A few days ago, a municipal officer came to my house. She was an Asha worker who was running around our ward collecting information, which included finding out deserving people for scholarships, reservations, pensions etc.
She wanted to know whether a guy named Chakkappan lived here. I fumbled at the question and my heart started beating fast. But I gulped down dry air, looked at her and said, “yeah, but he is…he is…”
“Dead, I know”, she completed for me.
“His name is still on the pensioners’ list. We need to clarify some things,” she continued.
Pension? My Uncle? Naah.
“It must be a mistake,” I told her, “my uncle never held a job to have a pension in the first place.”
But apparently, the government has a policy of providing pensions to all old people regardless of whether they worked or not. According to the papers she had, they have been giving the pension to my late uncle till March this year. He died in August 2015.
“Your uncle has been receiving pension according to our reports. Does he have a bank account? Maybe the pension is directly transferred there,” she said.
No, he does not have a bank account. The only proof we had of my Uncle’s citizenship in this country was his election ID. Also, we had not collected his death certificate yet.
The pension was of eight hundred rupees.
It has almost been a year since he died.
Where did all of it go?
I signed the sheet she gave me. No need of any more drama about his death. At least now they are sure.
Later, I learnt from Appa that the pension started coming from the month of his death. Which means from August, September, October…I counted on my fingers.
“So you took the pension?” I asked Appa.
“No, I told the postman that he has expired and we do not need the pension”, Appa said. He had also signed off the declaration saying uncle is no more. Clearly, it never reached the concerned people and they kept sending the money orders.
The Asha worker had told me about this possibility. “We have been sending it and you have not been receiving it. The postman might have…”
Initially, I could not believe that any guy could take advantage of somebody’s death like this. Now that I remember what she said, the postman’s mannerisms started making sense to me.
He must be the one.
First of all, he talked too much.
Second of all, the day he brought the first pension to my house, he asked Appa this: “He is dead, right?”
“How did you know that?” Appa asked. “I saw the black flag outside your house”, he said.
Third of all, the day we got a registered from the income tax department, he asked, “What is it? Any big problems?”
Appa was signing it off while I said in my head, “It is none of your business. What does he think it is? That we have black money?”
Fourth of all, he brought in my marks card and other documents that my college had sent, completely drenched. Yeah, it was raining, but isn’t he supposed to take care of these things? He ran away before I could scold him.
This guy was young, well-built and tall. He had a sarkari naukari and a long tongue that charmed a lot of people. He was the type of person that people would go to in case of trouble, the KSU, SFI kind of guy. The type of youth who intervened in issues. Why does he need to steal money like this? Is he in some kind of financial trouble? Or is he trying to make a few extra bucks? Everything is a mere speculation. No evidence to prove things.
Maybe he was just trying to make ends meet. Isn’t it better to let go?
But I am forced to think otherwise these days because he has not come to our doorstep with a post in a long time.
The guy must have submitted the papers we signed saying that Chakkapan is dead, around April.
I am going to console myself with the belief that maybe the postman was desperate to keep my uncle alive for a few more months more than I wanted to keep his memories alive.