Or maybe I never loved him.
Growing up, my mother used to tell us stories about he had been a strict disciplinarian. Though I think I always thought that was code for distant. She told us a story about how a colleague of his asked him what class his daughter was in, and he had no idea. That was the first and only time, he came back from office early, and went through my mother's books. I thought this was unthinkable, given how over-involved my own father was.
He wasn't necessarily the greatest father, especially if you ask my sister. But he was my favourite person for a very long time in life - the only person besides my grandmother who would tell us stories (even though they were largely from his head, and not from the large stack of literature that was Dida's source material), the only person I would trust to teach me math, the person who would run after me on Sunday afternoons to get me back home to have a bathe and eat after a day in the sun, goofing about with other children in the colony. I used to be terrified of my dad turning up for PTMs in schools. Other parents would scold their children if they got bad marks, my father would scold the teachers. He told my third standard class teacher that she made us carry too many books to school, never once entertaining the thought that I was the irresponsible child, merrily carrying everything every day, instead of sticking to the time-table. In seventh standard, he genuinely wondered how I could have gotten a C in Physical Education. Though he and I don't get along as well now as we did when I was a child (mainly because he is losing every filter of his with age, and has a tendency to say the most hurtful things, extremely nonchalantly), I never think of him as a person I would be scared of. And no matter how many arguments I have with him, or how far I want to be from him, to escape his over-attentive fussiness, he is someone I will always count as being on my side.
My grandfather was definitely not that type of father. He was a fun grandfather though. During our Calcutta summer breaks, there were some days that were reserved for him. He would take my sister and I out - mostly to Nicco Park, or Bonobitan, or Nandan, buy us knick-knacks and then bring us back home in time for lunch. We knew that he was terrified of feeding us junks. So if he took us out to eat, it had to be a suitably darkened restaurant with sombre waiters and dignified menus. My sister and he also had a friendly camaraderie, which I was not party to. Everyone loved, indulged (and pinned all their dreams and hopes and ambitions on) the first-born. She used to compare Dada to Amitabh Bachchan, and I secretly agreed, too shy to say it out aloud, too introverted to even have an independent relationship with him. He was after all someone who seemed to terrify both my parents. (It was different with Dida, who was my other favourite person for all of my childhood. She was the type of grandparent who found a way to brag about her grand daughter to sundry relatives, old neighbours, random cell-phone salesmen, once a ticket-seller at a movie theatre).
And then Dida fell ill.
Seeing my grandfather respond to it, through the years, killed any secret childhood admiration, or love, if there was ever any, bit by bit. I always found him resentful. She was everyone's favourite, even his siblings loved her more. She had lost a younger sibling, and then with it, her will to be healthy or even live. And she was a hindrance. The help who had to be around to care for her, annoyed him. Her health impinging on his social calendar irritated him (I think I have inherited this selfishness from him, another reason I think I will be terrible at marriage.). He couldn't understand why she was weak, why she couldn't summon the will to be better. And he seemed to be waiting for her to die. Because then he would finally be free.
It's not even been a year since her passing. He is now unwell - a mild jaundice compared to her Parkinsons'. But he is still selfish as ever, refusing to eat. My mother is still scared of him, so can't stomach the idea of forcing him to do anything. And I feel very little sympathy for him now, only anger. Anger for making my mother see her own father willfully kill himself, in spite of her best efforts. Vindication - hoping he finally understands what he did to Dida. And hopeless - hopeless that age will rampage even on limited (and terribly selfish) dreams of happiness.