Memories of my grandfather

It has been exactly a month since I lost my Grandfather, Mohan Wagh who succumbed to his battle against a stroke that consumed him late last year. I cannot believe he is gone and I am going to miss him. Trips to Mumbai, India where he and my grandmother live will not be the same for any one of us without him. Knowing my grandfather though, he would want me to carry on with life and continue to happily live it and that is what has inspired me to want to create some of the best memories I have ever had with him. I am beginning from what I can clearly remember more so than between the ages of 1 and 4 since the ones after those age gaps are clearer although I have chosen to leave some years out because they do not really count the way the mentioned ones do. This is how I always wish to remember and think of my grandfather who I lovingly called ‘Azoba’



August 1995
When I was a little boy, the first Disney film I ever saw (twice) was The Lion King during a visit to Bombay in 1995. Even though the release date for the film was the year that went by in India it was a year later. My grandparents purchased the film on VHS and from 7:00 until 10:00 at night my parents, my grandparents and I sat down to watch the film. Back in Bangalore where my family and I lived at the time, my parents again took me to watch the film in theatres (where it had a late release, its original release date being June of the year) and I now understand that is because they were trying to get me interested in it which they have succeeded in and now Disney is a huge part of my life. During my visits to my grandparents, I would always go to my grandfather’s office where he worked and he would introduce me to all his colleagues. He retired from work in 2000.



December 1997
Following the birth of my brother, my knowledge and interest in wildlife motivated my grandfather to want to help me take a trip to Africa when I said I once told him that I would like to go on an African safari when he took me to the circus and we were enthralled and slightly terrified by the Lion shows. My grandfather planned a trip to Kenya for later that year. I went to Mumbai on my own for this. Just before leaving for Kenya my grandfather introduced me to the novel and film Jaws. I recall having a drink with him shortly before we watched the film, he had his Gin and I my raspberry flavoured soda. Later that evening, my grandparents and I left for Kenya. This was a truly wonderful and unforgettable experience of not only the wildlife but also its peoples, cultures, cities, cuisines and tourism. The trip ended in early 1998, a pattern occurring similar to the safari undertaken by Theodore Roosevelt in late 1909 to escape the pressures of being re-elected as President and to collect East African wildlife for the American Museum. The safari ended in early 1910. Our trip to Kenya would lay the foundation for Kenya becoming one of my seven favourite travel destinations in the future.



June-September 1999
Every trip to Mumbai was always a thrill to me because it was to visit my grandparents. In 1999, following a trip there where my grandfather treated me to the museum and the zoo, my grandparents almost immediately came to Bangalore to see us. It was around the time that the Star Wars film The Phantom Menace was released. I was given a choice between going to this film or to another film called ‘Mast’ which marked the debut of Bollywood actor Aftab Shivdasani. I chose to go for The Phantom Menace instead and my grandfather took me to the theatre to watch the film which I thoroughly enjoyed and it is my first favourite Star Wars film next to the original films that were released between 1977 and 1983. At the time, I used to take the bus to school and every time my grandfather visited us, he would drop me to the bus stop. I was upset when my grandparents left for Mumbai but they would always tell me that they would be back soon which they did quite often. I had more to look forward to when my family and I went to Singapore for a holiday for the first time, something that would lay the foundation in the future for Singapore becoming one of my seven favourite travel destinations. After the trip in seven weeks’ time we went to visit my grandparents again in Mumbai and my grandfather, my brother and me went for another film, Disney’s version of (Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero) Tarzan which has become one of my favourite Disney films.



