Sometimes you come to know a person when you are parting ways with him/her. I had never known Uncle quite as well as I came to know when I found him outside my door one day. He was standing in our common passage and cleaning something. He said he had bought a new flat and would shift there in a few days’ time. Uncle and his family were my next-door neighbors since my first day in the building close to three years back. I used to share basic pleasantries with Uncle but our interactions never went beyond them.
That day he seemed in a mood to talk and he started asking about me. After I was done with my part, he started talking about himself. He grew up in Bangalore staying around Koramangla all his life. He liked old Bangalore as it was calm and peaceful. With the advent of IT industry and migrants from various parts of India, Bangalore lost its quiet charm, he said. He did his engineering in Bangalore.
He worked with Otis, which makes elevators, for 45 years, and the company sent him to Madras (now Chennai) for training. He stayed there for sometime and liked the place but never thought of settling down there as Bangalore was the place for him.
He had two daughters and both of them were engineers. Although an engineer, the elder daughter started working as an HR consultant with a small company and did well there. Her employer knew a person working at Accenture in HR who used to often drop in on him. The Accenture person was quite impressed with how Uncle’s daughter handled everything herself, as the firm was only a few people strong.
He offered her a trainee’s role at Accenture and said the company would sponsor an HR MBA course for her. She joined Accenture HR and it’s been a few years she has been working there.
I had noticed Uncle used to return home late night some days but didn’t know where he came from. One day I spotted him at the club I sometimes visit with my friend who is a member. It was cricket world cup final and the club was full house that day as it had made arrangements for live telecast of the match on giant screens.
I was surprised to see Uncle collecting drinks from the bar. "Being a Muslim how could he do that - drinking is not what a 'good' Muslim is supposed to do, after all?" I thought. Later I concluded that Uncle's drinking squared up well with the fact that his daughters and wife never wore traditional Muslim attire (the daughters were mostly in jeans or normal salwar kamiz and the wife in saree). They were a liberal Muslim family.
I told Uncle I would miss a good neighbour and he said so would he. On a philosophical note, he said, “You will meet people and part with them. Detachment will help to get on in life; attachment will only cause pain.”
It reminded me of Kenny Roger’s Gambler song, which says the key to everything is to know when to walk off.