It started off as a normal day this Monday, April 29. I was working on my computer when I started getting messages from my best friend, telling me that her father was not doing well. He had serious medical issues for years, and had just come back from the hospital several weeks earlier after suffering a heart attack and other complications. I thought at first the outcome of this visit would be the same as the last time; he would be released under my best friend’s supervision and return to his home in Delhi. But the messages became more troubling, and then finally, I got word that he was no more. I remember staring at my phone for at least a minute, in shock at first, and then remembering.
Dev Uncle was my best friend’s father and family friend. I just called him “Uncle” (never Dev) as I did other men in my family and friend circles in the Indian community from the older generations. Of all the other people in my life, I felt that he was more of an uncle to me than most of my blood-related uncles. I met him almost 16 years ago when I first started becoming friends with his daughter. From the beginning, I was struck by how kind and gentle he was with me. He genuinely liked me as his daughter’s friend, and then like an honorary niece or other younger family member. When I went to visit my best friend, I always looked forward to seeing Uncle, even if it was for just a few minutes, because I had no positive father figure to speak of up until that point. Being in his presence was like a comforting balm on my soul at a time when I desperately needed it.
To tell the truth, I knew just the basic facts of Uncle’s life. I knew he was an engineer with a successful career in New Jersey, and was able to travel to many countries during his lifetime. I also knew the sad fact that he suddenly became a widower as a younger man, with two small children left to his charge. Like all of us, he struggled with what life threw at him, and persevered as best as he could. What I do know and will always remember about Uncle is how he used to pronounce my name in his gentle voice, and how much he loved long walks, visits from his friends, and more than anything, his children.
I will always miss Uncle, but I am glad he is no longer suffering from the many ailments that plagued him in life. He is at peace, and that makes me smile.
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