He used to call me Nalayak — A word of Indian origin defining a Good-For-Nothing bludger. It literally translates into ‘unworthy’, or ‘worthless’. He meant it in jest but it always drew quick laughs at the dining table. He was a Bhardwaj. In Hindu mythology, Bhardwaja refers to the revered Vedic sages; the renowned scholar, economist, eminent physician. For me, he was all of this and more.
Bharadwaja was father of warrior Droṇācārya, a main character in Mahabharata who was an instructor to both Pandava and Kaurava princes. He was the grandfather of Aśvatthāma, a legendary warrior in Mahabharata.
His library, with the undulating books, formed the skyscrapers from which I built my own literary stronghold. He was the only person who I revered and respected enough to have Nanu as the first name on my phone.
Inder Pal Bhardwaj, son of Shri. Kishore Chand Bhardwaj was admitted to Maharaja Agrasen Hospital on the 21st of October 2020 and peacefully passed away a week later at 10:45am. A successful entrepreneur and family man, Nanu not only provided for his nuclear family but also his three children and six grandchildren. He did this through his excellent business acumen and unrelenting love that persisted even when he knew we were all wrong.
He excelled at studies and focused on work output and efficiency. Nanu ended up marrying my grandmother, my Nani, Shubh Bhardwaj, at a pretty young age. Now, I’m not sure of the specifics, but from what I can gather, he was enamored enough to pursue her every day after college. And my nani wasn’t one to acquiesce after a few proposals. She knew her value and waited for the one. And my Nanu was the one for her. They married at the ripe age of 24 (her 18) and proceeded to have one daughter, a son, and another daughter respectively. My mother, Ritu, was the youngest of the bunch. They make up the entire progeny of the Bhardwaj Empire and continue to be the kindest warmest people I’ve ever met in my life. Only last year my grandparents celebrated their silver jubilee, with people traveling from all corners of the world. I can only attribute this fastidiousness to his powerful enigmatic personality — his ability to draw in people no matter what.
Nanu had a certain persona that can’t be chiseled out of a rock, a disposition that separated him from the rest of the Indian grandfathers. I recall walking into his room, requesting some Kurkure. He awoke from his slumber and immediately attended to my desires. He was the type of person who would put other people’s needs ahead of his, and this attitude persisted throughout the entire time I knew him, from birth to adolescence to adulthood. Another instance: I crashed one of the cars, and he never once chastised me for my egregious behavior. I had called him, explaining the situation, and he first asked if I was safe, and then requested me to come home. I wish he shouted at me. I really wish he had shouted at me.
He carried an entire company, multiple families, and numerous generations, on his shoulders, till his final breath. Even when he was in the ICU, he had explicit instructions that my nani shouldn’t worry.
I am fine. Take care of yourself first.
How can one be this good? I wish I spent more time in Punjabi Bagh. His voice calmed (and silenced) everyone in the household. No one would dare to cross a line after he had drawn it into the sand. I wish he would call me nalayak just once more. Nanu is quite possibly the strongest, tender, resilient person I’ve ever had the chance of meeting and I hope I can be half the man he was.