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Remembering Suku uncle.

11-08-11
Part IV. Aditi & Rohinis Reminiscences of Suku uncle. 11-11-13

Uncle passed away on a cold December night in 1990. Aditi, Rohini, my daughters were 9 and 6 years old then. They were the ones with whom he had gone for a walk, the same morning, when he fell down near a lake in Anushaktinagar. Remembering Suku uncle was published on Scribd in August 2011. After this memoir was published, it was the trigger for a profile piece on Suku uncle in the Hindu on 2nd June 2013. That time, my daughters penned their recollections of uncle to help the journalist from the Hindu gain an impression of what he was like as a person. I am reproducing what they wrote, here. Aditi & Rohinis reminiscences were a revelation to me.. Dr. Krishnaja A.P 11-11-2013

Aditi Nair.
(Now works with Kotak Mahindra Bank, Mumbai as Chief Manager in Corporate HR)

We used to visit Suku uncle at his Ghatkopar home on weekends, it used to be a high point for me. It meant an eventful evening different from my usual evenings spent monkeying around. Suku uncle had put up a nice big swing in his balcony, we would lounge about on it reading books all afternoon. His collection of Natural Geographics and Readers Digest was amazing. We used to read the stories in Readers Digest and also spend time solving "Word Power" a vocab quiz with him. While reading he encouraged us to mark out words we didn't understand and later he would explain the meaning.

At his Ghatkopar residence with Rohini, Aditi and me

He taught me how to use the dictionary and the atlas. The patience with which he explained these things to someone like me, whose concentration is seriously limited was commendable!

He was one of those few people you rarely meet, who can be strict without being strict, a disciplinarian without disciplining! He used to indulge us, let us do our masti but would also be able to set boundaries for us which we would not cross...by our own choice! You'd want to not get into trouble not for fear of punishment but just not to get into Suku Uncle's bad books (although now that I think of it he didnt ever have a bad book!!)

I remember one afternoon Rohini and I had emptied half a bottle of talcum powder on his bedroom floor and we were sliding about on it having a whale of a time and he surprised us by coming back early from his lab....Rohini and I were sure we were going to get into trouble, but he just said dont fall and clean up the mess once you are done! How many grown ups would do that really?!! And needless to say...I dont think we ever did that again!

As a kid I was the rebel (usually without a cause)...the wild one! Ready to pick a fight and throw a tantrum at the drop of a hat...he had this ability of humoring me out of the situation....to a point where I would not even remember that I was sulking about something! He would totally ignore the fact that I was in the midst of the tantrum and start working on his stamp collection and start explaining something as simple as how to carefully peel off a stamp from an envelope and my temper would be a forgotten thing in a few seconds!

Of the many things he was for me, one very important role he played was that of my walking talking encyclopaedia! He had answers to all my questions...sometimes he just answered, sometimes he made me search for my answers. I remember being able to ask him questions which would have embarrassed any adult, but not him...he would just say this answer you'll get after sometime ok?

He was well travelled, so knowledgeable, indulgent and a whole load of fun! His stories were endless and always entertaining! He could mix about with anyone. He was a handsome granduncle to have...one of those with a headful of salt n pepper hair...slightly longish...but set and combed to a style I havent seen after that! We adored him!

He used to tell us after lunch rest a while after dinner walk a mile...we used to love our after dinner walks and Rohini and I would hop skip and jump all over the place...

Yes and I remember that last walk he took us to the pond at Anushaktinagar, a walk we took numerous times with him but would be our last one with him...as usual he pointed

out all the different birds and ducks that flocked there and suddenly he just collapsed on the road...I remember asking Rohini to stay guard while I ran all the way home...my heart thudding not because of the run, but because of fear for Suku uncle...my uncle, my friend, my encyclopaedia...

I remember the obituary we'd put for him...from a tiny acorn a mighty oak does grow...I didnt understand what it meant then and didnt have Suku uncle to ask what it meant...but now I do....

When I started I seriously wondered what I would write....I'm writing something after a long time....I wondered if I would be able to write anything at all...but its Suku Uncle...I started..and I couldnt stop writing!

Another Sunday afternoon well spent....spent with Suku uncle....just like our childhood days...I've got a smile on my face and can imagine he has one too!

Rohini Nair
(Now works with Asian Age, Mumbai as Chief Sub Editor)

As kids, Mom would often take us to stay with Suku uncle when Dad was away touring. His flat in Ghatkopar was of much interest to me. No matter what question I had about whichever artifact in his house (and there were many interesting ones), he always had a story about it ready. Suku uncle had a glorious head of salt and pepper hair, and I discovered how he kept it so well groomed when I investigated the jar of Brylcreem on his night stand. I got the sense that he had had a fiery temper earlier, but to us little girlsAdy and mehe was nothing but gentle and indulgent.

The only rebuke I ever remember him administering to me was when I would eat up something without sharing it with anyone. He taught me that the polite thing to do was always pass the plate around before digging in myself! He would let us comb his hair and

At his Ghatkopar residence with Rohini, Aditi

buy us little goodies (although he never allowed us to eat a toffee called Paan Pasand, and only in later years did I grasp why!), when our family went out to restaurants (he was

incidentally, also very close to my fatherwhen uncle would come over, theyd share a drink and just talk) he would ensure that a special cushion would be placed on my chair so that I could reach the table. Every meal would end with him asking the waiters to get me a bowl of cherries if they were available. On one of my birthdays, he got me a beautiful box of pastries, allowing me to have an impromptu little party with a couple of friends.

His stamp collection was what he was passionate about and hed let me sit by him while he sometimes moistened a particularly interesting specimen that had been mailed on an envelope and gently took it off. Precision was important to him.

I remember one incident hazilya mother and a baby had come over to uncles place when we were there. I dont know what the procedure was exactly, perhaps Mom could shed some light on itbut what I seem to have a vivid recollection of is that the needle he used to draw the babys blood had a green butterfly at the end of it. He later told me that he used the butterfly to distract little children from the procedure, so they wouldnt cry.

The day he had his heart attack, the one that he wouldnt recover from, still seems real. He had taken Ady and me to a lake in Anushakti Nagar (we lived in the BARC quarters then) that was the haunt of many varieties of birds. We had walked there often on weekend mornings, when hed come visiting. Suddenly he fell to the groundhis spectacles fell off and the things he carried in his pockets fell down. As he lay on his back on the road, Ady rushed all the way home to let my parents know. I dont remember much beyond sitting by him for a while, or how we got him home. I just remember Mom and Dad being grim while they went from home to hospital and back and later, we got to know that Suku uncle had died.

When his obituary was printed in the newspaper, Mom and Dad included us kids names too, among the people who grieved for him. And indeed we did.

At Alibag, with me, Charu and Rohini.

Renaming of the Haematology Department, Aditya Research Laboratories, at B.J. Wadia Children`s Hospital, Mumbai, as `P.K.Sukumaran Haemoglobinopathy Research Laboratory` Chitra, Chhaya, Monisha, me, Aditi, Rohini.

Dr. Rose Schneider at our home during her visit to Mumbai in 1989 . Rohini & Aditi.