Remembrance Day Thoughts

I only ever knew one grandfather, my father's father: Nowrojee Jeejeebhoy. I first met him at age 1 or 2 when he and Grandma came to visit us in Bombay. Later I knew him as the quiet man who looked after me on weekends under the strict instructions and eagle eye of Grandma. When knowing people in their peaceful retired age, as I did them, it's hard to think of them as going through hardship, enduring terrible conditions, fear, and war. But Grandpa had.

In my book Lifeliner I wrote about Grandpa's pregnant wife (Grandma) and their first-born son (my father) fleeing Burma in a Dakota for India while he trekked out. But I didn't write about his trek, for I don't know much about it. He was a lawyer and an officer in the British Indian Army, what rank I don't know. When the Japanese forces invaded Burma taking property and killing people, his extended family fled however they could but being an army officer, he had to stay with his troops. I read awhile ago about the difficult trek out these men and refugees endured through jungle, insects, muck, and fear. Knowing him decades later, it seems impossible that such a man could have done such a thing. Yet there was a core of ruthlessness in him that I occasionally saw (and did not like) and a kind of strength in both grandparents that made me feel safe whenever I was with them.

On this Remembrance Day, I struggle to remember that both grandfathers went through the war, World War II, and that the one I knew not only survived an horrendous trek during which most died, but also lived long enough to see his family settled and thriving in Canada.