It is believed that the best way to honour someone, especially the memory of someone dear is by realizing the ideals they lived by. And if those ideals are true, then by emulating them. Perhaps then the best way to honour Vasant uncle would be to not only remember him for the beautiful person that he was but also by “writing actively” about his sheer zest for life.
Vasant Uncle: Vasant Krishna Sharma was an iconic English literature professor at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. He was a treasured friend and colleague of my father. He was also one of our most dear family friends and a guardian figure in my life.
His passing away a week ago, left a huge void in my heart. No tears, no words can describe it .However; I choose to realize the lessons he taught me and will celebrate him for the very positive person that he was. For me he stands as a big inspiration. As he had himself once said ”Things can often go wrong Laddoo but we must not lose heart, we have to fight”.
And he did fight, he overcame a very serious illness. He had grown weak after undergoing the intensive operation but still he would make it a point to go to the park for his evening walks daily. He had problems getting up from the chair but he refused all the hands to assist him and got up every time on his own summoning all his strength and will power.
There are so many memories and so few words. My parents always told me that in my very early days of childhood (which I obviously do not remember), I would go to Vasant uncle’s house (C-3 the house exactly a floor below us) and would perform all sorts of mischief there. I had once mixed up all the pulses, rice everything in their kitchen. I thought I would be scolded heavily but Vasant uncle simply laughed it all off and ate that ”Meetha khichdi” for over a week. Uncle used to call me Laddo Lion and tell me many stories about various jungle animals. He was also loved by all the kids in my colony for the various magic tricks he performed. Taking a coin out of our noses, we all as kids used to get amazed.
As a kid of I guess three or four years, I used to mimic my father’s snores which Vasant uncle enjoyed heavily and used to ask me everytime to do it again. Uncle and my father shared a very special friendship. They were very dear to each other yet always used to pull each other’s leg.
In one of the photographs attached above dear reader, you will find Vasant uncle, my father , me and my friend Harshit enjoying a game of carrom (previous August) . I and baba were playing against uncle and Harshit. Vasant uncle had just recovered from illness and was still very weak. Thus, he struck the striker very feebly and the shot was a disaster for their team. My father looked up to him and exclaimed “Vasant ji! Aap ne aaj breakfast nehi kiya”. Everyone including Vasant uncle started laughing heavily.
So many times, Vasant uncle had saved me from my father’s scoldings . His voice still echoes in my ears ”Chitto koi baat nhi, bachha toh shaitani karega heen”. I wish if I could also write on paper the laughter which slips off from my heart as I recall all these treasures of the past.
Once on my way back home from school, I met Vasant uncle who gave me a diabetic toffee for my father and grandfather to taste. Those who know me well, have understood by now what my instant reaction is whenever I get a sweet in my hands. The Bengali sweet tooth you see. So, I ate the toffee promised for my grandpa and father, threw the wrapper and the responsibility (to convey to them about the toffee) both in the bin and went out to play.
Soon Vasant uncle came up and asked my grandpa “Father how did you find the toffee” (Vasant uncle too used to call my grandpa “father” akin to baba) to which my grandpa replied “Vasant what happened are you alright? which toffee”.
Roars of laughter followed as Vasant uncle told grandpa how he had trusted me with the responsibility of giving the toffees. My grandpa had replied “Oh dear Vasant! You don’t trust the cat to deliver the milk”. I had thought that day too that uncle would be angry from me but he again laughed it all off and encouraged me to be more mischievous.
Another beautiful memory I share with uncle, is when I had accidentally broken a flower pot in uncle’s corridor with a football kick . The pot smashed to the ground with a huge noise as I saw uncle coming out of his house. I held both my ears with my hands to signal for an apology. Uncle looked at the broken pieces of the flower pot, then looked at me and started laughing and smiled conveying it’s alright, the best smile as only he could give.
My relationship with Vasant uncle grew more intense after the loss of my grandfather. Vasant uncle would message me every day, asking me how I was, sending me inspirational quotes. He was very happy to see that I too was interested in English literature and had applied for an undergraduate degree for the same in Delhi University.
