Uncle Pi


“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It was Eid. Gates were open and guests were expected even if the owners were not home.

The boy strolled in like a parading trooper. His family waited at the front of the house. The boy called for master of the house. He called over and again, growing bolder and louder by the turn. It wasn't polite, but there was no stopping a three years old on a mission.

When his voice was at that perfect pitch, Uncle Pi appeared. And the boy screamed with all his might: "EEEEEW! BLIIIIIIND!"

Who could blame a blind old man for traumatizing a three years old? It's not that Uncle Pi chose to be blind, or that he had anywhere else to go. His job was to guard the house. Even on Eid morning. Come screaming child or none.

It's a communal house that he lived in. You would be surprised how little a man needs. A row of tiles, layered with a mat, on the hallway. Just enough for him and his ashtray to share. And he sits there every day. If he was not too busy smoking his precious kretek, then he'll multitask it with a stare.

And you wonder how it is that the man doesn't kill himself out of boredom. We are at an digital information age, after all. Since he is even blinder than ever. Where would he want to go? With whom would he have to digitally socialize?

Stop. Rephrase that.

You know for sure that he has plenty enough to live for. Guarding the house, for one. And there are plenty of important daily engagements he must keep. For instance, there are his prayers to keep him busy five times a day. Assuming that he does observe.

Oh, of course he observes. What else is there to do? And the rice and water that he prepares for the house's inhabitants. Do the math. With twenty people to feed, keeping the rice stocked is a lot to do.

You have no doubt that sharing a communal house keeps anyone's ears filled. Blind or not. And you would like to believe with all your heart that, when everyone's gone, he isn't lonely. He would sigh in relief instead. And he would not dread the silence.

On nights like those, when the people are gone, you would see him sitting on the terrace. Elevated on a plastic chair instead of his usual mat. You would greet him as loud as the boy did, though kindly. You smile, of course, because he could hear that. Then announce the food you have brought just as loudly, "Eat, man."

You would assume, that when he is alone there, it would come to him like a whimsical tune. And the thought would tinkle louder into a grin. Since everyone has had their meals, he could eat everything left behind. That a full stomach turns even the thinnest mats into the softest beds.

You would assume plenty about a man who lives in blind poverty. Even if all your assumptions were wrong, you choose your thoughts. You would hold on to the giggles that almost choked you when he met your brother decades ago. You would hold on to the thought that he isn't bored, lonely or unloved. And that it remains bright inside of him.

You would hold on to the belief that there is plenty to live for, even for Uncle Pi.

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