After my uncle’s death this was the first time I had entered his house. It seemed strange because before this whenever we used to come to the village, he would always be there to greet us. His way of showing his love and affection was simple- he would get our favourite foods made; which translated into the best chicken or mutton for my mom, dad and daughter and the best vegetarian preparations for me. Today, a heavy, uncomfortable silence greets us. Instead of his booming voice and infectious, dimpled laughter, his smiling photographs greet us. Not the same thing. Never can be.
What is it about death that even though you know that everybody will die one day, you refuse to believe it? I know my uncle is no more but looking at his old diaries, his meagre belongings, I always feel like believing that he has just gone somewhere and will be back sooner or later. Paradoxically, when someone so close dies a sudden death, it becomes a constant reminder of your own mortality. Dusty and unanswered questions which were just lying somewhere start stalking you everywhere. You wonder about who you are and why are you here? Each night when I close my eyes, I wonder what will it be like when I close my eyes for the final time? Will I close them softly or will I close them in pain? Then, as thoughts of death crowd my mind, the futility of everything begins to dawn. This was my uncle’s house. These were my uncle’s clothes, plates, books, belongings. But today, they are no longer his. They belong to someone else. They no longer owe any allegiance to him. What’s the point of collecting anything then?
My uncle was a bachelor, so he just kept what he used and threw the rest or gave it away. In a way he had no attachments. So when the messenger of death came, in that split second he didn’t have to ask him to wait. Instead, he was ready. He was lying in his bed. When his man Friday came to tell him that food is ready, he found him lying on the bed peacefully. There were no signs of pain or anguish. The bedsheet was wrinkleless. The intresting thing is that he used to often snap his fingers and say ‘When I go, I will be gone in a second! Just like that! And that he did!
He loved drinking alcohol everyday. Often he would drink himself to a stupor where he would then start talking, shouting and talking in a slurred delirium. My mother often used to admonish him for drinking too much but he would shush her. His liver had started showing signs of abuse but his heart was still alright according to the medical reports. He hated diets. He always ate whatever he felt like having; he scoffed at the idea of healthy eating. All this makes me wonder if all this talk about diets, healthy lifestyle and avoiding everything else really works. Because his death was what most people aspire for. Painless and quick. He did not languish in hospital beds or looked up to people for helping him out of the bed or to walk. Till the last day, he was up and about.
Like dogs, houses also have this strange thing about reflecting the personality of their owner. When he used to live here, the pink and white hues of the house appeared vibrant and festive. Today, the same walls appear brooding and forlorn. Through the windows of the house the desert looked inviting, mysterious and beckoned us to come and explore its hidden sands. Today , the desert looks morose and lost in despair. Or may be it is the eye of the beholder. I wonder if coming here would still be as exciting in the future? May be the excitement was because he was waiting for us everytime we came here. Today, its just a house. Yesterday, it was a home.