Sattu’s elder brother Deoki Nandan was nicknamed Dev Anand due to his flamboyance similar to the film star. He was a very good artist. He had a beautiful and skilled hand in drawing, painting posters and even while writing simple letters. I do not recall whether he got any formal education or training in this field. He was one of those whom we promptly label as ‘God gifted’ for want of any better nomenclature and to conceal our inability to imprison them in any other known category/bracket.
He was an amateur painter. Due to his boisterous disposition,his athletic body and choice of dressing he was quite a heart throb. He knew his drawback --- lack of formal higher education. He was very humble soul. He would readily volunteer for anything menial and everything manual, work which could not even remotely be called social work. This was his one quality which made him darling of all those who came in his contact. Unlike his image, he was very docile and mild mannered. I recall A-4-size poster of a freshly released film ‘Farar’ which he had drawn and pasted at the doorway of Babu Lal’s sweet meat shop.
Finding nothing worthwhile to keep himself occupied with he was kind of ‘available’ to everyone, who cared for his services. He would run errand. Any marriage in the locality, his services would be requisitioned; be it for looking after guests, decorating the street and ‘mandap’ with coloured paper festoons. Let it be anyone’s marriage in the locality , Dev Anand was essentially the VIP- -Volunteer among Involunteer Persons. I had seen him running around more worried than any other member of the wedding family. I had seen him washing plates, lifting tables, arranging chairs and what not. At the time of departing of Barat, Deoki Nandan was the one whose eyes were moister than the brothers of the bride and that too, genuinely.
Later, he acquired the skill of welding on the face of stiff myth that all welders are bound to have deadly lung disease which ultimately claimed their lives. I heard he developed a sort of core competency in it. But welding was not the skill in demand in Aligarh of 1960s. In any case, not lucrative enough to attract a decent living wage. Deoki Nandan’s elder brother had recently installed a plant – a sort of micro industry for painting metal wares. I would watch with curiosity, early morning Deoki Nandan with spray gun doing a brisk job of painting metallic frame of toy guns.
As the time passed, he came of age. A suitable match was found for him. I had gone along with my father as part of the wedding party in an interior village. I remember how a group of ladies (of bride’s side) poured bucket full of colored water from rooftop on the groom’s wedding contingent sending everyone looking for shelter. I recall, I had cried a lot under the shock of a sudden assault by the water brigade, though it was simply a fun filled prank that was sort of customary, teasing groom’s entourage – indicating you are taking our pretty ‘friend’(bride) away from all of us. She was an extremely fair and pretty bride with sharp features, full of youthful vigor. Soon she was adored by everyone. She was favorite of the entire household due to her stunning looks, her hard work, apt handling of domestic chores including kitchen. I still vividly remember her beautiful rose petal fresh face.
Deoki Nandan could not have survived on mere spray painting toy gun frames for long. The income was neither regular nor sufficient to raise a family. He migrated to a nearby town of Bharatpur in Rajasthan. In times to come, he reared a large family of three or was it four children. Once I met him and his family in a function, he was Deoki Nandan, no more a Dev Anand. With a weak frame, bent body, he was as they say ‘pale shadow’ of what I knew of him. I wondered is he the same person who would take me in his arms and ask me to repeat loudly “Eeek...” much later, I came to know that it was to attract the attention of some neighborhood girl towards whom he had tender feelings. Though his spirit was strong yet flesh was weak, too weak. He was presenting a pitiable sight. Life takes away all the juices of a man in his life time itself. I was sad to meet him. Then someone indicated towards his wife. My God! Who is she? She is not the same ‘Chachi’ whom I knew. She was so pretty, so beautiful so youthful. The woman stood before me was a skeleton, infested with numberless ailments. She was appearing as if she is already in her eighties. There was no light in the eyes. Her visibility was okay but where is the shine? Her eyes seem to be empty. She was staring at me but was she looking at me? Did she recognize me? How can a fair, pretty and beautiful lady transform and age so much, I wondered. She was nomore fair, she was appearing so dark and lifeless. If I had not seen her in earlier days, I would have never believed that she ever was fair, beautiful and attractive.
His children could not get much education, though he could marry off his daughter. Sons were greater source of sorrow. A stage came when he was wishing to die so that his son could find a job in the factory vice him. But we know wishes are not horses and death does not oblige merely by wishing.
I heard, with great difficulty he could get his son fixed up in the same factory. It cost him dear, real dear. He had to seek premature retirement. Whatever money he got as his retirement dues was paid as bribe to get his son’s employment. Wife eventually died of multiple failures. With failing health, he was confined to his bed now. He took to drinking to forget his woes. He was too much of a Man, man with pride which drew him to the brink, yet not to seek help from anyone. Least of it, from his well off two elder brothers. His health was fast deteriorating. He had stopped caring for himself. He wanted to die and die as early.
Death this time obliged him; drinking hooch is a slow but sure path which ends at the doorstep of Death. Deoki Nandan alias Dev Anand, a man so very Rich in human emotions, love and care died a poor man. Death of a squalor. Death, indeed, is a great leveller.