I don’t think of my dadaji too much but recently some things kept happening in my life that just made me instantly reminiscent of him. Some pics, some incidents, otherwise very trivial, but off late it made me draw a connection to him and I would just start thinking of him.
My sis, Prerna Bagaria, laid her hands on a tiny glass case while helping her dad clean his cupboard. When she saw it closely, she noticed that it had six rice grains in it. On a more closer look, she was amazed to see that it had names of all of us six cousins engraved on it. When I saw the pic, almost instantly I knew that this was made on one of our trips to Nathdwara or Srinathji, as we all used to call it. My dadaji and dadiji lived in Bombay and would visit us in Ahmedabad very often. And Srinathji would always be on their agenda. I have some very faint memories of these trips. What I distinctly remember was that I used to dread going in the temple for darshan fearing I would be crushed in the crowd or that I won’t be able to hold on to my mom’s hand and would be separated from her for life. Then one day, things changed. We were heading to the temple but something was different today. We were being leaded by a man in a white dhoti towards the backdoor of the temple. All the security people would salute him, some even bent down to touch his feet. And before I could realise what was happening, we were all standing in front of the idol of Sri Srinathji. My dadaji had met the temple mahant and arranged for a special darshan for us before the curtains open for the people at large. From that day, my dadaji was a different person for me. I thought of him as someone very influential.
Another aspect which I noticed was that whenever they would visit us, things used to change in the house. Their room would be cleaned throughly leaving not even a single particle of visible dust. Crisp and clean bed sheets would be spread and the small table would be cleared of all articles to make a makeshift temple for them. My mom and chachi would start covering their heads. They would enter or exit the house from a side door if my dadaji was sitting in the hall. They would not sit to watch tv with us. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, every meal was cooked after asking my dadi’s preferences. We were not allowed to play in the house coz we might disturb their sleep. Every possible effort was made by my mom and chichi so that they don’t feel like visitors.
I don’t remember my dadaji buying us any gifts but instead he would give us 10 rs or sometimes 20 and would say, “chocolate, goli, le aana, tujhe pasand hai wo”. If I remember correctly the boys got more than the girls!! And he was always dressed in the same attire. If he is at home, he will wear a white dhoti and half sleeve banian. If he went out, it was always a light grey safari suit. I haven’t seen him in any other colours except these.
If I am talking about my dadaji, I can’t forget to mention HAJMOLA!!! He was very fond of this khatta churan and all of us cousins have inherited this from him. I would ask him for these and he would give me one. But not being satisfied, I would sneak into his room and remove two three golis, without making a noise. I think he knew I am doing this but never stopped me. And this craze for HAJMOLA is not limited to my dadaji and his grandchildren but has passed onto his great grandchildren too!!! Smaira, Diaa and Pratham are living proofs of how much we love our hajmola!!
My dadi is a foodie but my dadaji knew how to control his temptations and would always eat in fixed proportions. He had a very sensitive throat and wanted everything to be served warm to him, even dahi, chaas or fruit salad. My mom would very carefully and skillfully heat every item on his plate and then tell me,” jaldi se thali dadaji ke paas le ja, thanda hone se pehle, nahi to wapas bhej denge” and my dadaji would touch everything to ensure that it is warm, just the way he likes it. He also wanted us to serve him food with a lot of agrah or manuhar. It means insisting the person to have some more even after he says he is full. I didn’t know this art when I was small. One day, while serving him lunch, I took a second chapati for him and he refused it thinking I will insist on giving it to him and then he will take it. But I started going back to the kitchen when he stopped me and said, “Chori, dubara puchh liya kar, Ek baar me wapas nahi le jate…..” Lesson learnt dadaji.
Also, he was born with a sweet tooth. Everyday he just had to eat sweets, after lunch and dinner. If nothing was available, he would take jaggery or his favourite chocolate, mango bite, but his meal ended with a sweet dish. He used to take so many spoonfuls of sugar in his tea, soup or rice that when my mom told me,” Chawal me Shakkar de aa dadaji ko” I would joke and say,” Chawal me Shakkar nahi, Shakkar me Chawal Lete hai dadaji!!!”
Today when I sat down to write about him, I didn’t know I will have so much on my mind. Every memory that I have of him is leading me to a new one and I am just too overwhelmed that I remember him so distinctly even today. I don’t have too many memories of him after my marriage. I just remember that he had slipped in the bathroom once and after that his health kept on deteriorating. My dadaji who used to travel alone, on his own, to Chidava( our native place in Rajasthan) to Vrindavan to Ahmedabad to Bombay and lot of other places was now afraid to even go to the bathroom on his own. He had once come to Ahmedabad and when he wanted to return, he choose to go by plane so that the journey would be short. My pappa took him to the airport well ahead of his flight time so that he can arrange for a wheelchair and anything else that may be needed. But the moment they reached there, word spread that “bagadiaji aaye hai” and within minutes he was surrounded by the staff eagerly willing to escort him to his plane. Such was his goodwill and reputation!!!!
Even today I don’t know what my dadaji did to earn a living for his family and it doesn’t matter anymore but I do know that he earned a lot of respect and good name. If people did any favors for him, whether it is the special darshan at Srinathji or the attention at the airport, it was because he gave them love, kindness and help when they needed it. As I grew up I realised that my dadaji, who I once thought to be very influential, was a simple man with limited needs, who with his simple gestures touched many lives!!! Even today if I am introduced to someone as his grand daughter, the immediate reaction is, “ohhh!!! Bagadiaji ki poti hai!!!” and I swell up with pride.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s my dadaji from my eyes…..
That’s Shri Radheshyamji Bagadia for all of you.