After a long and futile job search in Calcutta, when I planned to go to Mumbai to resume my job hunt, my father asked me to once try my luck in Delhi.
The choice of Delhi was based more on our familiarity with the place, as we had spent a few years in the city some years back, than any analysis of its job market.
And that my father has many friends in Delhi made the capital city all the more preferable to Mumbai.
After some deliberation, I agreed to go to Delhi, although I was more interested in the city of films, slums and local trains, Mumbai.
My father telephoned Pande uncle, one of his closest friends in Delhi, and uncle readily invited to stay at his place in Karol Bagh, Delhi.
Delhi and Punde uncle conjured up childhood memories for me.
Those days Pande uncle used to stay in Golmarket, roughly 10 minutes’ walk from where we resided.
Uncle’s family wasn’t without its woes: his wife had poor eyesight, for which she had undergone a few operations without much success. Puja, uncle’s eldest daughter, would look after the kitchen balancing it perfectly with her studies. Puja was a bright student.
Uncle also had a younger son.
After staying for four years in Delhi, my father was transferred, and we returned to our home town, Calcutta.
Following our return to Calcutta, I didn’t hear much of Punde uncle and his family, or maybe didn’t pay much attention, although my father kept in touch with uncle through phone calls and letters.
The last I heard of uncle’s wife, Pande Anty (as I called her), was that her vision had deteriorated further, further restricting her activities.
For my job hunt, I decided to stay for seven days in Delhi. My father asked me to stay at uncle’s place for half the duration and move to a hotel for rest of the time.
My train reached the capital city on a wintry morning of December. The thick fog, the Punjabized Hindi, the chilling cold together greeted me to the city I had left almost fourteen years ago.
By the time I reached uncle’s home it was afternoon, and the warmth of the sun had somewhat tamed the unrelenting cold.
As Puja, uncle’s daughter, ushered me into the home, I found Pande Anty sitting in a chair. “Train me kui taktliv to nei hui,” Anty gushed with excitement and warmth. I suspected the genuineness of the warmth but the suspicion was short lived.
She enquired about my parents and said they should visit Delhi once.
Meanwhile, I set down my luggage in a corner following the instructions of Anty. She seemed familiar with every nook and cranny of the house despite her visual impairment.
After freshening up, when I sank into the sofa opposite her, she embarked on a variety of topics ranging from the climate of Delhi to its people and changing trends.
She was curiously informed about the world she could hardly see!
I had spoken to Anty in bits and pieces as a kid but this time our conversation was by far the longest.
Puja was training to be a teacher and the little boy had grown into an eighteen-year old teenager who would soon be back from college.
I luckily got a job offer on my second day in Delhi and spent the rest of the time visiting the places I was familiar with as a kid.
The locality I had stayed in – Golmarket – had considerably changed and so had many other things.
Finally, it was time to return to Calcutta; I would meet my parents and come back to Delhi to join my job.
I spent around two years in Delhi and moved to Bangalore to join a new company. All the while in Delhi I was in touch with uncle’s family but, while in Bangalore, eager to get on with a new city and priorities, I lost touch with Pande uncle and his family again although my mother filled me in on them from time to time.
But for Pande Anty’s deteriorating health and eyesight, they were generally doing well as a family.
Early last year, as we were preparing to take on the challenges of a new year, I was told that Anty passed away of a heart attack.
PS: I had written this last year, a few days after Aunty passed away. I had left the piece incomplete; today I thought to complete the piece and post it.