Guwahati: The earliest memories I have of my grandfather, Chandra Prasad Saikia, stems from the fact that I got to spend much more time with him which is still a source of jealously for my sister. Meeting Koka, who used to stay just a few doors away from my house in Kharghuli, was a celebration in itself.
I would unashamedly wait for that packet of crisps or those ancient Coca-Cola glass bottles that we later used as candle stands whenever Ma used to announce that he would be visiting. I didn't consider Koka as a single individual because whenever he entered any room it was like a cohort of people had entered, such magnanimous was his personality. Let me tell you how during my time with Koka and Aita I found the center in my life, a hidden treasure trove, and millions of stories that would last me a lifetime.
I was not a difficult kid per-say but I had my quirks. At the time when I was four and staying with my grandparents since Ma was practicing law, I fell prey to Aita's infectious stories and were addicted to it like honey and bee. Chandra Prasad Saikia and Prabina Saikia, my Koka and Aita were considered the greatest storytellers of their generation. Taking advantage of the situation that I was in; I developed a peculiar quirk where I refused to have lunch if Aita or Koka didn't tell me a story that I had never heard before and I was pretty adamant about it. Now, that I have come to reflect upon it, I realize how cumbersome this must have been for them to conjure up a new story every day just so I digest my proteins. But boy! Was I wrong!
Aita ended up telling me stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata to such a point where I could predict what happens next when it was televised. Koka used to discuss the intricacies of his beloved character Karna in Mahabharat and was the first person to introduce me to the concept of an anti-hero, how karma defines the soul but how the soul cannot be defined by Karma and most striking of them all, his concept of Janani Janmabhumishcha Swargadapi Gariyasi where my Koka instilled the fact that mother and motherland stand way above our other desires and soliloquies. Within the sphere of this intellectually, I found my center and I realized that I wanted to be a story-teller.
Reading comes second nature to me and I developed this by imitating my grandparents, The atmosphere at Koka's house was such that at every corner you would meet a distinguished individual who would be discussing their next best seller over a cup of tea, nonchalantly. I remember once Ma was constantly on my case because I was unable to by-heart a poem called "Loghun" by distinguished poet Nabakanta Baruah which was included in our textbook. I ran off to my Koka's place to avoid my mother's wrath. Just as I entered the house without announcing I noticed a familiar face chatting amiably with Koka as he gestured towards me to come to him. As I was walking towards him I realized that the familiar face was none other than "Ekhud Kokaideu" Nabakanta Baruah Sir. I ended the day by reciting the poem and also included some special synopsis from the Author himself, Ma was definitely pleased for a change.
With so many memories flooding my mind, it has become difficult to decide whether to include that one time where he wore Aita's wig to scare me into having my food but ended up doing a scene from Shakespeare, his second favorite personality after Karna. Or that other time when he promised me a video game cassette but ended up buying the entire system because he couldn't decide which one I would like. Or how he would hint at a false climax of a particular book that I be reading only to be pleasantly surprised to find that the book has a completely different ending. How he used to gift me all his expensive parker pens and would keep only the cheap ball point pen for himself. How he would always be the funniest quirkiest guy that I ever knew.
Koka had a secret lair. A secret treasure trove that I later found out about. The treasures found inside were priceless and for me it was Ali Baba's magical treasure cave. From time immemorial I used to hang around Koka while he wrote his Epics and he would often abruptly thrust a book in my hand and ask me to read it without any context or prologue from which I used to often run away. Eventually, I sat down to read them and that marked the time when I would realize or notice the secret lair that I was sitting upon, this treasure trove. Koka's library. A big room where shelves were full of books from the ceiling to the floor. Books about Shakespeare, Maupassant, Rowling, Encyclopaedias, Britannicas, Medical Journals, Manuscripts, hundreds of novels, and books from authors that I am sure many people have not heard about. I spent the majority of my childhood within that sphere and the only regret I have is that it wouldn't last a lifetime. I know Koka is having a blast wherever he is, maybe giving a Ted talk to Karna with Shakespeare as an audience.
Today on your ardyasharddha I remember you fondly.