The following is the first in a series of stories that I intended to write about a central character: Uncle Sam. I wrote these more than 15 years ago. I penned six such stories. Uncle Sam does not exist, except in my imagination in my world. He is a mythical figure, capable, almost of anything. I wish he was there... I wish we all found our Uncle Sam. This post today is for a special friend who checks my blog every day. The above pictures are of her home, or the view from her verandah, not in reality, but as she dreams about, or as I understood her dream. I hope she finds it somewhat familiar. If these pictures don't find her approval then I cannot be held accountable, I downloaded these from the internet.
If Uncle Sam hiccupped after a voluminous meal we knew he was ready for a tale. He was a distant relative on my mother’s side—so distant that nobody remembered the connection. A boisterous bachelor hovering around forty Uncle Sam exuded boyish charm and bonhomie. His mere presence in a gathering could uplift the atmosphere. Having inherited a large estate with loyal tenants, he had no concern for money and lived a life of idleness. Once I had overheard mother telling a friend that till a year before I was born she did not even know that Uncle Sam existed. One fine morning he suddenly materialized at our door and claimed my mother as his only surviving kin. Mother; a simple woman that she was, was wary, but father, a kindly soul, welcomed Uncle Sam and ever since he has been frequenting our home.
Wherever he went he was addressed ‘Uncle Sam’. Everyone including our village chief called him thus. It was rumored that his real name was Samsher and once when he needed to travel abroad his passport got stamped as ‘Sam’ and when his altered appellation had ensured him some prominence in that society and everybody out there called him ‘Uncle Sam’, since he had visited the US. Though he returned shortly the name remained.
Uncle Sam had a singular appearance. His skin was unusually fair and his hair was golden, which he wore till the neck. He had deep blue eyes, the left one set slightly further from the nose than the right. They had a life of their own and an unfathomable tranquility that could pacify any troubled soul with a mere glance. His beak like nose extended almost till the upper lip. Beard and moustache he had none. I am sure he did not grow them. Even at early morning his face never bore any trace of hair growth. The lips were thin, smooth and nearly traversed from ear to ear. He had a triangular face and wore a cross on the left ear. Though his sight was perfect he carried a monocle attached to the lapel of his frock coat with a golden chain. He dressed mostly in outlandish fashion and of bygone era, likes of which we came across only in history books or in opera. His favorite was a white surplice with Raglan sleeve. Why he dressed so nobody knew. To ask him was futile. Either he will not answer or would supplicate a reason so absurd that one would have serious doubts regarding his sanity.
He was a most jocular person; no one had ever seen him aggrieved. He always spoke in riddles. If asked: how was he; he would say: ‘Sky is blue’, or ‘It snows in winter’. Once father queried the cause for his perpetual happiness, to which Uncle Sam said, ‘I eat when I am hungry, I drink when thirsty, and I sleep when I am weary. For what should I lament.’ Then another day when someone asked, ‘Uncle Sam why do you speak in conundrums?’ he replied, ‘Every time I view this world and those who infest I cannot help noticing the farce. The jest, which nature has played. It’s a divine comedy. Human specie is nothing but a preposterous buffoonery. You cling to what you own, and toil for whom you live. You are happy in birth and sad in death. You regret the past, squander your present and fear the future. You stumble and you toddle; eclipsed are your hearts, veiled are your senses. What I utter is plain enough, but you have not the ears to perceive.’
Though he visited us regularly there were times when Uncle Sam would be absent for months and appear abruptly as he had disappeared. If asked where he had been, Uncle Sam would scratch his nose, pat his hair, draw a deep breath and declare, ‘Looking for myself.’ Such was our Uncle Sam. He possessed a healer’s touch and many a times we had witnessed him cure an ailing with nothing more than a firm handshake. For all his obscurity he was revered highly and people said he was a great saint in common man’s garb ordained to redeem the wretched and the downtrodden. I clearly recall the day—I was nine then, old enough to understand what was said but unable to grasp their significance. I straddled Uncle Sam’s back as he climbed a hillock to recover a lame robin. While he strode effortlessly I played with his ear. Being so high up from the ground I felt elevated and at one point asked, ‘Is it true what they say?’
‘And what do they say?’ Uncle Sam asked.
‘That you are a saint.’ I replied. Usually quick to answer, Uncle Sam remained quiet till we reached the summit. Carefully he extracted the injured robin from its nest and wrapped it in cotton.
