Sona Uncle and the Charm of Real India
Introduction to My Uncle
Believe me, when I first saw him at the age of 12 years I considered him nothing more than a mendicant clad in a torn shirt stained with snuff all over, dishevelled wearing a Hawaii chappal somehow held together by a safety pin, around 45 years totally oblivious of his appearance. As my mother asked me to bow down to his feet in respect I was hesitant but did so as she gave me a gentle nudge and I got introduced to the man whom I came to know for the first time as my uncle.
He was my Sona uncle as we fondly called him, a cousin of my mother brought up in my grand father’s house in Dacca now in Bangladesh. Losing his mother at the tender age of only 4 years he almost became an orphan when his father married for the second time. His struggle for existence had already started but with an indomitable spirit, incredible endurance and unusual sharpness of intellect he accepted all the troubles in his stride and successfully passed out of college with distinction.
A Self Made Man
With such qualities my Sona uncle became a self made man and procured a railway job easily. But he wanted to remain a bachelor perhaps to extend helpful services to all without looking for his self interest! At this his relations and friends became very worried and arranged to find him a suitable bride. Once he was taken to see a rich man’s accomplished daughter. Everything went smoothly and his friends who had been arranging such match making exercise many times were pleased at long last that their friend had acquiesced. But their joy was short lived when Sona uncle addressed the would be bride as Didi(elder sister). In another similar incident that followed he chose to call a more prospective bride respectfully as Ma(Mother) frustrating his friends and relations.
A Confirmed Bachelor & His Antics
So with his incredible sense of humor coupled with wit and great conviction he could keep at bay any schemes against his wishes. But on the other hand becoming an established bachelor he began to fritter away as much as he earned. “What shall I do with my savings?. I have foot paths to sleep and government hospitals to look after me when I am old and sick” was his stock reply. A part of his earnings would always go to cater to the destitute. Whatever little was left went to meet his only luxury of travelling to far flung areas, mostly Santhal Parganas in Jharkhand inhabited mostly by brave yet unpretentious tribal people with a companion.He seemed to strike a chord with such like minded simple, broad minded and fun loving poor persons.
His life always remained unusual, single and yet interesting. Once during such a trip in an interior Bihar village he had heard of an eye operation camp being conducted by an Iris physician. He had at that time cataract problems and met the doctor alone.” But I need to see you escorted by someone after the operation” .The physician told him clearly. He walked off, grabbed a santhal boy who had been working in the fields and lured him away to the camp offering monetary benefits. “Your job will be only to stand by me as long as the operation lasts” He assured the impatient boy who was unaware of the proceedings. On being released after the operation Sona uncle immediately let him go after paying his dues. He was also soon off alone leaving the physician and onlookers totally baffled.
Need For Minimum Comforts In Life
After his retirement from the services. I felt called upon to bring him back to my house in Kolkata to offer him the basic comforts of life which he had so long avoided- partly to shoulder his responsibility as a nephew after his retirement from service and partly to atone for the grave sin I had committed in my child hood in mistakenly taking him by his appearance only. He came to live with us after much persuasion. We were careful enough to see him enjoy the minimum possible comforts lest surfeit of that should annoy him. As days rolled by we were happy to believe that our long lost uncle would at last throw away his obstinacy and accept the city comforts and be safely ensconced amidst his dear relations. A few months flew by and one day I received a phone call from my sobbing wife informing me that our uncle had almost run away like a child . Grief stricken, I could not give solace to her.
My Sona uncle returned after a few years when he was found to be not his usual self as he had begun to contract old age ailments.Despite our best endeavour and much to our grief, death snatched away his precious life at 85 years. Such selfless men do not care for their own comforts while looking for the well being of others. They detest the idea of publicity yet help the destitute by their yeomen’s services. I have realized, much to our sorrow though, that to him charm of rustic life is much more that what we can offer from the urbanized society.
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