Spice of life: Reminiscing golden times spent with Duno uncle - Hindustan Times
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Spice of life: Reminiscing golden times spent with Duno uncle

ByUN Upadhaya
May 31, 2024 06:54 AM IST

His presence in our formative years taught us the importance of nurturing relationships with selflessness. It’s been ages since we last saw him and all recent efforts to re-establish contact have proved fruitless thus far

While leafing through our family album the other day, the picture of our domestic help brought back nostalgic memories of a happy childhood.

The credit to the successful completion of my first pilgrimage as a child to Manimahesh peak, too, goes to him as he carried me on his shoulders, cheerfully trekking miles all the way up the steep route. (Shutterstock/ Representational image)
The credit to the successful completion of my first pilgrimage as a child to Manimahesh peak, too, goes to him as he carried me on his shoulders, cheerfully trekking miles all the way up the steep route. (Shutterstock/ Representational image)

“This is Doonichand, our new housekeeper,” proclaimed dad, introducing a middle-aged man to us. He was as thin as a reed with cropped curly hair and a moustache reminiscent of actor Shatrughan Sinha’s style.

Among a host of private daily-wagers working under my father’s supervision in the public works department (PWD), it was the atypical neatness of Doonichand, or Duno uncle as we called him, that made him stand out. His diligent attitude encouraged my father to cherry-pick him as our house help.

He was indeed efficiency personified. He won everyone’s heart by his matchless skill of donning multiple hats without any complaint or excuse. At times, the absence of both parents required him to perform more than just menial household chores. Thereon, he was our doting mother, spinning tirelessly around the house to answer our fitful needs and keep a hawk eye on our mischiefs. As our watchful father, he would make all-out efforts to teach us school subjects save English that was too dreadful for him to decode. He was a kindred friend at times, engaging us in recreational activities as well. Tickling our funny bone was a flair that came naturally to him, courtesy his intriguing anecdotes inspired from his own ‘pahadi’ life that reflected the simplicity of tribes inhabiting the upper reaches of Chamba.

The credit to the successful completion of my first pilgrimage as a child to Manimahesh peak, too, goes to him as he carried me on his shoulders, cheerfully trekking miles all the way up the steep route.

His happy-go-lucky demeanour often prompted us to lovingly call him by another moniker, Calendar, after the popular house help played by late actor Satish Kaushik in the cult movie, Mr India, especially when he wore an apron in the kitchen, wielding culinary implements to prepare delicious dishes for us while humming a playlist of old melodies.

Our happiness knew no bounds when he brought home a leather wallet for my brother and a plastic car for me after his first visit to Chandigarh. Though my mother lectured him for needlessly burdening his tight pocket, our happy faces and his meek smile were enough to melt hearts.

Once after torrential rain, Chamba town was inundated. The Ravi river was in spate and the bus by which my mother was returning from Punjab got stranded a few kilometres from the main town due to a landslide. It was pitch dark, but our unassuming superhero rushed to her rescue. He safely escorted her back through the narrow, treacherous hill trail.

Rising incidents of thefts by house helps in the area deterred many in our known circle but my parents dug in their heels to continue reposing faith in a person who rendered selfless service and tended to our needs for years without embezzling a single paisa.

It was only my father’s unexpected transfer to the plains that led to us bid adieu to Duno uncle. His presence in our formative years taught us the importance of nurturing relationships with selflessness and love. It’s been ages since we last saw him and all recent efforts to re-establish contact with our dear uncle have been fruitless thus far. Nowadays, I live with a wistful hope to bump into him some day and express my sincerest gratitude for all he did for our family. They are lifetime memories we cherish. unsharma3116@gmail.com

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Una

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