Today is uncle Edgar's birthday. But he missed it by a month. Uncle passed away in August 2014 alone in a care centre in Mumbai.
We always used to remember his birthday today as it was a day before my dad's birthday on 14 September. They were good friends who used to work together in Bharat Petroleum, then Burmah Shell.
We knew uncle was sinking. We did not know when. And every time we visited Bombay we made it a point to go and see him in his eyrie on the 7th floor at Eucress Building, Antop Hill, Wadala. We used to bring fruit for him. Often it was time for baba's feed and we used the time to give him something to eat or to change him. By all accounts it was home for us. I even called Queenie first from his place in the morning to set up a meeting. We would later choose to live our lives together. However squalid the flat retained memories of the time when aunty Yoma and uncle Edgar waited on me when I used to spend the weekends off from Don Bosco High School, Matunga close by where I studied and was a boarder.
On the eve of Dad's 85th birthday I think Uncle Edgar has gone before him to prepare a place for him in the happy hunting grounds. When I play 'Home on the Range' on my guitar I always hear Uncle Edgar's rich baritone voice singing in the background when the day was young.
A few months before uncle passed away aunty Aina, his sister-in-law who lived next door, passed away as well. She used to care for uncle and send him meals. In a short space of a month or so two stalwarts were felled at Eucress.
Reproduced below is what I wrote on Uncle Edgar in an earlier blogpost on the Maximum City in 2010. May his soul rest in peace.
How can Bombay be complete without Edgar De Mello or simply ‘Uncle Edgar’ for us. Now in his 80’s uncle Edgar sits in his house at Eucress Buliding, Wadala on the 7th floor. He and his wife aunty Yoma took care of me when I was a boarder in Don Bosco high school, Matunga. Aunty and uncle gave us our childhood. Aunty Yoma slipped away years and back – a void uncle Edgar has not been able to fill or come to terms with even now. Last night as I slept in the gone-to-seed house I heard echoes of happy days, days of joy and laughter. ‘Peep- peep pom-pom’-- uncle’s cheery voice used to boom around the corner as he was coming up the landing. Today TS Eliot’s lines from Hollow Men echo, ‘What is man?/ A tattered coat upon a stick.’
It is a joy to listen to uncle speak about the good old days, the days when he was young, when Bombay was young. He is remarkably cogent about every detail about the explosion on Bombay Dock with the blowing up of 2 loads of TNT on board the Fort Stikine in 1940. He was working as a dockyard hand in those days and India was sending ammunition to the front to assist Montgomery to put Rommel on the run. With a fierce sense of pride he threw his resignation letter at an Englishman who had wrongly accused him of spilling paint on the floor. ‘Don’t talk about Indians that way,’ Edgar told him. And again he was out of a job. He was then given a job in Burmah Shell where he worked till he retired, and where he met my dad who also worked there. They continue to be good friends, and uncle waits for dad’s calls.