Nana is the Urdu/Hindi word for maternal grandfather. Every time I go to Dubai, I visit my 97-year old nana who lives with my uncle. We have all envied his health and fitness levels for a long time. Until recently, he used to wake up before dawn for his morning prayers and rituals; he read newspapers and went for walks; he traveled on his own between Bhavnagar (India) and Dubai.
Every time, I would learn about a different part of his life – and each one more inspiring than the other e.g.
- He never went to university, but was one of the most learned men of his time. He never stopped reading and learning. He could speak more than five languages.
- He started his career selling metal at the age of 18. And when he retired at 50, he owned a huge metal business and few shops.
- Soon after retirement, he started working with a few philanthropic organizations. He traveled across India and Africa for fund-raising and built hundreds of schools in poor neighborhoods.
- He had four wives; he remarried after the deaths of each one, except the last one who died about ten years ago. My mom was born from the second wife.
I saw him last week, and he is not the same anymore, physically. He is now bed-ridden, but insists on walking to the bathroom. He can only take fluids, so he is getting weaker by the day. He can’t see properly, or hear or talk. And he doesn’t recognize anyone. He felt my face, arms and biceps. Then he smiled and made a gesture with a punched hand – meaning ‘you seem fit’. When I realized his mental alertness, I tried to say ‘let’s get up and go’ through my body language. He quickly responded through his hands and expressions which I interpreted as, ‘I am done with this life; I am too tired now; I am ready to go’.
I think people have two kinds of thoughts on their deathbeds: I wish I had done this and done that; if I could live my life again, I would do this and that differently. Or I am glad I did this and that; if I could live my life again, I wouldn’t change a thing; I had the best life! And what we would be thinking on our deathbeds depends on how we live our lives today.
[Updated on 2nd April: Nana passed away today. May his soul rest in peace]