‘Uncle, Uncle!’ I heard some kids calling out. I had just returned from the market and was about to climb up the stairs. There were these tiny pests…for the one with finer sensibilities…also known as children, scampering about on the playground nearby. ‘Uncle, Uncle, ball please’, cried a tiny voice.
I was curious for a glimpse of this cold-hearted uncle who could ignore the cold-blooded voice of these pesky children and not bother to pass the ball to them. I turned around with a growing sense of respect for this stranger.
To my shock, I realized that the rat pack were all staring at me, expecting me to pass the ball; which by now had rolled close to my legs.
UNCLE! I was thinking to myself, ‘did they just say uncle! I as a child did find myself calling all elders uncle but I thought they were all REALLY elders. I mean they were old. And here I was in the prime of my youth and these rats were calling me Uncle!
At first, I tried my best to ignore them altogether. I was sure that they were mistaken. Giving them the benefit of doubt, I convinced myself that it was just a case of pure mistaken identity. A tall and reasonably hefty guy (ok fine a real huge guy) from a distance might probably give an aura of ‘Uncleness’ to the tiny beings. More so, it was my back they had seen.
Having resolved this dilemma in my head, I turned back towards my building and started walking home. ‘Uncle, ball please…puhleeezee!’
I froze. They were indeed addressing me. I wanted to hide. I wanted to run up the stairs and disappear into the safe confines of my home. My legs refused to respond. They would not move. They were as shocked as I was and they definitely revolted at the mention of being called ‘Uncley’ legs. Not yet but, knees have a lot foresight. They can predict a lot of things in the future, if you care to listen to them. I am sure Hon. Ex Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee also must have heard the prophecy of his knees. ‘We will turn plastic’, they must have moaned. Smart that he is, Vajpayee got himself to be the Prime Minister just in time to get his knees turned into plastic (all expenses on the taxpayer, since we love our PMs).
Coming back to my frozen state of mind, the kids were pleadingly looking way UP to me (remember the height). I noticed the ball still close to my feet. I wanted to pick the ball up and throw it straight at the face of the closest one. That will be last time she cried ‘Uncle’, she will run home crying ‘Mama’. But then there were more of these pests. I could not take down 6 mice with that one ball. I wish it was more of a bowling ball.
So since I had fast run out of options, I managed to stretch my lips to a constipated smile and said, ‘I will give you the ball, but then I am not uncle. Do I look like an Uncle?’ Now let me tell you something today and remember this all you life; ‘all of us are born liars’. It is just the fear of consequences that prevent us from lying. But lie we do.
This small girl now vigorously shook her head and sweetly said, ‘No, no, we did not know what to call you na, that is why. They called you uncle’, she said pointing accusingly at her friends, who were now eagerly waiting for the ball. I must admit it could have been a genuine innocent mistake. If all your friends call someone by names you might as well join them fast or be left alone. Besides, they did not want to sound imprudent by addressing someone they did not know well, disrespectfully. I emphasized with their predicament.
‘Here, catch!’ I gently threw the ball at her. She caught it deftly and then smiled, ‘Thank you, Bhaiyya!’
Phew! I was back to my normal self. I heaved a sigh of relief. I was Bhaiyaa (brother) again. I suddenly felt younger and active. I happily juanted towards my building with a spring in my step and was about to climb the stairs when I heard a chorus of giggling kids behind me. ‘THANK YOU UNCLE!!!’
I did not bother to look back and I ran as fast as my legs could (not that fast since my pot-belly was in the way of my thighs I think) and disappeared into the walls of my house, like I should have done before actually helping those pesky rodents.