A friend of my dad used to come home often on Sundays. I must have been less than eight years old when I first met him. He would come around 10am and have beer and chakna and talk loudly with my dad till lunchtime. On Sundays that he came early I’d wake up to his booming voice filling the house. My mom works so there’s always the best food on Sundays. He would stay for lunch and most of the afternoon. He used to smoke but my sister was adamant that he should not be allowed to smoke in the house. I was of that age where I agreed with everything my older sister said. One morning I walked out into the living room and told him that he isn’t allowed to smoke in the house. He never smoked in the house again. I remember this only because it’s a story my parents loved to tell.
I knew him as Ramu Uncle. I’ve never asked what his real name was. It wasn’t long until he became our favourite dad’s-friend. He was the fifth member of our family for half of most Sundays. I asked once, how his family doesn’t mind him spending every Sunday with us. I was told he’s a bachelor. I figured that meant that he didn’t have any immediate family and it made sense. Years went by and not much changed. The Sunday morning TV programming, the lunch and the beer (which I was only offered sips of and found not to my liking) stayed the same and Ramu Uncle hardly missed a Sunday with us.
I don’t remember when he stopped coming. It was long enough ago that my memory is foggy. I’m quite sure I attended his funeral. I remember wondering what they do with the bones after the body burns. I remember being told that the incinerator is so hot that there are no bones left. I only knew him on Sundays but Ramu Uncle was one of the happiest people I’ve known. He’s probably a part of the reason that till today I expect Sunday afternoons to be soaked in the bright yellow tint of laughter and beer with friends that I can almost call family.
I, like many of us, don’t know how I’m going to end up. There are many things that can keep me happy, many things that I want to do, chase, and be. So when my youthful energy turns to an ache in my bones and when my sense of adventure starts to make way for a want of the comfort of the familiar, if I don’t have a family of my own then all I ask is that you let me be somebody’s Ramu Uncle. I promise that if the tables are turned then I’ll do the same.