When I looked down the road where my grandfather's walking stick touched- it was a brown road - no tar, just solid mud and the sift of sand that touched his feet. He traversed that road with every guest to the main tar road bus stop from his now 100 year home. He was born in the same home more than 97 years ago - a home with gentle sloping terracotta roofs and more natural lighting than many world-class buildings of today.
As long as his legs would listen to him and his eyesight was good - he walked with his walking stick for support, and waited till the guests boarded the bus. His thoughtful walk with every guest and graceful send off with a tata (indian word for a hand wave) is what I remember him for.
I shared with my mom that I am planning on writing about her father [as my 100th post on LinkedIn Pulse] and how he made deep-seated impressions in my life. She was visiting him in the village and she had the presence of mind to give him the phone. "How did I make a difference?" he asked. I answered. All he said in an emotional voice, "I never knew that my most simplest acts would make the deepest impression in you."
Little did he realize that I was not the only one, I just happened to be the grandchild to let him know. That privilege I am grateful for. When I observe my siblings and cousins walk with every guest to the bus stand or to their car, I smile. It is a matter of habit for them. As I pause to watch the world at large, in the busy humdrum of modern life, this habit is not that common. My grandfather may be a simple man of few words, serene and calm. In his most thoughtful act, he has made all his grandchildren millionaires of heart and that is his legacy and our inheritance.
As I close my eyes, my memories wander. If by chance the bus has empty seats, the guests seat themselves. They look out of the window, wave back with a lovely smile and as the bus rolls by, with the picture perfect moving eye lock, they ever so slightly bend their head in acknowledgement. A fleeting smile envelops my grandpa's face. Lot is said in the unsaid. In those moments - the triumph of humanity shines through. All I am left with are Henry James's words,
Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
Bringing it all together: Uncanny parallels to Oprah
Vicissitudes of life expose us to varied moments, what we cling on (to create memories) is our choice. I chose the moments when human connectivity is center stage and I remember my grandfather for enshrining it in me. The man who has never set sail away from the Indian soil, cocooned in the home he was born, inching 100 years and making an impression across the seas. Gandhi with his walking stick marched a nation to freedom. My grandfather, in my corner of the world with his consistent walk to send off his guest led me to the heart of it all - people matter and find your own small way to make them feel your respect - more than the words, in your acts.
My 7 year old daughter (she was recently working on a project on the life of Oprah Winfrey) shared excitedly that Oprah shook hands with every guest in the show, I connected the dots. I looked up online, one line from LA times article from 1992 caught my eye. When I read the line below, I smiled.
"She begins about 6:30 a.m., arriving for makeup and wardrobe before taping two shows and personally shaking hands and saying goodbye to more than 500 guests"
Sometimes, great success is built on small acts - Oprah knew that, my grandfather knew that. In their consistent practice, they gave gratitude another name - respect for human spirit.