January-December 2003
My grandparents visited us for the first time in Christmas 2002, three months after we settled in Auckland, New Zealand. I still remember, the day after they arrived, I played cricket with my grandfather in the One Tree Hill Park and I had never seen him so energetic in catching the ball or batting and fielding. It was there that we also had a ‘fast food picnic’ of fish and fries and there was a special feature for me as I got a burger. In the days to come we would treat my grandparents to a real New Zealand experience with trips to Rotorua and the Bay of Islands. Shortly after school reopened in January 2003 where I would spend the last year of my intermediate at Mt Roskill, my grandparents heard of my school and would sometimes come to drop me off when my parents took me to school. One day, I took ill, the first of three sicknesses that I got that year and it was co-incidence only that it was a day before my grandparents were preparing to go back to India. While I took leave from school that day, I spent time with them and despite being sick, we managed to go to Burger King as my grandparents had always wanted to try it since India did not have one at that time. Later that night we watched the first Men In Black movie. The next day was an emotional one as my grandparents returned to India although we tried to cheer ourselves up by watching the sequel to Men In Black.
During Christmas of that year, my mother, my brother and I tried to get to India as soon as possible because my mother’s mother was quite critical with cancer. This would mark our first holiday in India since we moved to Auckland, New Zealand the previous year. My father would join us later because of his work. By the time we reached Mumbai however, my mother’s mother passed away, much to our devastation. At that time my grandfather really consoled all of us including my mother and accompanied us to another city where my mother’s side of the family lived at the time for the funeral. While my mother was grieving with her family, my grandfather took my brother and me to his company’s guesthouse where we stayed until the ceremony was over. Every day, during this time, he would take us to visit my mother and her family. When we went back to Mumbai, my grandfather would take us to various restaurants at certain locations he knew well and had often shown them to me when I was a little boy, the zoo and museum being returns and it had been some time since he had taken me to the Gateway of India. My grandparents, my brother and I also went to Bangalore where I had grown up and we stayed with my father’s sister, her husband and my cousin Karan. Pokémon was a huge phenomenon in India that time and my brother, Karan and I were ardent viewers of the television series which I had also begun to watch back in New Zealand and the day we arrived for my mother’s mother’s funeral (with the 1999 shark thriller Deep Blue Sea being viewed by me the same night). I was also becoming a fan of Will Smith at the time thanks to the Men In Black films and I would make up fanfiction where he met the heroes of Pokémon and got his own (Pokémon) as he helped them in the fight against evil and since then, I have been unable to think of Pokémon without Will Smith and vice versa since I love Anime as much as Disney. But be that as it may, my grandfather took us to another of his company’s guesthouses that I would refer to as the ‘transit house’ which I had known since I was little and often went with my grandparents when they visited me in Bangalore. When we visited Pune to see some of my cousins, aunts and uncles who have lived in both the U.K and in India, my grandparents and I stayed at another ‘transit house’ much like the one in Bangalore. I had a great rapport with the housekeeper of the house, Swami and his family whom I had known since I was nine or ten years old. It was around this time that I paid a visit to my old school in Pune and my grandfather could not believe the number of people who gathered to see me. Towards the end of the trip, we attended screening of the Bollywood comedy Munna Bhai M.B.B.S (which I became a huge fan of) with our family friends, the Parikh Family (Gaurav, Nergis, Varun and Kunashni Parikh) and the Jilla Family (Srikant, Jaya, Niharika and Annu). My grandparents saw the film much later. On the way back, our flight was a long wait so we stopped off to meet my father’s cousin Kedar Wagle who had just moved to Singapore four years back (where I first met him during my first visit there) as he had brought the same apartment as my parents’ college friends, the Alexander family (Mohan, Lorraine, Jonathan and Samantha) and they had just formed a bond and it was co-incidence only that Kedar’s parents, Rekha and Anil Wagle were visiting as well when their families, the Alexander family and us got together in the apartment before our flight took us back to Auckland



November 2005-January 2006
As mentioned before, my grandparents first visited us in Auckland, New Zealand in December 2002. They have been very supportive and always will be of my parents’ decision to move to Auckland which was one of the many elements that changed my life. Every time my grandparents visited us whether in Bangalore or in Auckland, it was always like another Christmas for us as they would bring so many gifts for all of us. My grandfather briefly visited us in May of 2005 and brought me gifts which represent my interests such as a soundtrack to the film Kal Ho Na Ho (which is one of my favourite Bollywood films). I would go out with him on walks or shopping such as to an Indian shop Yogiji which was just around the corner from our house. In December that year, my grandfather returned for a visit this time with my grandmother where we did many fun-filled activities like picnics, barbecues, get-togethers, road trips and movies. Their visit to us ended in mid-January of 2006



