by Reena Daruwalla, guest writer for Nancy Hayssen.com
I got a mail from Nancy early this morning telling me of the sad demise of her grandfather who had long been struggling with cancer of the colon. It was obvious from her words that he was a person who had had a very strong influence in her life as a spiritual mentor and as a well beloved family patriarch. In her mail Nancy quoted one of her grandfather’s favorite quotes. “they’re ALL crazy out there, be careful of the BULLSHIT!” … which I thought indicated what a feisty and interesting character he must have been.
What Nancy’s mail did was recall irresistibly to my mind my own relationship with my own grandfather whose favorite grandchild I was and who passed away almost 15 years ago, which was for me akin to the passing of an era.
Some of my best childhood memories were those of sitting on the huge swing in my grandfather’s (or dada as I used to call him) house. I would return from school and rush to dada, saying ‘story story’ and then we would sit together on the swing and dada would tell me endless stories: moral fables, fairy stories, long and fascinating tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (the Indian mythological texts) and the Shah Nama (the Persian texts related to Zoroastrianism).
My indoctrination into music also began on the swing with my dada. He taught me bhajans or devotional songs in praise of Hindu Gods, although he was a staunch Zoroastrian. My dada was, I firmly believe, a representation of the true plurality of Indian society; of the respect and knowledge that most reasonable Indians have for religions other than their own.
My dada therefore gave me so many things: because he was himself a scholar and very widely read, he passed on his love of books to me. Because he found that music was path to communion with the almighty, he passed on his love of music to me. Since I learnt so much about other religions from him, I also learnt respect and tolerance for other religions; since knowledge is a necessary component of tolerance.
He passed on a lot of his wisdom and his world insight to me. For this and for countless happy childhood hours, I thank you dada.