. With his decades and decades of experiences living around the Indian sub-continent, Dadaji could discuss and debate on just about every topic one could imagine, from politics to science, from religion to mysticism. While I loved him as a kid, I began to fully appreciate his wisdom as I turned into a confused teenager.

It would be wrong of me to say that just one person influenced me primarily as I was growing up. Whatever I am today is a result of many many people who love me and still want to bring out the best in me by doing their little bit. I consider my Kandivali Dada to be among the respected few that I had the honor of learning from, in addition to of course, my parents. I have learnt so many things about life, so many little lessons that make me who I am, that I cannot thank my family enough. And add to that list my friends, my dad's friends (seriously! all of his awesome friends & their families), my boss Eric & his entire family, my past and current coworkers, and the numerous school teachers (like Mr. Sesh from RKC) that I had the fortune of learning from in the past two and a half decades.

The odd thing about learning lessons of life is that you don't always learn what people are trying to teach you. Kandivali Dadaji tried to teach me about astrology, alternative health/medicines, and ancient Vedic texts. I never learnt anything about that. Frankly, being a student of science, I couldn't swallow half the theories that astrology is based on. So inadvertently he taught me, one of my strongest skill today: critical analysis. Many times I would feel bad that I just spent four hours debating with him the ridiculousness of non-conventional forms of treatments like Electropathy. He would patiently explain his theories to me and give me a chance to counter them with my arguments. As a 15-yr old kid it was great because here I was, learning about the world, but in my own way. I was being given a chance to learn and believe what I wanted to.

It doesn't matter which part of the world you're in, most of the kids are forced to accept staunch orthodox beliefs and live up to pre-conceived notions of what's right and what's not, with no valid explanations or a chance to argue otherwise. If your parents think you need religion, you have no choice but to believe in God, Allah, or Krishna. If your grandparents think caste-system or racism is perfectly acceptable, you will grow up to be proud to hate others not like you. If everyone else around you tells you that men should go out and earn money while women stay at home and bear children, that's what you end up believing in. It doesn't even have to be this extreme. If the people you respect and look up to as a teenager tell you that lying every now and then to save your own face is perfectly normal, then guess what, you're gonna have issues with being honest. While I realize that every person is free to choose whatever they want to believe it, most of the kids just stick to trusting whatever they're taught during the early years of their life. Of course, exceptions exist but the norm is that you don't get much choice to pick your own beliefs.

Thankfully, I was given the chance to be an exception. And my Kandivali Dadaji was one of the few who supported my criticism and encouraged my curiousity. It would be so much easier to pay tribute to the man had he been a simple one-dimensional personality. I wish I could just say that "he was great fun to be with and brought my lots of candy." But I can't. For like the saying goes, he didn't just give me a free meal, he taught me how to fish. No matter how hard I try to remember him as the awesome grandpa who gave me free-stuff, I can't. My earliest memories of him have been overwritten by the long debates we had sitting cross-legged on the floor, in front of a little mandir and his wife's photo. With some people, you remember the hundreds of little incidents. But with some people, it's just one clear memory, so strong that, that is pretty much how you're going to remember them forever.

It's very easy to talk about someone that helped you at a bad time. In fact it feels so comforting to pay homage to someone who took direct actions to improve your immediate life situtation. However, it's not as easy to thank someone when the words they spoke six years ago suddenly impact the way you think of life today.

He was a very kind and disciplined man. He loved his children and grandchildren. I can't even imagine what my little cousins Ria & Yashika in Kandivali must feel right now. During the last few years of his life, I know both the kids had become very fond of him. And today I feel lucky and privileged to have known him not just as a loved-kid but more so as a growing up teenager who had too many unanswered questions.

I'm really out of words right now as his death didn't really come as a surprise to anyone in our family. We all knew his health was failing and it was only a matter of time before he left us. I guess I myself had come to a closure this April when I visited him. I was sad that I didn't spend more than a few hours with him but seeing how weak he was, I couldn't really expect him to talk for more than an hour or two anyway. Not knowing when I would be back in India, I pretty much bid my last adieu. I was kinda hoping that I would see him once more when I go back to India in January '06 but oh well...

He had a long, fruitful life. While I want to mourn his death, I also want to celebrate his life. Good bye Dadaji. Farewell.

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