When I think of my Uncle

I hate my uncle. He is a conservative old fool, who hates technology and never misses an instance to fat-shame me. He treats me like a surrogate son, in that he is way too enthusiastic in disciplining me.

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.

My uncle doesn’t ever ignore a nudge to talk about his award. He tells it like this.

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.

Obviously, someone in the audience recognises the cue and asks back and he answers

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.

My grandfather knows not to take the spotlight and just gently smiles.

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.

Everyone is in awe of him by now

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

It is an abrupt ending and my uncle never explains it. My Grandma or someone else like her in the house usually takes over the conversation now

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

Now my Grandma tells her anecdote about him

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.

My uncle grew up in a Zamindar family. He still has old notions of the world. He still uses a button phone, has no wifi and only uses a computer because his typewriter broke. After retirement, they built a house far away from the city with a lot of the pension. They grow their own vegetables there. They always ask me to come and stay with them for the holidays. I will never go. I have my books and the Internet here and I can wake up late. My uncle is way too disciplined to tolerate my lazy ass. Still, we used to go there when Grandma was still alive. He kind of considered that I would live with him for some months every year but thankfully my parents and my Grandma didn’t let that work out. They used to visit us a lot too, but after Grandma, things really fell apart. He took a job as a consultant to court cases, mostly civil and spends his time like that. My aunt teaches Madhyamik students. Last time I saw him, he had bought an electric scooter and rode it to our house. He offered to get me one too, but I declined. I wish I could talk more to him without him asking me when I’ll come and stay with him. I can’t say no but I’m also tired of faking out the postponement act. My aunt became herself again during the last few years. They organise the Bhog and he is the chairman of the neighbourhood society. I wonder how they’re doing this year. I hope they’re fine.

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