March/April 2007
In 2007, I visited India with my parents and brother in late March/early April and as always my grandparents came to the airport to pick us up. This time they came with my mother’s side of the family. Along the way to my grandparents’ house, he and all of us began talking about how long it had been since we had come to India as a family. We had lunch at my grandparents’ home and then began planning for my brother’s (10th) birthday which was soon to come up. We had it at a club called Matunga Gymkhana and it was a thrill to me as I reunited with many of my relatives such as my cousins, my uncles, my aunts and my grandaunts. I even met a cousin who I was not aware of/about, one Sanika Waglay who I knew through my first love Ketki Gawande who put in a special appearance at the birthday with her parents (although sadly her brother Kunal was not with her) and I have formed a wonderful relation with Sanika since as she is like an older sister to me. I even got to play with some of my junior cousins especially Ananya and Tanya, two girls who had just been born to my uncle Kaushal Muzumdar and his wife Payal. Later on, as was customary of me when I go to India, my grandfather took me to places that I had seen with him when I was younger, such as for a meal at one of Mumbai’s two Taj hotels, the museum and to Otter’s club a club where my family has been a member for many years. I accompanied him to a music shop where the owner knew him well and was pleased to meet me for the first time. When I was typing about the Star Wars saga, my grandfather was so impressed with the way I wrote that he asked me to write it for him which I did. It was during this trip, mostly while transiting in Singapore that I realized how much I love it and this also increased an interest in travel and my grandfather was always surprised by how excited I got every time I witnessed an element related to Singapore. Following a visit to her brother Ravi Rao (and his wife Bharti, their son Hotaviya and daughter Vidya), my mother and my father returned and they, my brother and me went with the Parikh Family to the Sasan-Girnar National Park, better known (simply) as the ‘Gir Forest’ in Gujarat, Western India where my grandfather had been once on an unrelated business trip (even though he did not come with us). This is the only national park out of Africa where the Lion is the King of his domain and while it had been a decade since I saw my first wild Lions in Kenya I was fortunate to see at least two in Gir, a female and a male respectively. From there, we returned to Mumbai and once again mum went to see her brother and this time took me and Rajat too. We went to a newly-opened mall and ate there and their dog Dusky who is a cute but vicious canine to all except her owners displayed tremendous amounts of cuteness as we got to see her being groomed by Bharti. My grandfather also took me to a new bookshop that had opened which was owned by the Border’s store in India wherein I liked everything I saw although it was mainly Singaporean things that were grabbing my attention. There on DVDs, were also getting released Lage Raho Munna Bhai the (2006) spinoff to the comedy Munna Bhai M.B.B.S and like its predecessor is something I would eventually own on DVD thanks to my grandfather who took me to a DVD store called Sarvodhaya which until 2010 was where I would sometimes buy movies from. Apart from the new Munna Bhai, I also purchased the third Jaws film, popularly known as  Jaws 3-D He also took me to a Planet M store which was not too far from the gateway of India.



September-December 2009
My grandfather celebrated his 75th birthday with us in September of the year shortly after he and my grandmother played a vital role in helping us move to our new house. We even celebrated Diwali by having a huge party of some family friends, some of whom I am close to, some of whom I am not. It was among these people that I got to meet Vasu and Maya Hattangadi who are indirect relatives of an actress who played Gandhi’s wife in a film about him (by co-incidence, I even saw the movie with my grandparents shortly after our residential move four years after being unable to watch it) and had also played the mother of the title character in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.  They are also the in-laws of New Zealand psychologist Nigel Latta whom one of their (three) daughters Neela is married to. It was also a thrill to have one of our first family friends in New Zealand, Pankaj and Shirin Jayawant attend although their three sons (Varun, Vikram and Aditya would come a year later). Another familial attendant who I am pleased came was the Bhatt Family, Ashok and Pratiti Bhatt although their two sons Arjun and Sameer are still to come and visit our new home. After my grandparents departed, I had my final exams for the year (which I did with special supervision given the support I was being given which means having to sit for them in a separate room) and a few weeks later, took my first (independent and individual) trip to Singapore in Christmas of the year in celebration of when I first discovered I was its fan two years previous and in celebration of the decade I first went there (in 1999). It was great to go to many of the attractions I had visited and wanted to see again such as the Singapore River, the City, the Zoo, Chinatown, Little India, the Chinese Gardens and Sentosa. I divided my time between my parents’ college friends the Menon Family, Ravi and Malini (who were staying there at the time and had visited us in New Zealand in mid June following the high school graduation of their daughter Mythili who then went over to the U.K for her next level of education) and Kedar and his family although despite Kedar and Kanika having been there longer than Ravi and Malini and being related to us in familial terms, we are more closer to the latter than the former and thus they were my first point of contact. I then journeyed onto India where I was received by both my grandparents and my maternal uncle and aunt. We went to Otter’s Club where we had a wonderful meal and following that, my grandfather and I went to the many places he took me to as a child and we even went to two new places. One was a reserve for big cats, mainly Lions and Tigers which I had never visited before and we went on a bus that goes into the enclosures and one can then get a good view of the animals.  We also visited a science centre where my main interest was prehistoric animals. He could not believe that I have as much knowledge of animals from the past as much I have about present-day animals. When some of my younger cousins came home to visit with their parents and grandparents, he was amazed that I was able to relate to people who are much younger than me and still have a great time with them since I was showing them movies and chatting with them. During a visit to Pune to meet our relatives, my grandparents and I as well as mum’s niece stayed at the Pune Transit house. Later on during the trip in Mumbai my grandfather would take me to some of the many places he had taken me to as a child such as a return to the museum.



