Sunday, March 09, 2008

Balan Nathaniel

My favourite uncle passed away recently. I had come to office on the bike of all days since I was attending a seperate ITIL session on my off day. But it turned out to be a good thing cause I could borrow some money from a friend in office and take the bike directly to Majestic. I knew that I would not get a ticket on any of the private buses so I decided to leave the bike in Majestic and take the SETC transport to Nagercoil. I reached there at around 4:30 and very apprehensively, parked my bike without even the headlock on amongst a gaggle of lesser vehicles. They all looked dusty and old, like bikes parked at the local police station. Seeing my apprehension, the guy assured me that the bike would be fine and that I can even leave my helmet there for a Rs.20 fee. Seeing that I had no other choice, I took up the offer and paid Rs.20 for the bike too. He asked when I would be back and I said on the second morning. I guess he has seen a lot of people like that and said nothing.

Getting a seat in a good bus was another problem. The State Transport buses are pathetic and we all take them only as a last resort, as I have blogged before. But this was a last resort and there was only one more bus leaving for Nagercoil that day. I quickly purchased the ticket and got into the bus and had a hell of a journey. Even the bus conductor jokingly told me that if I am going on an emergency, to take a flight!. I started the journey at 5:00 in the evening and reached at 11:00 in the morning the next day!!!. An 18 hour journey (complete with dirty toilets, puking babies and loud, boring movies) that should have taken 14 hours, even with the bad roads. I reached half dead and had to go to my uncles house at once.

Damn, I really loved the man. He retired from a very high post in the Railways and was a very meek and humble man. Known for his interest in flowers like Orchids and Anthuriums, he was also very vocal in the support of my grandfather, Sam Nathaniel who was ostracized in the church and society. He made sure that whenever he could, he could convince someone about the part that my grandad really played for Kanyakumari District and to make right the ills that were played upon some of the pensioners in the district. My earliest memories of him were in my maternal grandmother's house, where all the cousins would meet during the Christmas holidays. He was the only one who owned a car in my mother's side and would drive it all the way from Cochin. I remember seeing him slyly having a cigarette or two at the backyard. I even remember getting properly thrashed by my aunt for "smoking" one of his discarded cigarette butts. But most of all, he was known as "Chocolate Mama" cause he would take me round to Topps Bakery and buy me a whole tin of those Chocolate Eclairs that were so costly those days. Every time he came to Nagercoil or wherever we were, I was sure of getting one of those tins. I believe my sister still has some of them lying somewhere. He always was interested in my life. What I was studying, how well I was doing, what work I was doing etc were questions that I always got from him. He would always advise me to travel by train and even lookup some of the trains to my destination. Even now, if someone mentioned Bannerghatta National Park, I remember him always asking me if I have been there. Whenever I was in Nagercoil, I can always expect a call on the first day asking how I was doing. Man, I'll miss those calls.

He was an uncle I really looked up to. Especially after the fact that he always stood for what he believed in. Following my grandfathers footsteps, he was a man known for his uprightness and straight forwardness. He was also known as a person who never accepted a bribe or offered one. I still can see him standing and arguing with an electricity man over some work order. During the burial ceremony only did I know how much he loved my grandad and wanted him to get recognition for all he has done for KK district.

The ceremony was a quiet one and well attended. Was kinda sad to see him go away at not so old an age. But he lived a good life and did all he could to help anyone in need. I will really miss the man and visiting that house is not going to be the same.

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