My grandfather's will
MY GRANDFATHER’S WILL
My grandmother is a very kind and lovely woman. She is easily the most popular grandmother in the society. She is brownish in complexion and tall. In fact, she was a wee bit taller than my grandfather as I noticed in the photographs of those two. I remember him a little less as he had died of heart trouble when I was much younger, to be exact, eight years old. Now I have turned fourteen and my sister Akanksha is twelve. I still remember his white mustache and shining brown pate. But, whatever information I have on him regarding his work and personality is either from my father or my grandmother. He was also very popular in the society, but with the elderly lot. The children dreaded him though, as he was very strict and stern.
He served as an inspector for the Shirke cloth mill for more than ten years. I remember him going to work on his scooter every morning. He left home at 0845 sharp. He was very punctual and methodical. I find shades of his qualities in my father but many of those are a mix from my grandma’s side also. I blame it on inheritance and I cannot help it but I resemble him in front-face photographs. My grandma always says that I remind her of grandpa. He had a habit of reading and he used to sit hours on his armchair reading some of his favorite authors. That quality has not been transferred through the genes, I suppose as myself and my sister used to hate studying but amazingly got good marks at tests. His favorite authors were some of the most eminent freedom fighters but in current scenario, those people have not been hailed as they should have been that is what he thought and now, after reading one or two books from his collection, that is what I think.
When he died, he had written a will and it was in the possession of his trusted lawyer and friend Mr. Bakshi. They used to chat for hours when Mr. Bakshi used to come to our house. He used to bring his grandchildren along with him on his scooter. We used to play in the backyard as he used to chat with grandpa and grandma. He died three months ago. His son, Bhanu uncle as we called him, had come to our house after a few days with a packet in his hand. It was then that the mystery of my grandpa’s will had started.
The packet was sealed with lacquer with a date stamp, like the postal department seals. Surprisingly the stamp showed the exact date on which my grandpa had died. Did he know? It was scary at first. We did not open the packet for days. But, then, we had to open it. My father opened the packet and my mother, my grandma, my sister, Prem uncle, Bhanu uncle and myself waited eagerly. He pulled out a bunch of papers from within. The papers were thick, old and yellowish. They were stamp papers. It was my grandpa’s will.
But it was not a normal paper. The green stamp of fifty rupees and the red stamp of the court were the only readable entities of that paper. The paper was filled with a pattern of two digits, 1 and 0. He had coded the will! How interesting. Bhanu uncle gave a look of incredulity and said “Old man! He has coded it. Do you know what it is? It is probably the most interesting will somebody has ever made. You will have to do a lot of code breaking for this, Prem. May be all of you, perhaps it is an exercise for all of you!”
“Yes! I knew he liked detective stories and in his last days, he was busy writing down something with at least ten books open at a given time. All law books. I suspected some trouble at the work front and never asked him what he was doing!” said my grandma and the tone in her vice was clearly showing disappointment. She would have spied on his code work, I thought and smiled.
“And what are you smiling at?” said my mom.
“Oh! Isn’t it hi-tech stuff? The stuff they show on TV?” I said excitedly.
“May be!” said my sister “we can try to read it”.
“Kids. Be careful OK! This is really important. May be we should call a forensic expert. We can play detectives but, not now” said my dad.
We took that will from Bhanu uncle’s hand. It was very interesting to crack a code. The code was also home-cooked and we felt it obligatory to crack it inside our house. I was just looking at the code and suddenly a paper fell out of the envelope that contained the will. I announced with a determined look in my eyes “Grandpa knew we two could crack it. See, he has written a few lines in normal English which reads ‘Bholu and Akka should try decoding this as an exercise. Have fun kids’.” Every one in the room was amazed and mom asked for that piece of paper.
“So, Bhanu uncle, now what do you say?” Akka said and every body started laughing. Akka is what we call my little sister whose real name is Akanksha. My mom handed the paper to my grandma and said, “Grandpa really loved these two. He never played with them but used to take them on a walk in the gardens every day. Akka used to be in his hands and Bholu would be catching hold of his trousers and the three walked slowly to the garden so quietly that no one would believe the kids are our same Bholu and Akka.” And she almost wet her eyes or was it my imagination. My grandma and father looked at each other and it was a feeling so intense that the room seemed to be scary. The room fell silent just for a second and nobody spoke. Akka broke in.
“Come on then! What are we waiting for? So, people! We from the Bholanath and Akanksha detective agency are right on to the work.” And the room filled with laughter again. We took the will to our study table and carefully put it across. Thank god, it was a Sunday. Though we did not know how much time we would take to solve this puzzle. It was a gift from our grandpa. We did not know where to start. I took a book from my shelf titled ‘Techniques to write coded letters’. Grandpa gifted it to me when I had turned six. It was a very old book but one of my favorites. I had read it several times. It contained so many methods that my sister and I had devised several new methods based on that book. We used to have a lot of fun using those techniques as we secretly wrote each other letters and no body else would understand, especially regarding school matters. My mom used to get really worried when she would find such codes in our pillowcases, our bags and in our books. But, our talent was put to test this time. We had to decode it very carefully.
My grandpa used to read a lot of Hindi and English articles and the code could be from anywhere. I asked my grandma “If you have no problem, may I ask you a question regarding grandpa during his last days.” She laughed and said, “Yes detective Bholu. I am ready for your questions.”
“What were the books, if you could kindly recollect, he used to read in his last days” I spoke in a manner so as to suit a detective. She gave me seven titles and I wrote them down carefully. They were all English books. My sister listened carefully and we two looked at each other. We nodded and went on to the next question.
