Rest In Peace, Acha


Feb 23rd evening in Chandler, my phone buzzed with a WhatsApp call . It was the first time ever that my father called on WhatsApp . He had only started with WhatsApp about a month ago or so and have been taking baby steps with forwards and so on . I immediately answered .

He called primarily to console me on losing our beloved Hobo a few days ago .

He insisted that I buy a new puppy quickly . I told him I needed some time to grieve but I am definitely planning to get a new pup soon . He took it literally when I said “soon” and asked if I planned to get a puppy in the two weeks before I left for India 🙂

Till I left home after college , he used to indulge me a lot when it came to my love for dogs . My grandfather bought me my first fully and acha bought me everyone who came after .

He asked about our plans for our daughter’s 15th birthday and I told him about stepping out for dinner with her in a few minutes given the next day was a school day .

And then he asked me what only he considers a perfectly normal question – “How are your cars?” !

Achan was the biggest connoisseur of cars that I ever knew . Three years ago, when we needed a second car – I chose a Toyota over a Merc . And a month or two later , my parents visited at us Chandler for a vacation . Achan and I sat in our backyard and for hours we discussed pros and cons of engine design and the future of cars . Amma took this photo from behind us and later shared with me 🙂

Achan was a genuine mechanical engineer – someone who intuitively understood how machines worked . I became a mechanical engineer – not even half as good – because I wanted to be like him ! He taught me how to drive a car when I was 14 , over a summer vacation . He would park the car uphill , switch seats with me , and as I struggled to keep the car from rolling downward – he would ask me “tell me how a rack and pinion system works in the steering” or “explain how the clutch engages”. Needless to say , a few years later when I had to study automobile engineering in college – I aced it 🙂 .

He was a passionate driver , as is his maternal uncle who is only three years older than him . Between the two of them, it was common to go on 18 hour drives with Achan doing 9 hours of driving during day time and Maman doing 9 hours after sunset .

One of my fondest memories of childhood is sitting in the backseat of his white Fiat car and asking him to overtake a random car in front of us – and he would always oblige me !

When I was a little kid , he would often take me to the local vegetarian restaurants and we would have Dosa . Those were our dad-son bonding moments . And that’s a tradition we have continued over the years – with me taking him out for Dosa when he visited me in US or I visited him in Trivandrum . I enjoy Sambar with Dosa and he enjoys chutney with Dosa . So every time we eat Dosa outside – I take his bowl of sambar and he would take my chutney bowl . And we would always order two cups of filter coffee each – one before the dosas and one to eat with the Dosa . Those are habits that have stuck with me all these years .

It turned out that my daughter and my nephew – his darling grand children – both enjoy Dosa , and I think he has trained them both on the art of eating Dosa the same way as he did with me 🙂

When I was five years old, I learned to play cards from my paternal grandparents . But it was Achan who taught my little sister and I (and some of our cousins as well) to take up playing rummy as a competitive sport 🙂 . Perhaps playing rummy was the only aspect of his life where he played to win !

He had a very special fondness for my sister Lekshmi , and her husband Ravi was like a son for him, much like my wife Dhanya was a daughter for him .

Any time I visited him and left – I knew he felt bad . But when it was she – he would be downright depressed and his eyes would well up .

She was his favorite baby girl throughout !

Achan never met a stranger in his life . With his humor and humility and sense of fair play – he put everyone at ease immediately. He was one of those very few people that had no enemies and he never thought ill of anyone – even those that didn’t do right by him . While he got along splendidly with everyone – there were two cohorts of friends that he absolutely adored . The first were his pals from the 1970 class of College Of Engineering, TRIVANDRUM . And the other was his family of colleagues from ALIND where he worked most of his career .

I believe to this day that the best thing Acha ever did was to marry amma . They were inseparable for nearly 46 years through thick and thin . They never made a lot of money but they had an incredible life together through their (often comic and some times tragic) ups and downs . They gifted us kids the wealth of a great education and taught us their values .

He was an only child and absolutely was the eye of the apple for my grand parents . We all used to tease my grand parents for rushing to grab extra towels for him when he came out after a shower even when he was in his thirties 🙂 . When they passed away, he took it really hard and used to say “Now I am an orphan”.

His dad was an award winning historian and his mom was a trained classical musician . Achan probably inherited his love for reading and Carnatic music from his parents and he dutifully passed it to me .

I introduced him to the music of Sreevalsan Menon some years ago and he became a die hard fan . As he lay unconscious in the critical care unit of SK Hospital last week for several days, I played his favorite songs for him via the pink headset that my daughter had gifted him and I hope that he enjoyed it as he always did .

As it turned out, that 8 minutes and 31 seconds WhatsApp call on Feb 23 evening was the last time I spoke with him . And the last thing I told him was that my cars are doing fine 🙂 .

Yesterday night, I held his hand while he went into his final sleep peacefully . As the flames took his earthly remains today afternoon , I couldn’t help imagining his parents were waiting with open arms – and extra towels – in heaven for their favorite son !

We will miss you for ever, Acha – but you left us with such great memories for a life time that will keep us all going . I am sure you will be driving your favorite cars in heaven , and blasting your favorite songs !

Post Script

Many thanks to all our friends and family for all the kind words and prayers . A special shout out to Malu chechi and Hemachandran Chettan for going way above and beyond . And a lot of gratitude to the doctors (especially Dr Ravi , Dr Remya and Dr Renju) and nurses at SK a hospital for taking such good care of Acha and for answering all our questions honestly .

Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

27 thoughts on “Rest In Peace, Acha

  1. Vijay and Dhanya,

    Accept our deepest condolences, really very sorry to hear about the demise of your father.
    What an amazing tribute, so well written that I could imagine your childhood. These are the beautiful memories that remain of playing cards, eating your fav dishes , those chats are priceless!!

    Anshu/ Yogi

    Like

  2. Condolences, beautifully written. Losing close family makes all the everyday nonsense we stress and worry about seem like nothing! We don’t realize how big a part of our lives people are until they leave us but that’s the natural cycle of our existence….

    Like

  3. Lovely write up Sankar. It’s impossible to fill the vacuum created by a loved one. But life goes on. Stay brave!

    Like

  4. Vijay,

    I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful story and tribute. Thinking
    of you and your family.

    Sincerely,

    Patricia Martone Carrolo
    General Manager, IBM Global Healthcare and Life Sciences
    Member of the IBM Industry Academy
    Mobile : 1-978-387-3419
    e-mail: carrolo@us.ibm.com

    Find me on: and within IBM on:

    Like

  5. what a treasure of memories Vijay. I remembered my dad who passed away last May. You were lucky that you played a few songs on his bed. I am not. I always wanted to sing his favourite carnatic classic kruthis to him but I could never.I remembered my childhood…The Sanman Hotel he took me to regularly on his holidays, his love of Dosas and Vadas that he passed on to me, the smell of the 5am coffee brewing with 65:35 chicory blend, procured from a local coffee blender, his calls on whatsapp and when he talked to me in Tamil on his last call, I thought he is nearing his end…excellent, my eyes in tears I stop here. thanks again.

    Like

  6. A very touching tribute to a father from a loving son. As you aptly said he will always be watching your family From his heavenly abode

    Regards,

    Raja Lanka

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  7. A very touching and honest tribute to a great father by his loving son. Every word you said about Viji speaks volumes of your regards to him. He was a true friend and mentor for his juniors in Alind like me. He will live in our hearts for years to come.

    Like

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