My Uncle expired last night. He had a massive stroke and didn’t recover. Between us, there was a distance of more than 500 km. But if I look deeply, there was a distance of more than 25 years of virtually no contact! And then, last midnight, he expired. When my father rang my number to inform about his demise, I was in slumber; but after that, the only thought that lingered on was the story, I remember as a kid, that my parents had told me about him.
Until the age of two and half, I didn’t start to speak. My parents were worried that I was deaf and dumb. Doctors, however, didn’t find anything wrong with me. Then, as it was common in those days (late 1980s), a village wise man suggested my father to feed me a cooked goat tongue, to be served on fig (peepal) leaves, with a catch that the leaves must fall naturally from the tree but shouldn’t touch the soil. This means, someone has to catch the leaves in mid air, and he mustn’t be any of my parents. So, my Uncle took the responsibility to bring those leaves.
As I remember my mother telling me the story many times during my childhood, on the set day, my Uncle was standing under a fig (peepal) tree right from the morning until the afternoon, looking up at the leaves. Many a times, the leaves from the tree fall, but he missed catching them in mid air. But after a long and patient wait, he proudly brought the leaves for his eldest nephew. And the rest is history. I began to talk, but then started to stammer. Even to this day, I sometimes stammer. People who know me closely say that I speak too fast; but actually, I consciously try hard not to stammer!
Besides that story, I don’t have any other memory of him to treasure. Slowly I drifted apart from my family, from all my relatives and along with it, I had lost all the youthful years cut-off from my roots. It was only in the last couple of years that I have tried to come back into the fold called family. And my cousins have happily showered their love upon me. When I met my Uncle last April, he looked old, weak and frail. There was no more the young Uncle that I remember from my childhood days. I could understand his condition. A few years back, he had lost his only son in an accident. He was two years junior to me.
I don’t know when I fell asleep at night, but when I woke up in the morning, there was still the distance of more than 500km between us, but he was no more. I have never shed a tear for anyone, and even now I didn’t cry. But, I am feeling sad; for him, for my aunt and for all the lost time between him and me.
Life throws at us many blessings but it also makes us leave many pages of life blank. The canvas never gets coloured completely, no matter what you do. Time – that mysterious entity; unknown yet present— steals away, dot by dot; moment after moment, those colours that could have been used to colour the life canvas. Some die young, some die old; some lived a beautiful life, some didn’t. The only things that leave behind are memories and blank pages separated by distances – some of geography, some of years and some drifted apart by life itself.