It’s now four years since we said goodbye to my uncle. Just recently we had a prayer, remembrance and a family dinner filled with many chuckles on his behalf.
I like to share something I wrote for this day.
I wanted to utter these words at his funeral, but I didn’t. Is it because I was overcome by sorrow? Is it because I felt that I was saying goodbye to my father all over again? Is it simply because, I didn’t think my words would be good enough? Or is it because I knew I should have told him these words when he was alive? I guess it was all of the above.
For whatever its worth, I need to say them now. Today is a good day as any other.
I will start with the funeral. I was filled with much sorrow as well as guilt. Periyya (uncle in Tamil) passed away the day I returned from Singapore. When Ganesh picked me up from the airport, he said, “your Periyya is not well, we will go and see him once you have a bit of a rest”. I didn’t think it was that serious. I thought here we go again; the Old man is pulling another one. He waited till I got back from Singapore, but it wasn’t that important for him to say goodbye to me in person. He passed away that afternoon.
I felt guilty that I didn’t go straight from the airport to see him, I felt guilty that I took that nap. I felt guilty that I didn’t go to see him more often. More than anything I felt guilty that, I never told him that he meant so much to me than he will ever know.
As each eulogy was being read, I was reciting my own in my head. Deja vo, why am I saying goodbye to my dad again?
It’s taken me nearly four years to make peace with myself and get the courage to speak up. Knowing my Periyayya, he would have been utterly chuffed with any word that I had grouped together. The card that he sent me for the first Depavali after my dad’s passing, just signed “Periya (appa)” two words, that’s all. He didn’t need to quote me Shakespeare or Nietzsche, it told me in abundance that, he loved me, he missed my dad, he wishes my dad didn’t die, and more than anything he has got my back.
I am not sure if I totally believe in the possibility of spirits, souls and after life. But, I take comfort in the possibility of Rasam and Skantha having a chuckle, and keeping watch from up there. Or it could be down there. There are more magnets down there than up there. Who knows.
I am not sure if it was fate or a just a mere coincidence that the two families in tandem decided to move to Adelaide. But it feels as if, it was the grand plan of the man up there. Whoever, or whatever the reason for the reunion, I am truly grateful.
I got a chance to spend quality years with this larger than life personality. More than anything, my kids got to enjoy a surrogate grandfather.
I like to wrap up now but with a special request for a visual. Can you just imagine if he had the farm in Australia and the two monkeys? We would have ended up with monkeys named Barnaby and Joyce.
Here’s to my Periyayya. To a man who was the biggest pain in the Ass and but had the biggest heart as well.
I will give you a little bit of a background into who this man was so you understand some of the references.
I was very fond of this man, who was a larger than life personality. He was dad’s older brother. In a family of extreme academics, he was not one of them. He was probably dyslexic or suffered from a learning difficulty. But nothing was diagnosed in those days. Just considered as a problem child by the teachers and maybe even by the parents at times. Still he achieved a lot more than any academics in the family.
He joined the Agriculture Department and was rising through the ranks as he was coming up with novel ideas to solve the problems of the region. Also he was a stubborn pain in the ass to all who didn’t have a vision. He didn’t mince words when he had to say something. Once after a heated discussion with the then Minister for Agriculture he came home and named two of his monkey after the Minister. At a later date when the said minister and his yes men visited his Farm, he introduced the monkeys to the group, without skipping a beat.
He was also big on yoga and magnet therapy. He used to carry a big block of magnet in a back pack. Once leaving a restaurant, he walked away with a good number of cutlery.
My dad was the youngest of eight kids. But unfortunately he was the first to depart at the young age of Fifty Three. The day after the funeral my uncle sat me down and explained a tamil word. “Periya appa” means Big uncle. “Periya” means Big “appa” means Dad . He said just remember that and he left back to his farm. For the outside world he comes across as this rough and tough guy. But in reality, he was the biggest mush.
In his latter days it was really hard to see him so frail and reduced to a small child. Even then you would witness his personality pop up time to time.
Rest in Peace big man.
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4 thoughts on “My Uncle, My Surrogate Dad”
another favorite! This was so moving. Beautiful post!
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thank you so much
I remember your uncle very well. During one of our field surveys, we visited his farm and he treated us so well. Not only the food he served was excellent, but the chat with him was so inspirational. He gave us lot of advise on food habits. Uncle Sivapalan, kanthini and Manivasagar ( you would remember them), they were also there, and we had a wonderful time. In fact uncle Siva and I use to once in a way talk about as we did try to follow some of his advise.
Amazing i never knew that. It is a small world. Yeah i do remember manivasagar uncle