My grandparents used to stay right behind Good Luck Cafe in Deccan Gymkhana. And for as long as I can remember, my grandfather would set off every evening for a walk on the tekdis.
It used to be a long rambling walk. He would walk up the Maruti tekdi, having climbed up the path that ran alongside the Gokhale Institute, climb down onto Senapati Bapat Road, and then climb up Vetaal tekdi. The descent would be from Chaturshringi Mandir, and from there, he would make his way back home. That’s a fairly long walk, and he would do it every evening.
I would accompany him occasionally. Walking with him was a treat, and in more ways than one. He used to take hard boiled sweets with him on these walks, orange flavored, and I could count on getting some at regular intervals. We’d meet his friends and their pets on these walks, and those encounters were always fun. But the time I got to spend with him on these walks was, in retrospect, the most valuable gift of all. All these years later, I can’t remember the conversations we had, but I do remember the route, the people we met and just the fact that we spent time together.
Time and my grandfather moved on, and as with most other people in this city, walks on the tekdi became an increasingly rare activity. Once a year at best, although in truth, even that would be an exaggeration.
But this past year or so, things have changed. I am a father now, and my daughter is now old enough to take for walks on the tekdi. And every chance I got this year, we’ve been doing just that. We climb from the Senapati Bapat Road side of the Maruti tekdi and get down on the other, but apart from that, the route remains the same.
Now, on that hill, towards the Deccan Gymkhana side, lie two little rocky outcrops – protrusions from the ground, really, that look for all the world like two chairs. One is much larger than the other, and the smaller one can comfortably seat only a child. I and my grandfather used to rest for a while there, I on the small rock and he on the big one, before resuming our evening walk. I had forgotten about those rocks over all these years, until I climbed the hill again with my daughter.
But that first time this year, when I climbed the hill with her, she ran towards those rocks as soon as she sighted them, and sat on the small one, and excitedly bade me to sit on the other, much as I must have done with my grandfather.
It was the most important promotion of my life, getting to sit on the big rock. Everybody of a particular age must experience these moments, I suppose, in one form or the other, and see life come full circle. That balmy summer evening, it was my turn to experience nostalgia, pride, love and poignancy all at the same time.
My grandfather passed away in 2001, and my daughter was born in 2013.They never got to see each other, and I say that not in order to communicate an obvious fact, but convey an enormous regret.
But sitting on that rock on that first walk on the hill with my daughter, and on every trip since, is an enormously joyous, this-is-what-life-is-about kind of feeling. It reminds me of those walks all those many years ago, but also promises me so many more walks to come in the years ahead.
When I became a father three years ago, I was convinced there could be no better feeling.
I was wrong. Being a bridge between the past and the future is even better.