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Monday, 3 September 2018

Coper

My Uncle invented a way to talk to his gone wife.

Tantriks said, “He sees her ghost.”
Psychiatrists labelled him, “Schizophrenic.”
People called him, “Mad.”

And I saw his state as a way to end his loneliness and thus finding a reason to live.

He cried all the way from Amritsar to Chandigarh in the ambulance. A journey of six hours in which he was packed like sardines with the body of my aunty in a Maruti Omni Ambulance. Imagine the scene; you have the body of your life in front of you. You can’t quit weeping; you have no one to comfort you, no one to provide some solace to you. Even a brave heart could not help himself in such a situation.


And my uncle was not a brave heart, he was a gentle soul—a soft man. His eyes had swelled. We had to peel him off from the stretcher. The stretcher was laid down in the veranda of his house. He fell on his knees with heart wrenching shrieks. Aunty was lucky to have a man love her so much but my uncle was unlucky to have my aunty who left her alone. We can’t blame her. She loved my uncle more than her life. A sudden heart attack defeated her love. And she said goodbye to my uncle.

The sky was clear that bad day with the sun shining bright. But the brightness in my uncle’s life had gone. Tents were erected for people to sit under its shade. My uncle sat under the sun. The sun’s stinging rays did not bother him anymore. A man who never left a breath without A.C was today immune to savage July Sun. Cars passed with people in them casting a curious look at the tent and on seeing many people wailing inside it, moving on. I stood in a corner leaning against the tent’s pole watching helplessly my uncle’s plight. By evening aunty made herself one with flames. People left for their homes. Uncle was left alone with his only son in U.S.

He came next day and left in a week after fulfilling his duties of a son.

“God has been unjust to me. I have no faith in him,” complained my uncle every time I met him.

He looked sad very sad. His eye bags told his misery. My Uncle could not sleep. Even sleep refused to provide him comfort. The silence of night seemed so harsh to him that he got up with a shriek and wailed loudly for long hours all alone.

“He has lost his sanity. He beats his chest at night, throws things, and wails so loudly that even our hearts weep with him. He fills the whole neighbourhood with his shrieks. Take him to an asylum,” his neighbour Mr. Mehta pleaded to me.

His hair did not see comb for days. His never ironed clothes sang their own woes. He had become bony and always wore a sheet of gloom on his once shining face. His hands shivered when he ate often allowing the morsels to fall on floor. He and his flat smelled bad. He had become a living corpse.

“Life is now a burden for me Arun, I want it to end,” this had become his wish, which he conveyed to me almost daily.

One evening uncle came to my house. I lived alone in a rented flat in Chandigarh studying at Panjab University for my masters in English Literature. 

“I am going to Haridwar. I may not come back. I just wanted to meet you.”

“Your job uncle?”

“I resigned.”

And he got up and dashed out of my flat leaving his half finished tea on the table. My heart wept for him.

Two months passed without any hearing from uncle. I was worried always thinking about him. And one day I got a call from him.

“Arun I returned. Come in the evening,” Uncle asked me.

To be frank, I had no hope he would return. I was happy.

In the evening, I went to see him. I was expecting a dishevelled hair, poorly dressed man but to my surprise uncle looked dashing in his red T-shirt and black trousers. His eyes had lost their pain. They had gained a spark. A spark to live. He got a cool hair cut too. He hugged me and took me inside. I sat on the sofa and saw a cup full of tea in front of me. I picked it up to take a sip as I was in desperate need after my gruelling office.

“Nah… Arun it is your aunt’s. Put it down. I will get a fresh cup for you,” shouted my uncle.

I was stunned.

A cup for my late aunty, sounded insane to me. Still, I played mute. He appeared from the kitchen with a fresh cup, poured tea from the kettle, and handed it to me. I took a sip it was delicious.