‘Feel his heart.’ Uncle Sam said. Gently I placed a finger over the place he told me to. The tiny bird was frightened and its little heart pulsated where I touched.
‘You are bound to him with life force, as with everything else that you see. The blue sky yonder, the grass that you trample and the dew that clings to each blade are replete too with life. Let us return now, it’s past noon and your mother would worry.’
We returned with my question unanswered—or—was it? Till today I am not certain.
I spent my growing years in our ancestral house where we lived in a joint family. Father had four brothers and a sister. All my uncles were married and my aunt was a spinster. My grandparents were there too. In all there were fourteen elders and twelve children. With so many members our house always resembled a flea market. Everyday we had something to celebrate: a birthday, an anniversary, a festival, some achievement and someday, as grandma said—just like that. She was culinary artist, was my grandma, and under her stringent instructions her daughter-in-laws churned out superb delicacies and mouth-watering cuisines one after another. Needless to say all the men folk were portly and the children well fed. Out of the twelve—we called it the Indian cricket team—I was fourth in hierarchy and my sister, being the eldest was the team captain. Hence I enjoyed a bit of nepotism, especially when it came to distribution of manual work—like keeping guard over the rice that used to be spread on the terrace for drying, or fetching coconuts from the tree.
Our house witnessed a constant stream of visitors. My grandfather held his court in the outhouse. He had descended from a king who had once ruled the place hence people came to pay homage and seek advice. Whoever came brought something, particularly for us. They would pat on the head or pull our cheeks and plant a kiss on the nose before engaging with grandpa and the uncles. Their dense whiskers and huge turbans were a constant source of dismay. But when Uncle Sam arrived nothing could hold the children back. We would drop everything and rush to him. We clung to him like kittens, some climb on his head, some pull at his robe, another would dangle from his shoulders while another would latch on to his legs. All singing in unison: Uncle Sam, Uncle Sam…’ I doubt if any man had ever been subject to greater idolatry. His visits never exceeded a day or two. During those hours, everybody, right from my grandparents to our farm hands as well as all the villagers wanted his company. They all sought advice and his audience. How he managed to satisfy us all is beyond me. He never grew tired and never looked pestered. If I awoke late at night, I would find him—even then—holding court with village elders.
Uncle Sam had a voracious appetite and was everybody’s darling. Grandma herself prepared his favorite dishes, not trusting the younger generation, and when he showered her with lavish praise grandma blushed like a new bride. Uncle Sam had the most disarming smile and a voice to placate any aggrieving heart. Be it rebuke or jest his pitch never varied. He was a great storyteller too and during every visit he told us one. If we asked for more he would say, ‘How may drops does the oceans have?’ or ‘Why is rainbow round?’ None of us including the elders knew the answers. He came unbidden and left unannounced, simply melting into thin air. Once to catch him depart we secretly guarded over him as he lied on the verandah. He rarely slept indoors. We barely blinked, and suddenly at some point our eyes shut momentarily and in that instant Uncle Sam disappeared. He told us once, ‘You sense the wind only when it moves, from where and for whom no one knows. Clench your fist in the strongest gale and you would come up with only empty space.’
Now, Uncle Sam, out of the six or seven meals he partook at our place, he always hiccupped after one. Thereafter he would quietly get up and steal to the verandah, and recline on his favorite armchair. Rest of us would follow and gather around him. Children formed the inner circle and women constituted the outer. Sometimes grandpa would attend too. On such occasions would come out Uncle Sam’s snuffbox. It was of ivory and had Cabalistic inscriptions engraved on the surface. He would open it with much relish; sniff and sneeze thrice and then glance over the audience mischievously. While we waited impatiently he would quietly ask, ‘Who wants a story?’ Immediately a dozen hands would shoot up accompanied by a rasping chorus. Among all his nephews and nieces I was his favorite and had the privilege of combing his hair while he narrated his tale.
It was day succeeding Holi. Though the winter had departed traces of chill lingered. A week of holiday remained and we were in a jubilant mood. Uncle Sam had materialized in the morning and after lunch we gathered around him. Smell of sweets and savories emanated from every corner. Except grandma each one of us looked different, as our desperate attempts to remove the colors had failed. Our stomachs were full and hearts eager. A pleasant breeze wafted and we fidgeted for Uncle Sam to begin. I took post behind the headrest. Uncle Sam blew his nose thrice and started.
