It is hard to sum up 77 years of existence of Ashok Gandhi into a few lines. On his demise, his oldest son, Rajat said, “We are not going to mourn his departure; instead we should celebrate his life and existence”. Ashok Gandhi’s life had many dimensions – serving as a squadron leader in the Indian Air Force, maintaining a large circle of friends made during postings to different parts of the country, supporting his wife devotedly in her long period of sickness, raising three wonderful sons, enjoying his sunset years with his loving family. Above all, he was a wonderful human being. His second son, Parakh, correctly said he donned all these hats beautifully and left behind a lasting legacy. His life wasn’t easy but through hardships and struggle, he still emerged with a message of imbibing the right values in his children, as pointed out by his youngest son Anuj. Anuj along with his wife Shria, are now trying to teach these same values to their children. His daughter in law, Juhee, observed that despite his age, his spirit was never wanting and he was a good sport ever ready for fun be it movies, late night parties or trying out a new restaurant. She felt that she had lost her best friend and hoped they could have had some more years together. His other daughter in law, Ayesha, feels his place is hard to fill. He was a complete family man and a doting and proud grandfather.
He played a major role in my life, especially in my childhood years. My parents fondly referred to him as Ashok Jija ji. As you would know the term Jija denotes sister’s husband. As a child, in my attempt to copy my parents, I started calling him Ashok Jija. My younger sister, Prarthna soon followed suit. Ashok Jija used to joke with us that you are my youngest salis (sisters-in-law). Today, even my five year old son calls him Ashok Jija and my year-old niece was next in line to address him by that name.
When I was born, he used to lift me in a different way to elongate my neck. He often jested that that was his contribution to my appearance. When my younger sister was little he had met with an accident and could not do the same. Later he was relieved to learn that she anyway had a long neck and did not need this intervention.
When we lost my grandmother, Shiela mummy, about 30 months back, I went up to Ashok Jija and said, “You are now the oldest member of our family.” He smiled and asked whether I meant he is therefore, next in line to pass on. I told him it just means that he would now have the added responsibility of showering even more blessings on us to compensate for those who are no longer with the family.
My last conversation with him was just a few weeks back. It was a happy moment for me since I had just learnt that my husband, Ashwin had got best-in-class increment. Ashwin, being a very private person seldom spoke about his success. But he was happy I shared this news with Ashok Jija and got his blessings.
You shall be dearly missed Ashok Jija but we are going to cherish the wonderful memories that you are leaving behind! As is said – “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure!”