Uncle was staring at the sofa seat by my side and smiling softly. Yesterday your aunt and I went to Rose Garden for lunch. I prepared her favourite Rajmah-Chawal. And your aunt even did not touch the plate. Her hunger has disappeared somewhere. She eats and drinks nothing nowadays. I have to finish her eatables. Like this tea and he took the cup and drank the tea in one go.

I was scared of my uncle now. I knew he had gone mad. And he started again.

“Tomorrow I have called the contractor. Your aunt wants me to renovate the house,” said uncle as he did a handshake in the air by my side.

I stood up and rushed out of the house. My eyes became moist. I knew I have lost my uncle. I went to my home and could not sleep properly that night.

The next day I received a call from him during my lunch time. He sounded excited.

“Arun I have bought Honda City for your aunt. We are going for a ride to Solan. Do you want to join in?”

“Huh… No uncle some other day. I have a deadline to meet,” I excused myself.

“Okay my boy,” he replied as if my not going made him happier.

Worried, I consulted a psychiatric. After giving a patient hearing and charging a bomb, he labelled my Uncle a Schizophrenic. “Bring him to me, he needs urgent care,” he suggested.

“Schizo… what?” I tried to grasp the term. It was a new thing for me.

“He has become delusional,” the psychiatric cleared the air.

I nodded and with a lighter purse came out of his clinic.

I knew a Tantrik from my college days who gave me something for memory increase. The something worked or not, I can’t be sure but my marks were good. The same Tantrik gave me some mantras written in a neatly folded chit for my uncle. “Say them in his ears during night,” he instructed. Now that was also difficult for me as I had become afraid of my uncle during day let alone the idea of night.

Some people of my Uncle’s society who met me in the street advised me to take him to a mental hospital. They had seen him talking and laughing with no one in the street. “He seems so happy to be true. He talks in the air and then suddenly erupts into a roaring laughter,” said Mr. Mehta. My faith wanted me to take him to the psychiatrist. I fell for my faith and threw the Tantrik chits in the sewer. I knew I needed to act urgently. I called up his son and told him about his father’s plight but he was too absorbed with life to get concerned. He advised me to take him to the psychiatrist he would pay the bill. “I will pay the bill,” his words echoed in my ears for long. This is what has happened to our relations nowadays they have restricted themselves to paying bills.

In the morning, I got a call from uncle in office.

“Arun come home during your lunch. I have ordered pizza. Your aunty wants you here,” insisted my uncle excitedly.

And I determined to take my uncle to the psychiatrist, reached his flat in the afternoon. The door was open. I stepped inside the hall. There was no sign of my uncle. An eerie silence lorded over the house. During aunty’s time laughter ruled over this house. I called for him but got no response. Then I heard Uncle’s voice. I knew he was in the balcony adjoining his bedroom enjoying the November sunshine. I stopped at the bedroom’s door. I could see his side. He was sitting in his favourite rocking chair wrapped in a grey shawl. A cushioned wooden chair was placed opposite to him. And the pizza was resting in its box placed on a small stool between the chairs. Uncle was reading a poem. After aunty’s death, he had become fond of poems. I tried to hear it closely. It was Wordsworth’s. He was reading it loud in a clear voice and I heard him say:


She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
And love, and thought, and joy.


I sat on the bed watching my Uncle in a delightful state. The sun was serving me warmth through the window. But it was the warmth of my Uncle’s love that touched me. My eyes welled up. Here I was viewing an eternal love. I sat for a long time on the bed hearing my uncle read many poems one by one. My lips played a smile. I sighed softly. My troubled heart was now calm. I rose to go back to my office. I did not want to disturb my Uncle and Aunty. As I was climbing down the stairs poems kept ringing in my ears. A smile was still on my lips. I was not troubled for my Uncle anymore. God had provided me with an insight. I needed to do nothing. My Uncle was happy. He needed no help. He needed no treatment. I tore the psychiatrist’s card. I saw my Uncle not as sick anymore.

 I saw him as a Coper.


Copyright: Atul Sharma. All rights reserved.

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