‘Today I tell of a man I knew closely. It was in the land of clouds. They were everywhere. One could stretch his arm out of the window and touch a passing Strato-Cumulus. The man to whom I refer was the village cobbler. He was pious, simple and hardworking. Had a wife and a daughter whose beauty people flocked to behold. Her name was Mahatab and people would say, ‘Dorai, your daughter would be queen someday.’ To which he simply replied, ‘Time will tell.’
‘Dorai worked day and night and surrendered everything that he earned to his wife Haya. Though he worked all the time his earnings were meager for he charged lowly. He lived in tatters and provided all that he could to Haya and Mahatab. His skill was known far and wide. People arrived from remote lands, over mountains and deserts, crossing rivers and seas to have a shoe made from Dorai. It was reputed the Dorai’s shoes outlived the owner. Not only were they tough but exquisite too. Dorai was a maser in Persian filigree and his needle weaved magic on leather. No two pair was identical. Dorai had a shop outside the market. It was a ramshackle structure consisting of three tin shades and a plastic sheet in place of the roof. When he left after sunset he simply barricaded the front with a wooden board. All his tools and raw materials lay within, at the mercy of any passing thief. Dorai was too poor and if robbed one would starve to death, even then he felt no need to guard his means for survival. People would say, ‘Dorai someday you will lose everything.’ And Dorai would reply, ‘Time will tell.’
‘He worshipped no deity, followed no rituals, and bowed to none. He said his work was his god. Haya was a scheming woman and always dreamt of money. She kept fast, gave feast to godmen and visited every temple. She prayed for a wealthy match for Mahatab. At times she even asked her gods to grant some sense to Dorai. Between Dorai and Haya there remained a gap or at least a decade and she looked even younger. Though nowhere close to her daughter, Haya was a beautiful woman and traders who crossed her house often proposed, promising her wealth and plenitude. They would say, ‘O, daughter of night why do you stick to the fool. Come with me and your tender feet would never tread ground. You will rule over my house and heart.’ They also had their eyes on Mahatab and made a real fool of themselves. Haya—shrewd as she was—saw through each one of them, none of whom came anywhere close to what she desired. They were all commonplace and coarse traders who roamed from one place to another and kept a woman in every town. She cursed them, ‘You dirty vermin, may you rot in hell. Your children be taken by malignant curs. Aren’t you ashamed to say such filth to a devoted wife? All of you together cannot rival even a single hair on my Dorai’s head.’ Everyone knew that Dorai was totally bald and that Haya would desert him one day.
‘She had only to hear that a saint or a holy man was in vicinity and she would rush to him—even if it meant leaving the village—and lay siege. On such occasions Haya could be more persistent than honeybee. She literally suffocated the god men with her devotion and drove them mad with questions regarding wealth. Her pestering was of such proportion that the only recourse left to the god men would be a hasty retreat from the place and cover distance as Haya could not travel. They also vowed never to return. Gradually Haya’s reputation as a ‘Saint’s nightmare’ flew far and across. Visitations from holy men became far and few in between. They avoided the village altogether. In a period when people sinned more and prayed less and repented only on deathbed such occurrence amounted to calamity. Earlier it was easy. Do everything the holy books condemned and then reclaim your place in heaven by giving alms to a man in saffron. Now there was no outlet for penance. Villagers cursed Haya. They hated her as much they liked Dorai. They would say, ‘Dorai your woman is evil, throw her out. One day she would devour us all.’ To which Dorai replied, without interrupting his work, ‘Time will tell.’ The villagers would have driven Haya out, but they revered Dorai and pitied his growing years. ‘If she goes who would cook for him?’ Old women said. So they cursed and avoided her like plague.
‘Mahatab—pretty as she was, bloomed every day. She bore herself haughtily like peacock. She had her band of admirers who kissed the ground she tread. She shared neither her mother’s concern nor her father’s poverty. She was well provided by those who were willing to court death to catch a glimpse of her. A vain and arrogant lass, Mahatab spent most of the day in front of her mirror. If she needed anything, a careless drop of eyelid or a flick from her little finger would suffice to produce a handful of able-bodied men, each climbing over the other, willing to satisfy her every little wish. Mahatab never doubted that one day she would reside in palace. She walked proud puffing her shapely breasts with extra support. Her curvaceous figure could put Venus to shame and she loved to show off. In a remote village who had heard of under-things and the clothes she wore clung like second skin. Every niche lay revealed, every undulation perceptible. If she ambled by, mothers put dark clothes over their children. Married men retired to their private rooms and ravished her through slits. Women folk, especially those with husbands, cursed her with all might. But in the dark age in curses came true then our race would be extinct long time ago. Nothing happened and Mahatab continued her flirtatious existence unabated.