This time it was my sister’s turn “Did he take any notes and if so, can we have access to any such document you suspect has been produced during the period of interest?” she was straight to the point. We wanted his personal diary. It was usually out of bounds for anybody except grandma.
“I am sorry. But, you can not look in to his personal diary,” objected grandma. She was correct. We saw into each other’s eyes and nodded. It was my turn to ask the next question.
I asked, “Have you seen him ever sitting on the PC?” and to this, grandma smiled and said, “What are you two up to? I think you suspect something. Good. But, yes. He did work on the old PC during his last days. He was a very good typist, I must say. He made very few mistakes”. A sudden joy filled both of us. The original will must be in the PC still, we thought.
“Thank you for your kind co operation and we would take leave now, but on one condition- can we have some of those sweets you kept in the steel jar yesterday?” My sister said and grandma gave a hearty laugh. My sister did not move her eyes of grandma’s and her big black eyes forced grandma to fetch the jar and give us one sweet each.
“We think we are close to solving the mystery. See you later” I said and we two scampered to our room to switch on the PC. Grandpa must have left some clues and we needed to find them. We switched on and searched the folders for grandpa’s work. There was no file named “Will” or anything close to the coding. We searched letters, articles and parallel to this we tried to apply various techniques from my codebook to decipher the will. It was really interesting. After an hour or so my sister cried aloud, “Bholu! I have cracked it. Yes! It is the same code invented by grandpa exactly eight years ago. Come fast. It is the letter. Oh! How thoughtful of him. And I kept it for so long thinking it was just a piece of letter.”
I hurried to her where she was sitting. She was reading a letter, which was very old and it contained something written in my grandpa’s handwriting. It bore a date two days before his death. I remembered him giving it to us with a remark “You do no know what it contains. But, in the future, I would search for this if I were you!” Today only we had found what he had meant that. We saw that it had a poem written in English and then some notes. It seemed absolutely thrilling and chilly. Did he know, he would die within two days after giving this letter to us? Had he planned this for long? Did he buy me that book for this purpose only? It was getting more and more interesting as time passed by. Akka read the poem loud
The beautiful sun, the moon and the stars,
The dew drops shining on the grass,
The world seems full of light and song
Why can’t we just dance along?
Our life is too short, for any thing we do
Why not have some fun with you
This is a poem filled with your love
Just find me whenever you look above
The lines are fifty with eight words each
Every word has letters of eight bits each
The ones and the zeroes, are placed for fun
I think you have already begun
Let me see how much you can do
If you could not then allow me to
Where there is a will, there is a way
Here there is a will and you know the way
Read it carefully, I must tell you again
Decipher the will with effort and pain
Wish you good luck in your adventure
I will meet you in your dreams here after
We both were filled with amusement at his poem. We jumped out of the bed and ran full speed to the computer. We took the will and counted the number of lines in the will. The number came out to be Two hundred. The poem said that fifty lines were there. Then we saw that there were certain patterns of zeroes and ones, which were repeating in between the lines. We smelled ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) code. The simple code that is used to send data on various data links on the computer. We started deciphering the repeated eight bit pattern and found out that it was the ASCII code for a DOT (.), which is the sentence punctuation mark. We were overjoyed at our success. We replaced that pattern at its place and then counted the number of sentences and “Oh my god! It is fifty” cried out Akka.
Mom called out from kitchen “What are you two up to? It is time for lunch now. Come fast.” We were not feeling hungry at all. We were on the verge of cracking a coded document and the excitement was at its highest.
“We will be there in a minute” I called out. I had no plan of being there in a minute though. My mother knew me too well. I took the ASCII code table printout from the PC and placed it between my sister and myself. Akka took first ten pages and I took the last seven pages. We started to read eight bits and their ASCII codes in our notebooks and in a few minutes we had written down the whole decoded message in the will. We collected all the pages and compiled the fifty lines in a new plain page. We kept it safely in our rack and went down to lunch. Everybody was already assembled there. We smiled at each other and mom noticed it instantly.
“So! How is your code breaking going on?” Mom asked while she served the vegetable. The joy on our faces gave it away, I thought.
“Well! We will release an official statement soon after the lunch. Hold your horses till then.” Said Akka pompously and every body laughed. We finished the lunch within record time and scurried back to our room to fetch the papers.
Every body had already assembled in the hall. My mother, my grandma, my sister, Prem uncle, Bhanu uncle and myself were there. My sister opened the will as if she was a professional spokesperson. She read out all of it and we rejoiced it by eating ice cream thereafter. Bhanu uncle and my father seemed really impressed. Every body congratulated us and we thanked grandpa for his help in a silent prayer.
“How did you do it?” Bhanu uncle asked finally.
“Divine intervention is one of the factors. Grandpa helped us.” Akka said with her mouth full of chocolate soufflé.
Bhanu uncle looked puzzled and said “Grandpa? Come on!”
“Yes. He had given us a letter, which was the key to decipher the message six years ago. We were too young at that time to understand why he gave that letter and what it meant. But, we had remembered the poem he had written and suddenly when we knew about the will, we opened that letter and read it again.” I said and Akka nodded. We finished the ice cream quickly.
“Let us see if you can make anything out of this poem!” said Akka and handed over the letter to my dad. He read it and smiled.
“Clever old man” he said and gave the letter to my mom.
“So, my little detectives. Congratulations for your first completed assignment” mom said and we shook hands like the real ones do on TV. What a day!