It was 1979. Due to family reasons my father got a job transfer from Allahabad to Lucknow. I was a small kid then. All my dad’s friends were in Allahabad, so it must have been a hard decision for him to make.
For me and my younger brother, Lucknow was certainly more fun. And why not, many of our cousins lived there. Actually my mom came from the same city.
I think it was after a couple of years when A.N. Singh uncle first visited our place. He was a fairly tall, dark complexioned man with a good physique. For us he was the familiar 'thakur' on screen in our drawing room. From the very first meeting, uncle struck a bond with the entire family. He was full of humour and good manners.
Over the years dad and uncle became the best of friends. I can’t forget the sight of the two of them riding together on uncle’s Bajaj Priya, and later on my dad’s Bajaj Chetak. Both of them were in the Meter Inspection department of the Lucknow Electricity Supply Undertaking (LESU). During the area inspections they were mostly together.
For us uncle became all the more special during Eid. I don’t think he ever missed either of the two Eids (Eid-al-Azha and Eid-al-Fitr). Even during the heightened tension in the aftermath of Babri Masjid episode, his scooter found the way to our home. Such was our bond! We used to wait for our ‘eidi,’ and it was a relatively good figure.
Uncle was very fond of ’siwain’ (sweetend vermicelli) and the kababs. He was pretty vocal about it. No amount was more for him. Sometimes he used to surprise me by praising even a mediocre preparation. I guess that’s why his share of goodies was always reserved for him.
Uncle retired from service during the late nineties, a few years after dad’s retirement. This was a little surprising as he was elder to dad by a few years. In fact, my father used to openly joke about this with uncle.
The last time I met uncle was in 2006 before coming to Dubai. Age did catch up with him, unlike dad who was fine till his heart operation, but his spirits were as high as ever. He told me, “Jaha bhi jaiyye apne maa-baap ka naam raushan kariyega, abidi saheb (my dad) ko bhi 1-2 mahine ke liye apne saath le jaiyega. [Trans: Wherever you go make your parents proud, and take your dad as well for a couple of months].”
Unfortunately, I was in Dubai when Singh uncle last visited our home in Lucknow during Eid. The same year I left India, uncle passed away sometime during late night due to a heart attack. I got the painful news on phone. It was not just my father who felt the loss of a dear friend; my family lost a great human being that day.
And as we start to prepare for the coming Eid, it’s a mixed feeling. Everything will be the same again, just that there won’t be a tall, dark, lively man who absolutely adored the 'siwain' prepared by my mom. Only his words of wisdom will try and fill in the vacuum.
May his soul rest in peace!