In Death, life comes a full circle. The angel of Death is that uninvited guest whom we all know is going to come but we are never prepared to meet him; nevertheless, when he pays our dear ones a visit, it gets us thinking on many a thing!
One of my uncles passed away a few days ago. His body was consumed by his age and to say it benignly, he left the world in peace without being a burden to anyone just as he had willed.
He is perhaps one person whom I have shared a very special bond – not least because of the ties of kinship – for we had three generations between us that drew us miles apart. With his other siblings, save my own grandmother, I hardly remember even having a proper conversation. Yet in a strange play of events, I got to spend some quality time with him and in the process helped discover a whole new meaning to life.
I vividly remember the first proper conversation I had with him; I was about to go to high school and had moved to India. He was to be my local guardian as he was living in Chennai then. He enquired if I read newspapers. He was known to be a man of letters. So, it was with a lot of pride I answered, I do, for I had at that time started reading a bit, primarily because that appeared to be a means to develop the English language as per my Teachers.
Then came the next question – how many? I was perplexed. To read one was the best I thought. It was only then I discovered that the man read half a dozen or so from top to bottom and left to right. I was only beginning to understand the grip he had on language, current affairs and a whole gamut of things that came under the sun.
Over the next few years, I used to occasionally visit him as he was my local guardian. It was during those moments that I started getting to know him better. Having fully retired from his professional life, he was left with quality free time to spend which I was blessed to be a part of.
I went from high school to College and the visits only increased in frequency. During the college years, I remember trying to read as much as possible before going to meet him just to try and impress him but every time I would come back needing to do a lot more homework!
And then after my college years, there was a good half year before joining work. It was during this time, that I spend the most of my time with him. With age, he had lost his ability to read small letters. So, I was to be the daily newspaper reader for him. What began as a menial exercise soon turned out to be a means for me to grow richer and deeper. He would probe me with questions and get into discussions on various topics – life, spirituality, politics, and so on. It was during those times that I began to indulge in voracious reading and ardent arguments. I would at times be so lost in my argument with him that I would forget the age and ties with him. He was the plaintiff, the opposing counsel, and the judge. At times he would also humor me by indulging his family into the discussion. It was a riveting experience. What I didn’t realize then was that he was never imposing his opinions on me rather helping me shape my own thoughts and stand firm in my beliefs. He was like the gardener watering his plant to help it grow strong and to great heights.
It was only perhaps a decade and half that I spend with him; but I realize now, that I might not meet any gentleman even half his worth in my life.
In terms of achievements, he had done so much that it was common to come across his praises every now and then. Yet what strikes you the most in him is the utmost humility he displays when talking to people across the spectrum. One of the biggest inspiration I draw from him is the ability to grow to heights from scratch with absolutely nothing but determination and hard work.
Born into an ordinary orthodox family, he grew to be a formidable force leaving his giant imprint on the canvass of a great Country. He set an example to show that to achieve anything in life, it is only necessary to work hard. No heritage or riches need to be with you. In a society that is crude and unforgiving, he helped me realize that respect need not be under the ownership of the selected few. Rather, it goes to those who strive for it.
It is a common practice for elders to ask your roots when they learn of your native place. And the easiest way for me to answer that question was to take his name. When I reflect a bit, I figure that he spent an entire lifetime creating that name for three generations of us to cling to.
\The world will have its praises
And I will have my losses
For to them he was one of many
Only for me was he the prized company
May the Lord, most Merciful, help your journey
May the work you left behind, help you attain true glory!