‘If Dorai was aware of his wife or his daughter’ exploits, he did not show. And one wondered—even if he knew what could he do? Everyday morning—well before the rooster crowed—Dorai was seen walking through the fields to his shop. Tools clanged as the leather bag that he carried on his back jerked with each step. Likewise, he returned when the sky had turned from blue to golden to black. There were no dearth of well-wishers who called out from their homes as Dorai walked past. ‘O good man wherefore you haste so? Come in and rest a while. I have good wine and warm food. Replenish your soul.’ Normally Dorai paid no attention and continued walking. At times when he had a tiring day, he might halt under one of the trees that lined the way. Immediately people would come out and sit around him. They poisoned his ears regarding Haya and Mahatab. Dorai sat through all that, nodding his head occasionally and when everyone has had their say, would arise. He would look at the slandering eyes and say, ‘Time will tell.’ Thereafter depart for his home.
‘Quarrelling with Dorai was like clapping with one hand. His tongue never shed a word of reproach. Even when Haya quarreled every day. Her accusations never varied. It started with her wretchedness, their poverty, Dorai’s honesty, gods who did not heed her prayers and ended with Mahatab’s marriage. Sometimes Haya would say it was better to be dead than suffer such humiliation. To which Dorai replied, ‘Why rush what is inevitable?’ his placid rejoinder would only cause another spate of verbal assault. If Dorai was known far and wide for his skill and his honesty then he was also known for his coffin.’
Uncle Sam paused and looked at us. I had been so engrossed that I had stopped combing. Once more I picked up the comb. ‘That’ll do. Come and sit.’ Uncle Sam patted my back and inserted a chocolate bar in my pocket.
‘Coffin?’ Grandma asked.
‘Yes, he lived in it. The coffin was made of teak. Dorai had built it himself and had reinforced the corners with iron sheet. It was so small that Dorai’s tiny frame could hardly fit in. The lid too was complete with hinges but Dorai kept it separate saying it would be attached at the right time. How he could lie within that contraption was beyond anybody. He always lay on his back with the arms folded on the chest. There wasn’t room enough to turn sideways. He opined that only evil souls turned in their graves. He consumed only one meal in the day. A light supper consisting of a loaf of bread and a cup of mashed potato and a glass of rye afterwards. He partook even this in the coffin. During winters when snowflakes swirled in the air, Dorai covered himself with a shroud and slept peacefully in his coffin. Rumors abound for his doing so. Some said he was in league with Satan, some said it gave him secret powers and some hazarded he was a gnome who guarded all wealth of the nether world. While others lost sleep, Dorai snored happily. A clean soul sleeps like dead—that was Dorai.
‘When he left for work he kept it locked inside his cupboard. It was an unnecessary precaution though. Nobody would have dared to approach the coffin—even remotely. On Sabbath, when market remained closed, Dorai would bring out the coffin and place it in the Sun. Curious onlookers surrounded him as he dusted and cleaned every nook and corner. He had painted it white and if a flake was visible anywhere Dorai would chip the area carefully and apply fresh coat of enamel. People jeered behind his back and cracked jokes. One went thus: After death Dorai reached heaven where St Peter met him a the gate. ‘What do you carry on your back?’ he asked Dorai. ‘My coffin O benevolent father.’ ‘Why?’ St Peter asked. ‘I have heard there has been a sudden rush in hell and you had to lend all your cots to Satan and you are facing an acute shortage of resting places so I brought my own bed.’
‘After many years of prodding, one day Dorai finally divulged, ‘It will be my final resting place so I better get used to it.’ And Dorai would continue to rub and polish his coffin.
‘Now as it happens in every fairy tale, one day a handsome prince rode into the village followed by a cavalry of fifty men. He came from a neighboring state and while pursuing a lion lost his way in the forest. A comet guided him to this village. It was just after sunset and the dying rays reflected from the shining armor. Everybody turned up to see the horsemen. They were sheltered in the village community hall. The village Chief invited the prince to spend the night at his place, but the latter declined preferring to stay with his men. The company was provided with lavish food, and after a hearty meal the weary soldiers rested. Unaccustomed to hard bed the prince escaped sleep and went out for a walk. He was a majestic figure, his sword shone like Excalibur. His promenade took him close to where Dorai resided. The prince heard a sweet melody and unknowingly walked towards the source. So mellifluous was Mahatab. She sat beside the window and hummed while her fingers weaved a plait. When the prince chanced upon Mahatab he stood rooted to the spot. Though a connoisseur in beauty and the art of love what he beheld was beyond belief. He made his decision then and there.
