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Short Story : Acclimatize

Nipun and his sister were the introverted new comers in the colony. They had come down from one of those north eastern states where even availability of new brands of ice creams (which appeared each night as advertisements on the sole state television channel after the daily dose of abysmal news telecast) was a luxury to say the least.

Father had a transferable job, so every 3-5 years they were forced to leave their best friends back and move on to a new, strange place, with new rules, a new weather, a new school uniform and it's curriculum. Sports had always interested him as it channelized his nervous energies, all his internal conversations into some form of energy. 

Sometimes spending energy on the ground helps you not have the energy to think about a haphazard life with no control over your surroundings.

Sports made him switch off his social brain and just execute tasks to the best of his ability. He was not strategic about sports, it was not really the team work or the figh…

Short Story: That Corner of the balcony






This goes back to the childhood days. Those were simpler times with simpler people around. All I would look forward to, was the evening after school when I would go play cricket or football with my locality or colony friends. 

We would fight, shout, compete and then bid each other goodbye each day promising to continue our game the next day. 
It was a satisfied life even without a phone, or PubG or any such hi-end graphics game that we see around today.

There was an old man, ‘Shetty uncle’, as we could fondly call him, who always used to watch us play cricket and sometimes would be the umpire for the game.

For those who do not follow cricket, the umpire in cricket is just like the referee in a football game, the difference being, an umpire just stands in one place and doesn't need to move, run like a referee. 

An Umpire, mediates and calls the shots on runs as they are called in a game of cricket. Shetty uncle was this 6 feet 5 inch tall, well-built man, sparsely haired, always stood upright, very bony In structure and had a very deep voice and was very talkative. 

Despite his age, he would involve himself in all matters of the locality and always tell us youngsters to come forward to volunteer as well.

The point to note here is that, we chose Shetty uncle to umpire, solely because he was a neutral person watching us and we needed someone who would be around when we played and Shetty uncle was always around the same corner of the balcony from where he would watch us. 

We could see he enjoyed watching us play and even though we broke his window-pane on a number of occasions, he would shout at us and then go back to umpiring our game. It was a love hate relationship with Shetty uncle.

He always had a way of life, would not compromise it on any grounds. Had his firm set of principles around life, a routine and never swayed away from it & It was his love for cricket that kept him tied to the balcony for hours together watching us.

Sometimes he would wait for us in the evening on his balcony even before we started playing. 

I would always see Shetty uncle sitting in the same position in a corner on his balcony while passing through below his balcony would smile at him & wave a goodbye. 

Over the years, me along with all my locality or colony friends grew up, went off to college and the field was taken over by the next generation of kids but Shetty uncle stayed there. 

When I used to go back on college breaks, Shetty uncle would stop me, ask about my well-being, my studies. I could see he had grown older, not that he was not already old.

I got my first job moved out of the town for a few years. 

I was positive and happy, and it is that time of your life generally, when you feel you can change the world and you are young and energetic. So was I. Also met my childhood friends when i went on festive breaks, and we caught up, played a little cricket gain to relive those childhood memories with Shetty uncle smiling at us. His face reflected of calmness and happiness put together. It felt as if he had relived his life watching us play.

Job was going good, those 3 years were one of learning, growing up, shouldering responsibilities. Learnt a lot in terms of living alone outside the cocoon of a college campus, not to mention the personal financial management. I was finally looking at filling application forms for my MBA and going for another round of higher learning.

Shetty uncle was encouraging and kept a tab on me through my parents asking about my whereabouts, my job and so on. He had grown senile and a little irritable Is what I hear from my friends who visited him often or stayed back in my home town. 

He no longer stayed for hours in his balcony and needed rest. The tall upright structure was now old, bent with a walking stick, with not much authority in voice, in fact he did not talk much at all anymore. In fact, he had grown irritable enough for his wife to leave him and go her hometown.

Shetty uncle stayed alone in his 2-bedroom flat and had a cook and maid who helped him with daily chores. He always appreciated punctuality, diligence and detested otherwise. I guess old age has a way of enhancing your intensity to not tolerate nonsense and Shetty uncle was an epitome of it – his principles and his routine were the only blocks that remained in his life. 

Many people slowly moved out of the locality, some went to different countries to study, work, some got married and settled down.  

Shetty uncle however was there holding fort, & umpiring till his last day from the same corner of his balcony. 

From what I can guess estimate, he would have seen through at least 4 to 5 different sets of children playing cricket in the locality, for at least 5 years for each set of them and then each left for college and other engagements, carrying on in life; while Shetty uncle spent his last approx. 25 years of his life from 1995 to 2020 in the same place. 

He had grown unwell towards the end and kept mostly to his bed in his last few months is what I hear. I wonder how he managed to stay alone in that 2-bedroom flat. It was probably his trips to the balcony that came to his rescue for most of the times. 

Covid-19 attacked, and Shetty uncle passed away at a time when most of the locality was not allowed to send him off on this final journey. No one could have a gathering or more than 10 in a curfew, and it was a few of his close relatives who were the only ones who took him away; Just like that.

This is how life is sometimes; the journey can be illustrious, exemplified but death is cold, abrupt; It comes and takes you away leaving a void. That corner of the balcony no longer looked a happy place.

It was a vacant space that no longer looked all that special anymore. Now that I looked at the corner, it seemed like a very awkward/odd place, almost like something I would not associate with Shetty uncle surprisingly, although his memories for me were all in that tiny little corner of the balcony. 

That is how life is.  We tend to connect the dots and the whole picture looks pretty and complete; often we miss out on key features, forget those crucial elements that are the essence, which when missing, create a void massive enough to make the picture look nothing like it has always looked like, and that’s how that corner of the balcony was without Shetty uncle; empty and incomplete. 


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