Suffice to say he led a magnanimous life. I don’t normally write eulogies. I haven’t written one for someone really close to me, my grandma – perhaps I feel there are too many conflicting emotions there that I can’t do justice to it. But here’s a moment of thought for a man I barely knew. I’ve only heard about his quirks and idiosyncrasies. Yet, I write of him because of an insignificantly little thing that he did, which left a significantly lasting impact on me.
It was ninth grade and English class was on. My favourite teacher (it sounds so clichéd, but I owe a lot to Ma’am because she believed in my words and she made English come alive for me) was doing something different in class. We were playing with words, trying to write an article or short story on ‘Teenage’. Something sparked and with the help of another classmate, I came up with a funny little poem that actually went on to get published in the student edition of TOI (those of you who have studied in CBSE/ICSE might be familiar with the times NIE newsletter). There was a flock of visiting relatives at home around this time. Yes, they were everywhere, preening creatures with hawk-like features, extremely interested in the happenings of the house. And when I happened to mention the not-so-impossible feat of having my poem published, there was a whole lot of zeal and cheer. Among all these people, there was one person who stood out because he was so hearty and had a pleasant take on everything. Devdas Uncle was a cheerful sport. Many months later, when grandma had gone to Mumbai, Devdas Uncle sent with her what he called – a gift. I was genuinely surprised to receive a black and mustard, slightly tattered copy of ‘A Selection of Great Poems’. It clearly didn’t look new. But Uncle had remembered that I wrote poems and he sent me a small souvenir of encouragement. The poems were pretty deep and went over my head at that time. I didn’t think much of it, thanked him for his graciousness and kept it in the hope of reading it. I didn’t write much poetry anymore.
I met Uncle exactly a month ago. He was completely unlike the large, jovial, bundle of energy that I had seen 7 years ago. It took me a few hard moments to accept that age had really played havoc with his health, rendering him into a state of terrible weakness. He was slightly temperamental yet his wit was about him. He kept talking about the next great adventure and said he was ready to go anytime. Everyone would get hassled at this and tell him to chill, he could pull off a century in a few years. Who know the intensity of a person’s feelings at such stages of life? I’m sure that it’s not up to us to ridicule or attempt to soothe. They know the truth and they’re ready to face it, head on.
I searched for that little book of poems and I showed it to him that day, thanking him. His wife remarked that Uncle always encouraged anyone with talent. Now, he didn’t remember, he just wished me the best. At that moment, I could comprehend and appreciate the kindness behind that gesture more than I had done on the day I received it. It is among my treasured books and yes, the poems make me think and it is a gem of a collection.
I just got off the phone with Dad a few minutes ago and I was momentarily saddened to hear that Uncle had moved on. But as I remember it, he was certain that he had no regrets in life. Cheers to a man who lived with his heart on his sleeve.
Adios. May your soul rest in peace.