‘Next morning after necessary enquiries he presented himself to Dorai and made his intentions clear. “I wish to make your daughter my queen. Wealth I have beyond measure, lands as far as birds can fly, servants I dare not count; but next to your daughter all my splendor pale to nothingness. She would bear me children and I would etch her name on the stars.”
‘Haya howled with joy, Mahatab fluttered like a butterfly. Dorai scratched his back and said, “Time will tell.” Then he picked up his bag and departed for his shop.
‘Same day the prince left for his kingdom, which lay beyond the farthest mountains with Mahatab as his bride. Mothers and wives sighed with relief. Men folk cursed the prince and rubbed their palms in exasperation. Some, chased by bouts of depression, renounced the world and retired to the forest. Overall life became a little less exciting. Dorai of course continue as before.
‘With Mahatab out of way Haya immersed herself completely in her own misfortune. Her tongue, sharp so far, became intolerable. She raved day and night and found fault in everything that Dorai did. Another man would have strangled her long ago but Dorai remained silent and did his work. Finally she stopped cooking for him and Dorai replenished himself at a neighbor’s and always paid for his meals. Everyone asked Dorai to get rid of Haya. They only waited for his consent, and they would look after the rest. Even the village priest, who knew all the Holy Scriptures by heart, decreed that Dorai could leave his wife after which she could be driven out of the village. But Dorai was of another world. To all his advisers he had only one answer. “Time will tell.” But tides do not remain same.
‘A circus came to the village. They pitched their tents next to the field where Dorai lived. It came from foreign lands and had all sorts of animals and hair-raising tricks. Drawn by the bright costumes and Grecian physique Haya frequented the tents every afternoon. A month later when the circus moved out Haya too disappeared. Though nobody had witnessed but some said that she had caught fancy of the lion-tamer. Haya was heard no more.
‘After two decades of purgatory Dorai could breathe freely again. He was single now and many spinsters were willing to keep his house. Matchmakers got busy. They waylaid Dorai wherever they could. He heard them all—his hand busy in work—nodded and slept in his coffin. Gradually the matchmakers resigned. Well-wishers too drifted away. They had their own problems that needed their attention. Moreover, who would waste time with a man to whom he could give no advice. Years passed and Dorai remained alone. He grew old but was far from death. His varicose limbs could still produce shoes of excellent caliber. With time the village evolved too. New houses were constructed. Electricity ushered in the new age. The market too developed. Shops with bilingual signboards came up. A bank and a post office opened. From a sleepy village it became a bustling township. Many of his contemporaries passed away while others migrated to distant lands. Children who had played on Dorai’s lap now managed the town. Despite all the advancement, Dorai’s house, which was near the forest and his shop—three tin shades and a plastic sheet, well outside the market—remained untouched. Dorai now faced stiff competition. Shoes made with imported machines, which flooded the market were of modern design and though costlier reflected the trend of the time. But Dorai continued making shoes even if he had no buyer. On each of them he worked painstakingly and stored them in a box. Few people, out of pity perhaps bought from him. Dorai did not need any money. He ate even less. Just half a bread and a cup of rye. Day and night he crafted shoes, each a masterpiece and kept in his box. When asked what would he do with all the shoes, he had his answer ready, “Time will tell.”
‘One afternoon a strange woman appeared in the market place. Her deranged countenance and tattered clothes proclaimed her insanity. A group of children returning from school saw her and started pelting pebbles at her. Driven thus she fled into the first shop that came her way. The shopkeeper, who happened to be one of the oldest residents of the village, was about to shoo her away when the woman wailed out, “Please save me, I have nowhere to go.” The shopkeeper was thunderstruck. It was Mahatab, Dorai’s daughter. Of her beauty nothing remained. Lice crawled in her hair and her nails were black with dirt. Her face had dark blemish and a corner of her lips bled. She was dressed in widow’s garb, which was streaked with mud. Her hands were chaffed and her whole body shivered as if in fever. “Please give me something to eat.” Mahatab pleaded. The shopkeeper, who had seen Mahatab in her ponytails, took pity and gave her food and clean clothes. “Is father alive?” she asked after gulping the food.
