My father is known in the family for his humongous collection of stamps and rare first day covers. All through my childhood, I waited for the day when he would pass this precious collection to his first born child, which is obviously me! Well, as dear as I am to my father, his stamp collection must have been dearer to him, for I am well into my middle age, and the stamps are nowhere near my reach.

So, while I kept eyeing the stamps of my father, I took up another hobby in my childhood, and that was to collect match box covers. A bit of a downgrade when compared to stamps, but I did manage to collect more than 400 different matchbox covers over the years. And today, while surfing the net, I came across the attached picture, and it brought back a flood of memories. Memories of my accomplice who helped me to acquire such a large collection. He would ensure that every matchbox cover that he found on his way to our home would reach me intact. I would wait eagerly every evening to see him in anticipation of adding a new cover to my collection.

Radhe Baba was 85 years old. He was not related to us in any way, but he kind of adopted us as his family. My mother would always save a meal for him, and he seemed to love her cooking. He was the most rocking old man I have ever come across. As a World War two veteran, he received a meager pension from the government off and on and had no worldly possessions. But somehow, he always managed to smoke his bidi and get a new set of dhoti and jacket once in 6 months. Every winter, he would fall terribly sick, and we would worry for his life. Come spring, and he would spring back to life like a lark. Every Republic Day, he would save the packet of laddoos for my sister and me. Somehow, those always tasted better than the ones given to us in school. He was known as the jugaad king. When no one in the city could get a job done, he would get it done by hook or by crook.

My parents relied on him a lot and would leave us home under his watch while they were travelling. And come what may, he would not budge from our main gate until they came back.

Well, life went on. I got into medicine and would visit home twice a year. I loved to see him every time I visited home. It has been more than 25 years now, but he remains etched in my memory forever.

In our lives, we connect with many people who bring a lot of joy to us without any expectations. He was one such person. He had no immediate family, but to us, he was more than family. I don’t have the matchbox collection anymore, nor do I have a picture of his. However, he was a cherished part of my childhood. He indirectly taught me that it takes very little to be happy and lead a content life. All we need is to care a little for each other, and that leaves us with memories to cherish for a lifetime.

©️Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker

Best Bariatric Surgeon in Mumbai, India

Picture courtesy- Google