The letter lay untouched on his desk, its creases marked by dust.
Uncle Sam as he was fondly called by the kids staying in his locality, couldn’t see properly after his eye surgery and his family had no time to order spectacles for him.
All the day he used to either keep sitting in his balcony staring nowhere, deeply engrossed in his thoughts or he used to spend his time resting alone, listening to his age-old radio.
The radio too seemed to have wrinkled with age, its voice broken and trembling just like its master, but it was his true companion.
The new maid Sujatha had just joined a week back and that day as no one was home so she finished her chores early and thought of cleaning Uncle Ji’s room thoroughly.
While cleaning his study she came across an album. As she opened it she was mesmerized to see the beautiful collection of portraits and photos of Uncle Ji and his wife and friends.
“Are Uncle ye photo kitne sunder hain, inhe to deewar pe sajana chahiye”, she said but got no answer from him.
He just sat silently in his rocking chair listening to his favourite music.
As she turned around the album further she found letters, some torn, some read, some written but unsent.
After going through the album she put it safely in the chest and started cleaning his study table again.
Thinking it to be just a dirty paper which may have been lying there for months, she was just about to throw it, when she saw that it wasn’t any piece of paper but an unread letter.
“Are Uncle Ji, ye chitthi to apne padhi bhi nahi. Jaane kiski hai”, she tried talking to him again.
This time he replied, “kya padhoonga ab main chitthiyan bina aankhon ke. Pataa nahi kiski hai aur kya likha hai”
“Vaqt kiske paas hai mere liye ek chitthi bhi padhne ka “.
Sujatha meanwhile after cleaning the envelope opened it and started reading it.
She was a matriculate pass hence could understand a little bit of English.
She started reading the letter aloud::
I hope you are happy after retirement. After all, you have a big family and Sushila bhabhi along.
Just wanted to invite you to the bhoomi poojan ceremony of my new building. Actually, I am renovating my villa and turning it into an old age home. A place where forlorn Dada’s and Dadi’s can get a home with friends of their own.
For quite some time my son had been pressurizing me to sell this villa to his hotelier friend and shift somewhere else but after a lot of thinking, I decided otherwise.
Though my son and his family have severed ties with me after this decision, I am happy to get to know their true colours while still alive and use my property for a noble cause.
And the first occupants of my ”’Saathi Niwas”’, that’s what I going to name it are me, Madan and his wife.
You know they lost their money and only son to cancer and now they have nowhere to go.
But I am sure that due to the new age theory of freedom from parents, my family will grow big soon.
Please do come to attend the function. All our friends would be coming. We all will meet after a long time.
“Are Uncle Ji aapko to jaana chahiye tha sabse milne par aapne to ye chitthi kholi bhi nahi”, she added.
“Aur ye chitthi to kafi purani bhi lagti hai”
“Sujatha, mera bag pack karo, main aaj hi vahaan jaaonga. Help karogi meri. Ek taxi mangva do.”
“Jaroor uncle”, Sujatha replied.
She helped him dress up properly and pack his bag.
As he was getting in the car, his son and daughter-in-law arrived back from the office.
“Where are going papa”, he asked.
“To have fun”.
” To have fun, at this age and that too when you can’t even see properly. Why don’t you understand you will become a burden on us if any untoward incident happens”, replied they.
“And where did you get the money to pay to taxi wala from. It’s our hard-earned money and not ought to be wasted on fun”, he added.
” Uncle Ji ko paise maine diye, ye taxi vaale mere chacha hain “, Sujatha replied.
“Chaliye bhaiya”, he signalled the driver.
After an hour’s journey, they reached their destination. A grand gate welcomed him.
Aditya, Madan, his wife, and a few others were sitting on the lawn. The driver took him right up to where they were sitting.
Aditya immediately recognized him but he couldn’t due to his weak eyesight.
“Are yaar, tum akele, bhabhi kahaan hai”.
“Bhabhi ko guzre to arsa ho gayaa, aur unke Jaane ke baad maen bahut akela ho gayaa”, said Sameer.
“Just read your letter today, so thought of coming here and meeting you all. You know, after all, I am so busy with my family, I don’t even get time to read letters,” added Sameer
But Aditya could read beyond his eyes that were set on Madan all the time while he was talking to Aditya. “Bhaiya aap jaiye “, he signalled to the driver.
He took him to an eye specialist in his car, got his spectacles made.
By the evening specs and hot dinner, both were ready to be served to Uncle Sam.
Wearing those golden frame specs, he could now clearly see those happy faces of Saathi Nivas.
He hugged Aditya and his tears said it all.
“Welcome to your new home Sam”, Aditya said in a warm tone. And they had their dinner together.
Sujatha also left her work at their place after a couple of days as she got an offer to work at a home that was being designed for homeless children and aged, as a supervisor.
A week later…………
The doorbell rang.
He opened the door. “Are you Sameer Diwan’s son”, the stranger inquired.
“Yes”, came a worried reply.
“Here’s a notice to you from Sameer Diwan. You need to vacate this bungalow within a month or else pay two months’ rent. The owner, Sameer Sir has sold his property to Raj builders who will be taking over this property for renovation after two months”.
After six months Saathi Nivas took one more leap as a posh bungalow at a prime location was converted into a home for homeless children and aged under the guidance of Uncle Sam.
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