Remembering Aajoba

I couldn’t have found a better day & subject to resume blogging than recall memories on the birthday of my beloved grandpa – Late Shri Madhukar Bhaskar Gupte – who very unfortunately passed away on January 22 this year. His loss wasn’t limited to his progeny, but people far and wide in his friend & family circle who had fond memories of him.

Born 29th March, 1931 at Murud-Janjira, he was the 3rd child of the late Shri Bhaskar Govind Gupte. Bhaskar bhai as he was known to most people in Murud was a very successful lawyer of his time, with stories of his arguments in court cases, as well as during prohibition still recited in the family. Of the siblings who survived adulthood (several passed away before teenage), Aajoba was #3 after his elder sister Sulochana (later Mrs. Chaubal), elder brother late Shri. Vinayak Gupte (a.k.a. Bal or Vinu who passed early 90s), and followed by two younger brothers: Shri Sudhakar (a.k.a. Appa or Sudha) & Shri Srinivas (a.k.a Baba). Only Bal ajooba had passed away before his death.

Aaji-Aajoba's Marriage (1956)

Aajoba attended Sir S A High School in Murud, and moved to Mumbai after matriculation to study law at Ruia College, Matunga. At the time, he lived with his elder sister’s family and shared a very strong bond with her children Mohan & Pratibha, who fondly called him Nana mama. We’ve heard stories of¬† Aajoba carrying Mohan kakaon his shoulders through the scaly rocks at Ekdari port. At the time, a night journey on a steam boat was the easiest way to shuttle between Mumbai & Murud. Sometimes he travelled by S.T. to Revdanda, took a ferry across the creek to Salaav followed by another bus to Murud. And if he couldn’t get a seat, he’d ask someone to intimate home of his arrival, which would result in Bhaskar bhai arranging for a tonga to pick him up. When Aajoba finished studying law, he along with his younger brothers lived in Malad (where Baba aajoba continues to stay), and even had a full-time cook at their service. After marrying Aaji, they continued staying there for a couple of years.

With Baba (1958)

Despite of his own reputation in Murud, Bhaskar bhai was adamant that ajooba practise on his own; his explanation: the tree grows taller in the sun. And Ajooba proved his mettle. He moved into his house in Gondhlekar chawl (where Mahesh kaka now stays) and later bought a bunglow in Malwani. If I know of one success yardstick he tracked right until the end, it was the number of cars that he & his childrens had bought. With Raju kaka’s Nano added in 2011, it now stands at 24. But when Aajoba bought his 1st Volkswagen in the early 60’s, he was the first from the family to drive a car into Murud. The car, Malwani bungalow & his style put together created gossip of his possible involvement in smuggling. But Bhaskar bhai had always seen him as a white elephant. When construction of the new bungalow completed, the family moved to Aashirwaad in Pandurang Wadi, Goregaon. Aajoba spent a lot of energy on winning the case for this very house. All his life, he didn’t loose respect for Shree Siddhivinayak &¬†his elder sister.

He was always a very disciplined man: never missed his daily exercise & pooja; never left home without eating kheemat (traditional overcooked rice) which he enjoyed with everything from pickle to fish. He loved watching and playing cricket, playing carrom with friends and reading the newspaper. For cricket, he would rise early enough for the  matches in Australia & stay up late to catch the action in the Caribbean. Other days he would be asleep by 930-10. Over the years his practice had fluorished several folds and had an esteemed clientele. Having practiced for over 5 decades, he could not be separated from his work. There would be times when he would wake up in the middle of the night if he had a critical brain wave for an upcoming case . And he would be quickly irated if someone disturbed him during such brainstorming. In general, his introversion had portrayed the image of an angry man in the family. In the years to come, his anger was greatly subdued as the family grew. While we knew he was revered by one and all, we hardly knew of the many he had silently helped, until they mentioned it after he passed away.

His 75th Birthday (2005)

He loved spending time with his grandchildren. Every Diwali, he would bring us huge packets of fire-crackers. In May he would take all of us to Murud, and pack along a big box of confectionaries from Monginis. On other days, he would take us for a ride in the car to watch the trains. He taught everyone to say: nakaduchenya tapasakeche yasanapatikayanaveerakadhum which although cryptic was very ; when spoken backwards it means “Madhukar Vinayak yanche kes kaapnyache dukaan hote“. And we would all find it very funny.

At Aashirwaad (2008)

I shared a very different relation with him, a very special one.¬† Being his first grandchild, he was the one who gave me my name. We played cricket, had mini-picnics on the¬†bungalow¬†terrace, fired his German shot-gun and even had our way of eating varan-bhaat (rice & dal). Every Sunday, we would start early morning with home-cooked mutton for Raju kaka who was studying in Pen. On the way I would have to stop for nature’s call which I attended in a very ‘natural’ way in the Arnala forest. Tissues weren’t available in those days, and leaves were all we had at our disposal. He recited that story to everyone right up to my fiancee Aditi who he met during his last trip to Mumbai. Despite of his short-term memory loss, when we met next in Murud, he asked me how well I knew my would be, and if she would fit into the family? I had clarified his doubts about Aditi. I so wish he had seen my marriage. I have preserved at least 3 things he passed on to me: a fur coat from the late 70’s (with Yash now), a pocket dictionary from the ’40s, and a Rs.500 note which he asked me to keep as backup when I moved to Panvel to study engineering in 2003.

Last trip to Mumbai (2011)

Aajoba had no medical history. Until a week before his demise, he enjoyed a normal diet, suffered no major illness and all his body parts were functioning normally.¬†In fact¬†he started eating things he disliked all his life. But his weakened lungs (attributable to Panama that he smoked until 2008) fell prey to¬†pneumonia, which put together with his age led to an incurable infection. Although he had quit drinking around 2000, he had started enjoyed it again in the last few years, but only when offered. While in hospital, he could still write on paper and understand things. While Aaji was admitted for a day, he caught a glimpse of her being moved on a wheel chair in the ICU and quickly asked someone why she was there. He couldn’t speak due to the IVs passing through his mouth and we really couldn’t bear the thought of how dry his throat must be since every thing his body needed was delivered directly into the intestines through tubes. On his last day, he said he wanted to have Thumbs Up. When someone joked of adding a ‘small one’ to it, he smiled and agreed; it was passed to him through the IV. For all we know, that was his last wish and he passed away happily 4 hours later, leaving nothing but tears in our eyes. He had no regrets, no grudges & nothing to take with him. He was least interested in money, jewellery or property; he never expected anything from anyone. He had great faith in God and attributed all his¬†success to the Almighty. While he never could return to Murud and spend his old age¬†practicing¬†there as he had planned, his sons ensured that his ashes laid in peace in his hometown.

These stupid birthday reminder websites don’t understand death & breakups. I received an alert for his birthday and I couldn’t ignore it. This post is the result and¬†I cannot complete it without thanking a few people. Raju kaka & Manisha kaki for all the care that they took in his last few days; it is easier said than done. Family & friends supported us during the tough times. The Borivali High Court Bar Association who met the very next day after court session to remember him. Thank you all. And why¬†cry when the man lived his life on his own terms & left content with his life. Happy birthday Aajoba! We will miss you!

 PS: If any of the above information needs amendment, please let me know