By Syed Kamran Ali
I came back home after burying my closest uncle.
In the last moments of his life, he wailed loudly, “My illness would be cured, if I had a child.”
In his death, I have experienced one of the biggest blows of life. I should pass the time mourning. But, instead, I am writing this. I think my emotions are prompting me to write.
When I met my uncle last time, I had never thought even in my worst dream that life would take such a dramatic turn soon. He smiled generously and his face shone brighter than on other occasions.
When last night my mother broke the news that one of her four brothers – and the one she loved the most – had just had a heart attack, the entire family went into a shock.
I used to address him as Kasim Mama. He was the only person among all my maternal relatives who could not clear his twelfth exam. Everyone in the family was bothered about him. His parents with whom he lived until they died were worried about his lack of academic qualifications. He got married to a relatively less educated woman at the age of 32. Since then, his life had mostly been spent in fending for his family.
During his initial days, he had to depend on limited resources. In fact, he was given one shop by his father to run the household. Some years later, his financial condition improved. He opened a school which succeeded in drawing considerable enrolment every year. Because of the school, his connections with state political leaders grew strong. People started recognizing him in the city. Whenever I visited him, he took me to meet the ministers.
Everything was going on fine in his life. He had made plans for Hajj next year. However, as it happens with most things in life, his heart attack struck him out of the blue. He was returning from the nearby Masjid after competing his night prayers. At the time, no one thought this would prove to be lethal.
Since he had no children, he had no one to take him to the hospital. He phoned his nephew despite being in terrible pain. Yakub came and took him to hospital.
Having checked his blood pressure, the doctor chided Yakub over uncle’s condition. The doctor insisted on an injection, which would cost around a lakh. Yakub, who was accompanying my uncle, narrated the same to uncle’s wife over phone. Since uncle never shared anything about his savings even with the wife, she expressed helplessness. Yakub was incapable of doing anything on his own. He took him to a cheap Homeopathy clinic, where he was given two packets of sweet pills. The rest was left to God.
I, along with a sister, went to visit the place, where mama was staying since he fell ill. Seeing both of us, he turned extremely happy. Silently, he put his right hand on my shoulder and tried to convey everything through facial expressions. He experienced an unbearable pain on his left leg. Yet, he agreed to click a couple of photos with a smile. He asked his wife to get us some stuff to eat.
After barely half an hour, he complained that he was struggling to breathe. One of my cousins handed him two tablets and waited for things to settle down. But nothing improved even after three long minutes. By that time, the elders in the family advised us to take him to a hospital. As Yakub went to fetch the car, things took a turn for the worst. My mama had lost all control over the body. We made him lie on the bed. His body became extremely cold and his eyes rolled over. Everyone started crying. Some of them were chanting from the Quran. Few of us were rubbing his palm and foot in the hope that he would regain consciousness.
Yakub entered the room for carrying mama to hospital. But now everything was in vain. No power could revive him. His body was lying on the same bed where he was alive a while back. Lifeless. Immobile. On the demand of the elders, we rushed him to the doctor and they pronounced him dead.
We kept his dead body in the room, where he breathed his last.
I would consider this one of the worst moments of my life. My tears had begun rolling down my cheek. For the first time, I cried so much. I froze in a corner of the room and mechanically observed everything without reacting to anything. I touched his body hoping that he would wake up. My heart didn’t let me accept the fact he was now merely a corpse. When I accompanied him to the cemetery, I also buried a chapter of his life forever. His lifelong hard work had come to a naught.
The day of my uncle’s death also exposed me to the filthiest reality of the society. It forced me to acknowledge the supremacy of money over everything else. I remembered his searching eyes, which seemed to say, “I would be alive if I had received treatment on time.”
Some of his closest relatives were waiting for his death to reveal their true colours. They have just come out making bogus claims to his remaining property.
I would like to stop here before I start washing dirty linen in public. Because that would not allow my dead uncle to make his peace.
Syed Kamran Ali is a commerce graduate from Rampur (UP), who writes on the marginalized sections of society. Currently, he is a Writer Intern with Cafe Dissensus Everyday. Email: email@example.com.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Jewish-Muslim Relations in South Asia’, edited by Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi, Assistant Professor, Gautam Buddha University, Greater NOIDA, India.