BE MY GRANDPA!
Sahir was on his way to school. The winding path, leading to the main road where he caught the bus, was a long one. It passed through a tiny hamlet. Uncle Arnold, a septuagenarian, lived in one of the ancient Portuguese houses all by himself. He would wait every day for the little boy to pass by, greeting him with a toothless smile and sometimes an offer of some delicious toffee or chocolate.
Today, Sahir looked expectantly towards Uncle Arnold’s house but the old man was nowhere in sight. “Whatever could be the matter?” thought the young lad, alarmed. He was debating whether to go in through the gate, when the next door neighbor popped her head out of the window. “Hello, Sahir. Looking for Uncle, are you? He’s not in; had a bad fall yesterday so we had to rush him to the hospital.” she said. Sahir felt sad. He walked off to catch the bus in a morose mood.
At school, Sahir could not concentrate on the lesson. His teacher, realizing that the boy was troubled, took him aside after class and asked what was wrong. Sahir told her the whole story. His teacher advised, “Why don’t you visit your Uncle in hospital? He’ll be happy to see you and you can offer to help look after him when he returns home.” Sahir’s eyes lit up. He thanked his teacher. As soon as he returned home, he told his mother, who promised to take him that very evening.
In the hospital, Uncle was all alone, looking sad and forlorn. His right leg had been put into a cast. Sahir handed him a small bouquet of assorted flowers picked from the garden Uncle tended so lovingly. “Oh, how thoughtful of you to come and see your poor Uncle!” said Uncle Arnold. “Are these from my garden? I hope someone is watering my dear friends for me.” Sahir said he would be happy to do it till Uncle was well again. ‘Come here, little one.” said Uncle, tears glistening in his aged eyes. “You do love your old Uncle, don’t you?” Sahir nodded and hide his face in the Uncle Arnold’s chest. The old man lovingly caressed his head and sighed. “I wish my own children cared as much. They are so far away. I’ve sent them news of my accident but no one has come or called yet.”
Sahir knew Uncle had a son in the States and two daughters, one in Mumbai and the other in Dubai. Aunty Carol had died a decade ago and since then Uncle Arnold lived all by himself. The children would visit in the holidays but apart from those annual visits, no one bothered with him. Sahir loved his Uncle Arnold and so he decided to look after him.
After a brief spell at the hospital, Uncle was brought home. Sahir would visit him regularly after school and in the evenings, after he had finished his homework. He cleaned the house for Uncle, watered the plants and ran errands for him. He read to him from the many books Uncle had in the library room or from the daily newspaper. Sahir’s mother sent food for him till he could move out on his own. On Sundays, Sahir would take Uncle to his house where they would play cards or carom. Sahir’s Dad would discuss current events with Uncle as they ate up Mum’s delicious luncheon.
Slowly but surely, Uncle improved in his health and was well once again. But his eyes never lost their sadness and Sahir knew why. Uncle was still waiting for his children and grandchildren to come and visit him. He would take out the family album often and look at their photographs, tears welling up in his eyes. Then he would sigh and go to his favorite rocking chair, close his eyes and dream of happier days. “How I wish I could tell them how much he misses them!” thought little Sahir. “Why do adults not care for their parents anymore? I will never leave my Mum and Dad alone like this. They will become sad, just like my Uncle Arnold.”
The little boy hugged Uncle Arnold and said to him, “I love you Uncle. I miss my grandfather so much and you remind me a lot of him. BE MY GRANDPA, PLEASE!” The old man returned the hug with tears in his eyes and replied, “You really do love me a lot, don’t you, little Sahir? Yes, dear one, I will be your grandpa. Thank you for choosing me. You have made me very, very happy indeed.”