This is the last time that my grandfather would ever visit New Zealand (though he is always with us in spirit). It was my last year at AUT University from where I would be graduating with a degree in Creative Writing. My grandparents were able to make it for the graduation ceremony and they were able to see both the graduation parade and the graduation ceremony itself. Perhaps one positively embarassing moment during the parade on the way to the hall where me and my contemporaries would be graduating with our degrees was when everyone’s families watched their procession and my grandfather kept waving at me and calling to me to look at him, showing how proud he was of me. We had some wonderful photographs taken together as a family and went out to a Thai dinner that night, knowing that Asian food is my favourite. Three days after that we went to the first screening of the Bollywood film Dhoom 3, the third instalment of a franchise which is based on The Fast and the Furious franchise. Sometimes when I would go for counselling sessions with my psychologist Dave McMillian (who I had just started work with that year), my grandfather would come to drop me although did not actually meet my counsellor. I am proud to say that around the time my grandparents came for my graduation, I discovered the travel channel ‘Expoza’ on YouTube and I found out that unlike some of the many travel companies I love such as Insight Guides or Lonely Planet, they do not write books but make fabulous travel documentaries and best of all, they did ones on Singapore and Kenya. I would later come to like their documentaries on Southern Africa. I think personally the above mentioned documentaries are the best ones and it is a positive co-incidence only that in two parts, the documentaries I love were filmed in 1999 although not released until 2007, the former year being when I first went to Singapore and the latter year being when I first realized how much I love it. I have also been to one of them (Kenya) with my grandfather



January-February 2015
In Christmas of the previous year, we took a holiday to India because my grandfather wanted to take us to the land of his ancestors which is in Karwar, near Goa. When the New Year was born, we went to Karwar and he showed us some of the many areas in which his ancestors lived and we stayed at wonderful resorts and ate great traditional food at both the resorts as well as at various restaurants. Our trip to Goa is the first time I have actually enjoyed a holiday to Goa since I do not normally enjoy Goa trips. We also visited our family temple, the Mangeshi with all our family and it was truly special. I also got to visit with my parents and my brother, her other brother Sashi who I had not seen in 17 years and has been living in Goa for quite some time now. Towards the end of the Goa trip, my parents made arrangements for me to stop off in Singapore (as was customary at the time) to stay with the Menon family and visit Kedar and his family. My grandfather requested me to stay at least one more week before I journeyed onto Singapore though, in the end, this proved impossible for the Menon family would be unavailable and unable to accommodate me if I stayed on further in India. Yet what everyone including my grandfather was happy about was that I had considered his request.



This is the last time I would see my grandfather in good health. In late May/early June, my parents and I made a holiday to India. Normally, it is just my father who goes once a year (depending on the circumstances) to visit our family in India though this time he invited mum to come with him and I decided to join them too. As soon as we got to Mumbai, my grandparents, my parents and I immediately left for Pune the next day where we met with dad’s sister and her family who have been living there since 2012. Our arrival in India coincided with my 27th birthday which I am very grateful for having celebrated with my grandfather as well as so many other members of my family such as my mother’s oldest brother Ravi Rao and his family. His birthday gift to me was a very smart suit and bow tie which I would wear when celebrating my 27th birthday in Auckland. I also watched many documentaries of my interest with him such as a BBC documentary on the Sloth Bear, the very bear which inspired Baloo in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’ (and was narrated by David Attenborough). I am fortunate to have had one last look (with my grandfather) of the many places that he took me to as a child such as the Mumbai Museum where I mainly went for the animal displays. As always we even went to book stores and had wonderful meals at Otter’s club, though the best (and probably the last) meal in a restaurant I have had with my grandfather (as well as with my grandmother and my parents) is at one of Mumbai’s Taj Hotels which has a great Chinese restaurant.

6 thoughts on “Memories of my grandfather”

  1. Straight from your heart…lovely Vikram…your grandfather will always be with you & above you to bless your family and you…he's very proud of you

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