Dear Sri uncle,
In my heart, I always knew you would go away like this. Without preamble.
It was just your style. I sensed it when you refused to wait for a not-so-punctual brother-in-law, when you sent me my first red roses on my 20th birthday. You e-mail footer says, “We are here for a short while, so let’s keep smiling.” Were you smiling when it happened? I cried when I first heard, but now the tears don’t come. You were there when I cried about mean people and hostile places. After all that, I feel strange crying for you.
What drew me to you was your readiness to handle my teenage intensity. You never told me I was being immature and whimsical. Instead, you nurtured those fantasies. You always wanted to know why I danced. I constantly refused to tell you and it’s probably the only secret I still keep. Not that you didn’t know – you could see it all laid out, but I wanted to be able to put it into words someday. Because, if someone were to understand, it would be you.
You never finished your reincarnation theory. You’re not one to leave incomplete stories and broken trails. I’m sure you’ve completed it all, maybe in your head; but, somewhere, somewhere, you’ve put the finishing touches to it and are waiting to break it to me with a knowing twinkle in your eyes and an impish smile on your face.
I once tried to send you a tin of rasagullas from KC Das in Bangalore. The courier service refused point blank.
Just yesterday, I was going through my e-mail, looking for photographs I have not seen in a long time. I chanced upon one where you posed for the camera with a fake beard I had painted on using Nishie aunty’s eyeliner. I e-mailed it to you again. Did you see it?
Whenever I came to Cuttack, I never felt I was visiting. I was coming home. If I fell ill, if I was hungry, if I was angry, if I was homesick, I came home. When I had to take a tetanus injection after my bicycle accident, it was Nishie aunty who held me. I never missed my family because I had another one right there. When I moved to Delhi and tried to deal with typhoid, feeling lonely and unloved, for the first time in my life, I truly realised how much those summers I spent in Cuttack meant to me.
People are not replaceable. You leave a void that will never be filled. I sent you wilted flowers, shabby scraps of plastic and colouring books; you took them with joy. Who will respond to my crazy ideas and my deepest fears with equanimity now?
I meant to send you a record of my play. I meant to tell you about all the exciting things I’m going to do this year. About some freakish coincidences that would definitely make you laugh and say you always knew what was going on. I can’t call or e-mail anymore, but I’ll still tell you. And I know you’ll be listening.
June 25, 2009