‘When Dorai entered his house, he found Mahatab waiting for him. Though she had taken bath and wore a clean dress she was barely recognizable. After a cursory glance Dorai went to his room and started putting the shoes in his box. A moment later Mahatab rushed in and started crying at his feet. “O father please forgive me. I have sinned. I know I have hurt you but please forgive me. Do not turn me away, I have nowhere to go.” She started sobbing anew. The hot tears falling on Dorai’s feet almost scalded his skin. Dorai looked down at his daughter and wondered why does she cry, what has she done. I would never understand woman. He patted her head and said, “Go now, I have work to do.” Assuming that Dorai was still angry and had not pardoned her, she said, “Please do not discard me so. I am your daughter, your flesh. I will never trouble you again. I will do as you wish.” And she wouldn’t let go of his feet. It was true remorse. Gently he bade her to leave and told her she was in her own house. After she left he murmured, “Time will tell.”
‘Mahatab looked after Dorai and the house like a true daughter. She kept the house clean, cooked, mended clothes and even went to the shop. Due to her glib tongue Dorai’s sale increased marginally. Gradually the story revealed. After four years of sheer bliss when Mahatab failed to bear a child, the prince, now king, as advised by his ministers, remarried. The new queen produced three healthy children in succession. Though Mahatab was the elder queen, the younger one was king’s favorite. After several years, her beauty—due neglect and worry—disappeared. In her heydays when she could command the king, she had made many enemies and now they sought revenge. The king too hated her. A conspiracy was planned for her murder, which she learned through a loyal servant, and aided by her, Mahatab made her escape. Since then she has been running and hiding like a hunted prey. An unescorted woman draws all kind of evil. And she went through hell. Finally she reached her won village.
‘No one pitied her and those who once lusted after her now maligned her. But soon, the uproar, which was caused by Mahatab’s sudden appearance, died and people simply forgot about her. Life regained normalcy and Dorai and Mahatab lived like father and daughter. A more devoted daughter one could not ask for.
‘It was early monsoon and a dark storm was brewing outside. Mahatab had closed all the doors and windows and was sewing a cap for Dorai, who was working in his room. He was hammering the final nail into a shoe. He knew he would work no more. A lightning crashed somewhere over the distant hill and its bright flash illuminated the room where Dorai stood. His hour had arrived. He placed the shoe in the box and then went where Mahatab sat. “Dear daughter my work is done, now I go.” Mahatab knew it was futile to speak to the old man, so she remained quiet and watched. Dorai fetched a cart to which he tied his coffin and then walked away towards the forest. Rain had started and the drops slashed through her skin as Mahatab stood in the courtyard watching her father’s receding figure.
‘No man or beast ever saw him again. Next day after the storm subsided the whole town ransacked the forest but nothing was found. Dorai and his coffin had disappeared and so it remains till today. Now very little is left of the story. After ten days of mourning when Mahatab searched the house to see if there were any hidden money, she discovered nothing except the box full of shoes. There were hundreds of them. Each one a gem exhibiting master craftsmanship. An art that was extinct. Mahatab had inherited her mother’s shrewdness and she knew that the shoes would fetch huge sums abroad. Through an English gentleman, who frequented the place during summers, she had the shoes exported and earned abundant wealth. Eventually she married the same gentleman and migrated to England, where—it is rumored—she bore him two healthy children.’
From his cadence we knew the story had ended. We all stirred.
‘Dorai was never seen again?’ My sister asked.
‘Well,’ Uncle Sam said, ‘it is said when winds blow and lightening flash if one walked by the river that snaked through the forest, one might see a shrouded figure dragging a white coffin after him.’
Grandma pushed some beetle leaves into her mouth, ‘What was the sense of it all?’ She asked.
Mother pondered a while and answered, ‘One cannot escape one’s destiny.’
‘No,’ I jumped up, ‘only time will tell.’
While others were about to contradict me, father along with my uncles entered the gate. ‘All of you come inside, there’s something for everyone.’ Father called. We all rushed indoors. A moment later I realized Uncle Sam was absent. I went out to fetch him. He was not in the verandah. I touched the easy chair, which was still warm. I knew he hadn’t entered the house. Dusk was rapidly gathering around.
I called out his name but my voice dissipated amidst the gloom. No reply came. Uncle Sam too had disappeared. Where to? Only time will tell.