Saturday, March 19, 2011

Was it love that went?


A very dear friend never communicates when he’s working.  Not a word.  Not even when I begin to get really anxious about him.   His explanation that when he’s working he doesn’t have the time for anything else upsets me but I accept his “no-time” excuse since that is often mine too.

But last Sunday made me change my mind.

As a child I lived in Queens Garden Pune, a beautiful place, but very far from the city.   You had to walk two kilometers to even get to a bus stop, to wait for a dawdling bus which sometimes never turned up at all.   But despite the time and difficulty involved in reaching us, my parents constantly had friends visiting.  Uncle David was one of those visiting friends, I grew up around. 

Soon after I married Papa died.  Then Mother had a stroke, became a partial paralytic and came to live with me.  Around that time Uncle David’s visits to my home began.   Whenever he visited he brought something.  Home-grown vegetables, plants in pots, carrot and brinjal pickle, tightly closed jars of “sorpotel”.  Once I happened to mention that I wished I could find drumstick flowers, (which cooked lightly and mixed with coconut are a delicacy.) The next visit Uncle David arrived with a bagful.  He had seen a drumstick tree in flower somewhere and had scolded, bribed his gardener to fetch some.

A couple of years back Uncle David's heart condition got so bad he was forbidden to move out of his home. He called to tell me of this and that he wouldn’t be able to visit us any more.  After that he called often and each time he did, I resolved that next time I would visit or at least make a return call.  Somehow that rarely happened.

The last time he called I happened to be busy and I handed the phone to my mother with a brief hello. Mother told me later that he  seemed upset that I hadn’t spoken to him at all.  And so last Sunday I awoke and decided I wouldn't go to Mass but would visit Uncle David. Without giving myself time to think I drove to his home which is close by.

At the sight of me on their doorstep, at 8 a.m. Uncle David and his wife’s faces so brimmed with surprised joy, that the memory of it still fills me with shame.

 I said awkwardly, “I’m sorry Uncle I've just been so busy.   Work and-and problems at home and really it’s so difficult to find time..."

Uncle David led me in with a patient smile.
“ We people,” he said, handing me a cup of tea and two sugar free biscuits, “your parents and others like us - came years ago from Portuguese-occupied Goa to this city looking for  an easier life.  In Goa we had a hard life working in the fields, walking miles in the sizzling sun to sell produce, collecting firewood for cooking.   We thought here it would be easier.   It wasn’t.   I had 7 children to raise.  I worked two jobs-from 7 to 4 in the day and again from 7 to 10 at nights.  For transport we had only our bicycles which we rode everywhere.   My wife used to suffer from depression.  There were no treatments then and I had to tend her as best as I could.   And it was the same for all of us then.  Every one- man and woman worked day and night just to survive.  Yet we never failed to make time to visit each other.

“Our lives never got easier but we made sure yours did.   And technology helped.  Now you don’t have to walk or use a bicycle.  You don’t have to do housework.  You don’t have to wait to be face to face to see each other or talk.”

Uncle David’s voice got breathless as his heart raced to keep up with his words.  He shook his head and said still smiling, “No Rosu, don’t say ‘no-time.’   It’s not time that you don’t have enough of.”


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