I learnt Bharatanatyam under Veteran Guru Smt Hemamalini Arni. I have known Hema Aunty since 2007. We, her students not only bonded with Hema Aunty, we also shared a special bond with her beloved husband, Chandru Uncle, as we called him. On the days we had class, many a times, till Hema Aunty,
a formidable, elegantly beautiful, exuberant personality, prominence of which was her red 'bindi', and a simple cotton saree draped with an elan of someone casually stylish, walked in to our class, we used to chat at length with Uncle.
He pulled up a chair to watch the class in progress quite often. I think most of the times it was with pride and admiration of the fact that his wife was so dedicatedly immersed in something she loved, with her students who were no less than her children to her. Lest, he would disturb Hema Aunty he used to wait for a particular piece to be over, so he could himself hand over the evening tea to his beloved on some evenings. "Thank you Chanda", went Aunty with an air of gratitude not to miss her flair for diction as she spoke.
They were inexplicably one. In the sense - it was always "Aunty - Uncle" spelled together - "Hey, are you going to pick up Aunty Uncle", "You know Aunty was raving about Uncle's new project..." So seldom was a sentence uttered without both Aunty and Uncle in it. So obvious was their love for each other and our fondness for them.
I think it was the year 2016 they adopted Temo, their bulldog, their new family member.
Aunty who was over 80 then, with her illnesses setting in, stopped classes. However, the couple was still very active in their brain. Aunty kept choreographing ballets and Uncle, being brilliant on the computer continued to design games, architecture sketches and so on. For them, literally, age was just a number. A couple in 80s and 90s, doing so much was inspirational.
Aunty, Uncle, Uday (their help) and
Temo spent their days in the newly renovated, largish room attached to a cute well lit verandah, a spot for their evening tea and tete-a-tete I would like to imagine, with a staircase spiralling down into a portion of the garden of their aristocratic, charming bungalow of the yesteryears. This room was designed by Uncle, for renovation, to suit his beloved wife's taste. And that too using softwares, the millennials will be scared to even tamper with without a formal education! What with Uncle's intellect and scores of experiments, this must not have been a daunting task for him, to speak the least. Aunty started withering in her ways, sprightliness in conversation as days rolled. Eventually she breathed her last on 20th July 2019.
Chandru Uncle speaks with pride about his beloved wife on the 12 day death ceremony of Hema Aunty
I do not want to get much into how I took Aunty's passing away. The feelings were a weird mix. I knew she was no more, and it felt like an announcement of a termination of a daily chore. At a place, the House Number 417, we would probably no longer visit with something to look forward to. But somewhere a subconscious feeling of "no she is still around" must be lurking somewhere. I realised this on the 10th of Aug 2022 when Chandru uncle left us for another abode, none knows the whereabouts of. At 94, he was a gentleman high in spirits, always keen on creating things. A puzzle book (not for dummies), 3D objects out of his 3D printer and so on.
I visited their place to pay my respects, and the the grandeur of the place though donned up with more to suit one's aesthetics, appeared pretty dozy.
The phrase "end of an era" was suddenly so personal and numbing for me. I guess meeting Uncle time to time, or even the knowledge that he was around was the reason for the "no she is still around" and now Uncle would not be seen too!
The family members were taking away Uncle to perform his last rites, and I saw Temo run after his Master, his best friend. Tears rolled, but what struck me was "no it's still not over, the era is still not over, Temo is alive, he is the loving living link!"
Would it be possible to adopt him? I hope he is taken good care of - akin to how Aunty-Uncle did were some random thoughts while driving back home.
"I love you, Temo! May you be blessed"