Entry for Quotation Inspiration contest
Word Count: 1245
I had a great collection of rosary peas in my childhood. The black and red peas always fascinated me. I stored them in all sorts of containers and exhibited my collection in front of the wide-eyed cousins who visited us during summer vacations. I gifted them rosary pea necklaces if it was a girl or bicycles made with midrib of coconut leaf and decorated with rosary peas if it was a boy. I did not realise that I had made so many of them, until a cousin showed me his and his sister’s joined collection of them years later. My grandpa taught me these crafts, among many other things.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my grandpa is also the shining rosary peas. As it was customary during those times, my father, who was the eldest of grandpa’s children, lived with him along with his family, consisting of myself and my mother. I do not have memories of my grandmother. I heard that she passed away when I was very little.
Grandpa was my best friend during my childhood. He was a colourful man in every aspect. He never told me any fictional stories, but his life story was much more interesting than any fiction that I have come across. When I was young, he was retired from the army, and had lost his right leg, knee down, during a mine explosion, and moved around with the help of a walker. This did not seem to bother him, also could not confine him to home. He met with his friends regularly at the village eatery, just adjacent to the library and took me along, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip being an avid listener, reader and lover of oily snacks all my life.
He also joined me during my explorations of his vast estate, where I discovered this rosary pea plant with the colourful peas scatted all around it on the ground. It was a secret and sacred spot for me. Even though I gifted the peas to my cousins, I never revealed the source to them.
“Pa, you know those are poisonous… don’t let Jim play with those.” My risk averse father would say.
Grandfather would only smile “Jim knows those are poisonous… he is a big boy and will not eat them, will you, Jimmy?”
I would shake my head rigorously.
Grandpa was right. He had explained to me that these were poisonous. He would say “you would come across several wonderful things and people in life. Each would have some great aspects and some bad or dangerous aspects. Secret to happiness is to learn to pursue the good and avoid the bad…”
“I did not understand…”
“Take that rose for example. It is beautiful, but you need to watch out for the thrones. Alex is a great friend, but has a bad temper. Rosary peas are beautiful, but you can’t eat them and must keep away from small children. Mines are good to protect your country, but you could lose a leg if you are not careful…”
I did not know then that these were lessons that would give the confidence and trust required for a life time.
My father was a stark contrast compared to him in temperament. He was calm, but not cool. He secured good marks in school. Attended university that is nearest to the home, as a day scholar, even though he could have secured admission to better colleges, and grandpa was willing to support him. He then got a job in the local administration, married a distant relative - my mother - of similar temperament and has just one child, that is me. I remember that he went to watch soccer matches but never played and loved to read books. His life was peaceful but totally uneventful. A far cry from the adventurous and active life of my grandfather. My father always tried to protect me from dangers, where was grandpa would make me aware of them, but expose me to them.
My father was never angry, but aloof, hence I always directed my crazy queries to my grandpa, who was ever approachable.
“Grandpa, why is father so very different than you? Is that because your accident scared him and scarred him for life?”
Grandpa was thoughtful and quiet for a while. “May be…” he said. “Also, he spent his childhood with my father, who was a disciplinarian that made me run away from home to join the army.” Then he regained his usual cheerful expression, picked up one of my rosary pea necklaces and said “Family tree is like a rosary pea necklace, every alternate generation will have same colours!”
That explanation sounded more logical than the previous one and I nodded. “You ran away from home? Tell me about it!”
“Nope… come back when you are done with cleaning your room.”
“No one appreciates me when the room is clean!”
“Never do anything to impress others. Your job is done when you are satisfied!”
Though this sounded very simple and got me going, I came to realise that doing a job to self-satisfaction is much more difficult – and rewarding - than doing it to please others.
When I said that I wanted to tour the country before attending the university, it was only him who supported me.
“What will he do with his life? A secure job and steady income are important” My father said.
“Agree with you, but only to some extent… money will only make you wealthy, experiences make you rich…”
“To gain experiences, he should be able to feed himself” My father protested.
“Hey John, don’t under estimate him…also, this is only temporary. He said he wants to pursue higher studies… consider it as a small break.”
“Two years is not small, he is only eighteen” My mother too was not happy.
“Yes, but he has lot many years ahead.”
“Pa, Ma, please…” I intervened.
“If you all insist….” My father agreed reluctantly.
“Keep calling him... okay… don’t make them worried” Grandpa told me later, secretly, glancing at my father.
Those two years of roaming around, doing odd jobs, taught me much more than any college education could. I came back to pursue a college degree even though reluctantly and completed it. I must say the tenacity required came from my grandpa.
After college, when I decided to go with a start-up instead of a regular job, I faced resistance in similar lines. This time it was more substantial support from grandpa. He had a friend of his, holding a senior management position in an IT firm talk to my father that he is willing to offer me a job if my attempt fails.
With god’s grace, that was not required. Even though 24 hours sometimes do not seem enough and grandpa’s lesson of working just enough for self-satisfaction keeps coming back to me while I lick my wounds, I can proudly say that my venture is doing good. Though, I wish Grandpa were here with us not just in spirit, since the last two years.
As I parked my car and walked into the living room, dead tired, and badly in need of some sleep before my next big day, I noticed my son playing at the veranda with my father. They were making a bouquet, pasting rosary peas on to small sticks. I mused as I waved to them whether the peas were indeed poisonous!