When I think of my Uncle

The police have come knocking at the door. A girl opens it. The family has been expecting this, they planned beforehand. The police have come to arrest him.

He runs through the yellow fields. His uncle, running beside him, cautiously looks around. A few kilometres away, the police is questioning the family. They will say they don’t know anything. That he has been missing the last couple of months yes, and that he just went to Calcutta the day before yesterday. His uncle cannot help but fidget. They’re on the edge. He nervously tells the boy to fit himself in the little gap they have created in the old abandoned shelter. There’s not even a whole. He sits in the darkness, his ears picking up noises he never cared to acknowledge before. An hour later, the police are in the fields, waving their sticks around, gritting their teeth. They have lost all their leads on this boy. The women of the family cried a little, but no one broke. The boy holds his breath with all his willpower. He won’t know it now, but the police won’t be able to find him. Unlike the other boys of the era, his romance with Naxal ideals won’t kill him.

Have you ever fired a revolver, Anit? They don’t show it in the movies, but the recoil is terrible. It isn’t like in all the stupid movies your youth sees you know? You have to hold it with two hands like this.

Oh yes, yes. Of course. We had to anyways do it for the Republic March. You know, they have strict rules about keeping your firearm clean, ask your grandfather, he will know.

I had to fire it during encounters too, you know? Once we cornered some dacoits to an abandoned mill. They were being hunted for a week. We were called in by a local observer. When we arrived, they ran and ended up in the mill. They opened fire on us.

I didn’t get hurt. After a couple of rounds they surrendered.

He got a medal, you know Anit? I and Grandy and Boro Da and everyone, we were there. All of us were so proud.

It is very surprising you know? Because as a child, he was the coward of the family. He used to pee his bed all the time. I was married at a very young age to your grandfather, you know that. In those days, I used to go for college. Anyway, when I used to get home, I used to sleep beside him. In the middle of the night, I would wake up to him asking me to escort him to the toilet. He would ask me to look away as he peed. He didn’t even let me leave after I got him to the toilet you know? He would start shouting if he heard me go away. He used to zip up his pants and run to me, he was so afraid. And now look at him, a police officer, living in government quarters, with so many medals.

My cousin was 16 when he died. He was a quiet person, fond of drawing and reading Bengali novels. He had the spirit of a poet in him. He used to help me draw properly, he used to gift paintings to everyone. He was average in school, but he was kind and everyone in the family loved him and looked at him like their own son. It’s what happens in a joint family like that. When his father got a government quarter and moved the family with him, they bought a dog. It was a German Shepherd, very well disciplined (of course) and I would go to their house and either watch him display his paintings or play with the dog. They didn’t have comics or a TV or anything like that, so that was how we spent time there, talking and running around.

He died on the school picnic. He and friends had snuck out for an unsupervised boat ride in the nearby lake. One of his friends fell into the water. While his other friends were calling for help, he jumped in, trying to save his friend. He couldn’t handle his friend lunging for air while he was trying to swim them ashore. When fishermen rushed to their rescue, they got the friend. They couldn’t find my cousin’s body though at first. When they did it was too late. My uncle and aunt hadn’t even thought this could happen. My aunt became very quiet for a lot of years after that. They stopped eating meat because he loved meat.



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