I usually do not write about people who complete their life journey unless it has impacted me deeply. Births and deaths are natural phenomenon and it is common to rejoice at someone’s birth and feel sad when someone expires. However there are special cases where a life journey is so special and unique that words flow automatically from the heart and I am compelled to write something. Recently my maternal uncle (Mamaji, my mother’s brother) expired. He was 94 years of age and had remained quite active till about one month ago when he suffered a paralytic attack and never recovered from it. He lived a long life by any standards but more than that he lived a noble life which was simple, purposeful, busy, full of hard work, sincerity, kindness and selfless service.
My uncle S. Dalip Singh was born in a poor farmer’s family in a village of Punjab (India) with limited land holding and lost his mother when he was just 8 years of age. He had two sisters (including my mother) one younger and one elder to him. A responsible person he looked after both his sisters and took care to bring them up. When he was 30 years of age his father also died and he had to shoulder responsibility of the entire household. A very cool and balanced person who was embodiment of hard work and dedication. From his meager inheritance of just about 4 acres of land, he worked hard in farming, saved money and made it to 40 acres of land as his life journey progressed. He looked after his sisters even after their marriage and would visit them regularly and on special occasions like on birth of his nephew/ nieces and festivals and would bring gifts. He was married and had two sons and two daughters. The man had no bad habits; he would not touch liquor and led a very simple life. He believed firmly in the tenets of Sikhism and Shri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) as he earned his livelihood by honest means and hard work and would regularly gave part of his earnings to charity. He could recite verses from SGGS and was a saintly person. He provided good education to his sons and daughters and made them good and responsible citizens.
One could depend on him during the time of need. I still remember an incident of Dec 1967 when I had got a call to join the National Defence Academy (NDA) for commissioned officer’s training. I had got through the NDA written examination as well as SSB and was required to deposit a sum of Rs 800 at the time of reporting for the training as part of miscellaneous expenditure. My father was a serving soldier in Indian Army (Subedar) and was posted at a difficult snow bound area from where he could not come home to make financial arrangements and see me off. So I took a bus to my uncle’s place and requested him for funds. He gave me Rs 1000 (Rs 800 for deposit and Rs 200 for me) and made sure that I carry the money safely as I was just 16 years of age and had not traveled much. He got a hidden pocket made on my vest and after putting the money in it had pocket’s mouth stitched and instructed me not to take off my vest till I reached NDA. It was his blessings as well as that of my late parents that I did well in the Army and made it to the rank of two star General before retiring.
During his life journey my uncle saw a lot of tragedies in his life but remained balanced. He lost his one daughter , age 16 due to a sudden disease. Later during the troubled militancy days his son-in-law was killed leaving behind a young widow with two children whom my uncle had to look after. His eldest son lost his wife to a sudden sickness. His own wife (my aunt) died 14 years ago leaving him alone in this world. To his credit the man remained unperturbed during all the tragedies and took these into his stride as will of the Almighty and carried on with the good work. He became the village headman (Sarpanch) and remained at this position for a fairly long time. He was instrumental in impressing upon the youth of his village to give up intoxicants and liquor, an epidemic with which the entire Punjab is grappling with today.
He remained active till the age of 90 and he could drive a scooter (two wheeler) and visit my mother and other relatives. I remember that when my mother was bed ridden in 2012, my uncle would travel from his native place village Athwal to Amritsar (a distance of 25 Kms) on a scooter and look up my ailing mother. He continued doing so till about Nov 2013 when my mother passed away. Thereafter my uncle’s reflexes became slow and he could not drive scooter any more and he had to depend on his sons to take him around on their car. Even at 91 or so he continued to have good health and visited his grandsons in USA/Canada in 2014. In April 2016, accompanied by his son, he was scheduled to visit his two grandsons settled in Canada but had to cancel his visit at the last minute due to pain in his knees and poor general health. In mid May 2016 he had sudden paralytic attack and could not survive; he had completed his life journey on this planet earth.
Each one of us have to depart one day or the other, the beauty lies in living a meaningful life full of purpose. A person’s life is sublime if he earns with honest means, donates part of his income to charity, does selfless service, creats goodwill, remains content and peaceful. As a verse in Sikh scripture puts it
“ਆਪ ਤਰੇ ਕੁਲ ਸਗਲੇ ਤਾਰੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਜਨਮ ਸਵਾਰਣਿਆ ||
“Such noble men with their acts redeem their lives and save themselves as well as their families.” (Page 125 SGGS).