After my grandfather’s demise (three years ago) my father was suffering from depression, various other illnesses also plagued his health. Vasant uncle and Sarkar uncle(Debi Kaku) two of our dearest family friends tried their best to help my father recover, both physically and emotionally.
Vasant uncle himself around this time was suffering from health issues. What inspires me the most is that I have always seen him smiling despite everything.. He used to often tell me that he kept himself busy, since activity is the road to recovery. He wrote actively and widely on all topics of national and social importance on his various social media accounts especially the one at facebook.
The most beautiful part of his writings was that not only did he express himself effectively but also that his approach was aimed at peace. It was not some sort of pacifism based on withdrawal and repressed anger but a pacifism which celebrated the harmonious amalgamation of difference in thought. He critiqued what was the root of trouble and sought to find solutions which would make life better for all. His writings would indeed fill one with a sense of positivity and warmth.
Vasant uncle and I had our sunday routine of clearing Uncle’s phone and memory card. He would get so many messages that his phone would be full within a week. Uncle had a huge network of social contacts which he maintained till the very end. Let me tell you a short episode about it.
Uncle was admitted in AIIMS last june. I went to visit him one day and as soon I opened the door I found that uncle was being scolded. It was so since his phone had 1% charge left, he had connected the charger but was still using the phone constantly. The phone was hot as lava but uncle still had so many get well soon messages to reply to.
Uncle had of late developed a passion for photography. He would love especially to click photographs of flowers. He would send them to all his contacts as goodmorning messages. Waking up every day to such a warm message would truly make me feel blessed.
For me Vasant uncle was always a father figure, a person for who I had a deep veneration . After my father’s demise, I used to go thrice or four times a week to check on uncle. Whenever I came across a beautiful flower somewhere, I photographed it and sent it uncle.
Two days before his demise, I got a text from uncle which read to come and visit him, he was feeling very unwell. It was an off day that day(DUTA strike), so I was at home and went immediately to uncle. He complained of breathing issues and weakness. He had an appointment for the same the next day. I offered to take him in my car for convenience but uncle exclaimed that the appointment was at mid day, that he would manage. That was the last I saw of Vasant uncle.
Two days later, early morning when I heard the news, I was devastated. All those whom I held dear, my grandfather, father, Vasant uncle they all were all going away. It is a void which still pierces me. But the ironic part is that when I went down and saw uncle, all that came to my mind were the beautiful memories and lessons he had left me with. Vasant uncle had indeed touched so many lives.
He was the best uncle I ever had. He was more like my friend. To speak in English literature terms, he was Uncle Toby (Tristram Shandy-Sterne) for me. He demonstrated the same gentleness of heart that Uncle Toby had, when he had refused to hurt a fly and had released it out the window saying “Go! I will not hurt thee. The world is wide enough to hold both thee and me”
But who was Vasant uncle exactly, let me answer that through another short narrative. When my grandfather passed away, we took him to Nigambodh ghat, the same place where my father and uncle too were cremated. The Nigambodh ghat is located between Kasmiri gate and Shastri park. The Yamuna river is at it’s banks. Metro pillars built on the river. If not for death, it would have been a very joyous site for photography.
Back then, it was the first time I had seen death so closely, I was unnerved.. Many people came and offered me words of consolation to nurse my heart. I accepted them and thanked them for their gesture. But pain and sorrow still got the better of me.
I was sitting there, crying in one corner when Vasant uncle came and sat beside me. No pat on the head, no big words of consolation. He just sat there and pointed to the far way horizon, where below a cloudy yet sun kissed sky and above the shimmering waves of the Yamuna, two metro trains were crossing each other. He looked at it and said “See Laddoo, such a beautiful site” and then he went and sat with my father. To remember this all over again, brings tears to my eyes. Vasant uncle was such a beautiful soul.
When I went to Nigambodh ghat for uncle’s cremation, I looked up to the sky and saw through dry tree branches, a huge flock of white geese flying unbound freely through the sky. It was such a beautiful site, oh it was such a beautiful site.
Your “Laddoo Lion” did his best to serve you uncle.
Wherever you are , I pray to God that may you rest in eternal peace.
Dearest Vasant uncle, You will always be missed.
Love and Respect as always