I must have heard it a million times – That life is fleeting, and we ought to tell people that we care about, that we do in our very own words. This ability of mine has only grown exponentially in the last decade, but as I sit down to write this piece, I realise I still fall short majorly, in letting some people know how much they mean to me, in many ways. It is never fun to discover your shortcomings, but it is even more worse when you can’t go and fix your mistake. Well, what with this fleeting life and all.I anticipate that this must have touched a raw nerve in you, unless you are an alien reading this post in which case I would be more than delighted to make acquaintance, coz well – of course I am a firm believer that we are not the only erm.. intelligent species that exist in this universe. What would I do getting in touch with alien life, I don’t know, but we will see about that when it comes down to it. But well, I digress. Coming back to that raw nerve, and the talk of life in it’s fleeting form, there now and gone tomorrow, in the blink of an eye, like the plethora of people whose stories I am sure each of us have heard, and tried not to share to our friends by not wanting to add to the already depressing atmosphere around, quite unsuccessfully at that. (I speak for myself here). Another digression. Well. What I was really coming back to is how I have yet another time, failed at letting somebody who was quite dear, know what they meant to me, in my own words. It is possible that my road-end uncle knew that I liked him, and that I considered him a friend.
But he wouldn’t know, couldn’t possibly know what I am about to write in the next few paragraphs as a tribute to him, one that is so cliched that it comes after him being gone, and yet one that begs to be written – so much so that
a. It has been months since he has been gone and there are a million things to keep me occupied, distracted and totally engrossed.
b. I cannot remember the last time I went to my road end, even my walks are inside my own house and I have the luxury of not having to step of out of my gate, so it definitely is not that I go to the road end, see his house and then remember that he no longer stands outside in the evenings which was his routine for as long as I can remember in the last decade or more and yet, this story flashes across my mind, seemingly haunting, waiting to be written, with his memory recurring for no logical rhyme or reason.
And that is how I came about writing this piece today – one that is long overdue.It must seem absurd that I don’t know his name. But in reality, I don’t. The first decade or so of my life was spent in watching him taking one of his sons on an activa-ride on our road itself, every evening. I didn’t know his name then. Then, engineering happened, and this road-end uncle had a xerox shop, and one of my classmates who lived in my area as well, would xerox text books (yes you read that right, text books, not notes :P) just before the exams from the aforementioned shop. Thus began my rather unexpected acquaintance with the road-end uncle. After about five xerox encounters, I would only say hello to him and go past. We never had any conversations. Until one day, when I came home and my Dad said – the road end uncle told me that some guy dropped you home today, and I told him we know who dropped you, and he was fine.
I guess I should have found that nosy.
Digression – I totally believe in the small town approach of life where everybody knows what is happening in everybody’s life, and despite the fact that every way of life comes with it’s own pros and cons, I will probably write an entire blogpost about why I think it is better to have a community that knows almost everything there is to know about you, rather than having strangers for neighbours who apparently mind their own business – end of digression.
But surprisingly, it made me feel cared for, protected. It felt like someone bothered to know who I was hanging out with, who my friends were, were they the right people, rather than turning a blind eye to whatever it is that college goers did. And from then on, I began talking to uncle.By then, it was too late for me to ask his name. And so I never did. My father probably knows his name, but I have never asked and so he remains the road-end uncle to me.
My conversations with him were only about a few things:
1. His health and life in general.
2. My whereabouts and my rather late return back home (from college/work/meeting friends)
3. The general state of my work.
On the occasions that I worked late, he would ask me why I was working so late, and he would tell me about his son who lived in the UK, who also worked much. I kept telling him that it is okay to work much as long as we enjoyed it. Over the years, when his health started to deteriorate, we spoke of his medicines, and health in general, and he would give me almonds to eat (saying they were good for health) since he always had a few with him, which I would graciously accept. One fine day, he told me that his son and family had come back to Bangalore because they were worried about his health, and I could see it in his eyes and smile how happy he was to have them back around. Post that, whenever I came back late from work (10:30 ish), I would find him outdoors, waiting for his son to return. He would just smile and say that all parents nowadays have to wait for their kids to return late, and we would laugh it off. On days I stepped out post 7pm on a weekend for a dinner with a friend, he would look at me questioningly saying – why do you want to go out now? I would explain to him that I am meeting a friend, and he would remind me not to be too late while returning, and I would assure him I wouldn’t. Our conversations consisted of just this – and I kept telling parents at home (and some friends) that I had to give updates to two people – parents at home and the road end uncle, about my whereabouts. And in reality, I enjoyed it. Absolutely didn’t mind letting him know why I was late, or what I was doing so late out.
And recently, as you might have already have guessed, he passed away. On the rare occasion that I have stepped out, I miss seeing him at the road end, having that little conversation in the mornings before heading out, a wave in the evenings, a small chat about our lives’ happenings. There’s one person less I now speak to in our neighbourhood, one less person with a joyousness about them which left the others smiling, too.
The world itself has changed, and I am not sure if such a day is to return that daily commute to work would be a thing, and even if it were to be, if my social(and work) life will ever be what it used to be. The show as they say, must go on.. but some people, like the road-end Uncle, will always be remembered no matter what.