It was a small central government employees’ residential colony. We were around 20 families living there. We used to call it “campus”. Best part of my childhood was spent there.
Our next door neighbour was Sharma uncle. He had two sons. Younger son Lucky and the elder one Monty bhaiya. Sharma uncle was very popular among all the children of the campus. He was a happy go lucky person. My father was very strict with us but we never saw Sharma uncle even scolding the sons. While my mother was always full of complaints about us but we never heard any complaints about their children from Sharma aunty. Both uncle and aunty were very easy going, never worried about marks of their children, instead were always proud of whatever they did. That’s why both uncle and aunty were very famous among all the kids of the campus.
Lucky was younger to me and was a part of my group of friends. But Monty bhaiya was 5-6 years elder to me. He was the one in the whole campus who had a treasure full of comics. While we had “Champak” and “Chacha Chaudhary” comics, he used to have “Mandrake” and “Phantom” comics, everybody’s favourite at that time. All the children of the society used to roam around his house to get some comics from him. He was a book lover and hated lending us his books. But once in a while he used to oblige us by giving one from his treasure. So, all my “Mandrake” and “Phantom” memories are only because of him. He was an enigma for all the kids of the campus. He was the captain of his school football team and was also good in studies. Once while visiting his house I saw him sitting in front of a small mirror with a notebook and pencil. He was making a portrait of himself!! That day I came to know that he was a very good painter too.
Every year during Diwali all the children of the campus used to make Diwali posters to paste on their main door. I was doing the same that year, he came quietly behind me, took the pencil from me and within minutes completed my poster. Mine was the best poster that year.
Then my father got transferred and we lost contact with Sharma uncle and his family. After I got married, my father once told me that he met Sharma uncle in his Delhi office where he had come for some paper work regarding his pension after his retirement. As usual he was full of life and told my father that he was getting a house constructed in his home town. He wanted to spend his retirement days among his own people. He further told proudly that Monty bhaiya was well settled with a good job…he was a promising police officer.
But fate had something else stored for him. After one year of his retirement, Sharma uncle died of heart attack. After that we completely lost touch with his family.
A few years back, my parents again met Sharma aunty through an acquaintance. She was living with Monty bhaiya at that time. My mother went to meet her. She was so happy to meet her. After initial pleasantries she said, “You know, today I miss Sharma ji a lot. Though both Monty and lucky are married now with good jobs but Monty is not happy. He does not have good relationship with his wife. Had Sharma ji been alive today, he definitely would have some solution for this problem. He was such a lively person. Throughout our life, together we faced many problems but he had a cherry solution for each one of them. But I am helpless today.” My mother felt the sadness in her words. After some moments she smiled and touched my mother’s hand and said, “My lucky is still very naughty. He always takes his big brother for granted. During his college days he used to actively participate in college politics, always ready to take law in his own hands because he knew his police-brother would take care of him. Many times it happened that he came face to face with police and called up Monty to save him. Lucky is always Monty’s baby brother. Even today when both of them come to meet me at our home, Monty comes with his car, always spick and span whereas Lucky comes with his car with dents and scratches all over. And then it is Monty’s duty to clean his car and then send it for servicing.”
After that meeting my mother called me up and said, “Monty is an accomplished police officer now. You know, for the first time in my life I saw a real revolver!! He dropped me at the bus stop in his official car. I am so proud of him. And about his personal life, I am sure with time everything will be all right. Aunty, being a mother, is worried unnecessarily.”
Sharma aunty lived in her home town in the very house which uncle got constructed after his retirement. She would visit both lucky and Monty often. Whenever she came to visit Monty bhaiya she made sure to meet my mother. She often used to tell my mother, how miserable Monty bhaiya’s life had become. I also wanted to meet him once and relive those beautiful moments of our childhood together.
That year my parents had gone to visit my brother in US. One morning while reading news paper I saw a full page coverage of the suicide of a police officer…..he was Monty bhaiya.