A long time ago, I wrote a piece for my series on ‘Lahore and its Golden Years’, which featured some unique individuals that I had been privileged to know. I was thrilled and happy, when I saw a reader’s comment that one of these characters had been his uncle and the column had evoked fond memories of his favourite relative. I am encouraged and inspired, on getting feedback that in a world, where media content revolves around corruption, murder and mayhem, my pen focuses on good things that happen around us. My stories are based on personal experiences from an era, when the world as we know it, was a much better place. I am grateful to all those readers, who resonate with me on the notion and assure them that their comments are the type of catalyst that I need to keep mining into the past and fusing it with the present.

Last month my better half launched her annual spring cleaning operation with a vigour that belies her aches and pains. This is one activity that I dread for two reasons. First it is initiated at a time, when the air is filled with colour, the scent of blooms and a general state of ecstatic happiness and second because for the rest of the year after this exercise, I can’t find much of the stuff that I had carefully stowed away as ‘useful’.

Spring cleaning has suddenly triggered the word ‘aunt’ in my mind and I am grateful that it has, because if one was to line up close female relatives in order of popularity, aunts would inevitably figure right at the top. Since we are on the subject of aunts and spring cleaning, I am reminded of my mother’s cousin, who lived inside the walled city of Lahore. This wonderful lady was short, plump (as all aunts should be) and had the most humorous disposition. Her only fault (and reason for outbreak of the annual short war in the otherwise placid home) was an impulse that gripped her every year in the month of March. It was then that this loveable relative began to unlock closets and storerooms in an increasing frenzy. This act would perhaps have gone unnoticed, had it not been followed by mustering household help to extract stuff from invisible nooks and crannies. A game of hide and seek then began between husband and wife as my uncle or khaloo, stealthily replaced his ‘valuables’ in new hiding places only to discover them once again on the ever growing ‘to be disposed’ pile in the spacious ‘dewri’. Unable to gain victory, the poor man reconciled himself to defeat and brooded for days after wards.

Then there was another aunt, who in spite of a common parenthood, was the complete opposite of the one featured above. This lady was a regular weekend visitor to our home on Queen’s Road and spent her time fretting over her ailments (both real and imagined). We looked forward to her arrival as we could then put into motion several devilish schemes that we had hatched over the week. Aware that this lady was outrageously scared of mice, we would hide behind doors armed with a clockwork toy rodent. Our poor relative would scream and run in headlong flight, mouthing curses, which usually ended with a complaint to our mother. We would then be produced before the mater and given a dressing down.

Our most popular aunt also visited us on weekends. She, like the rest of her immediate family, resided inside the old city and her coming infused new life into our escapades. Whether it was placing a mug of water on top of the kitchen door to douse the cook or climbing trees during our regular game of ‘chuppan chuppai’, this young woman became our most trusted accomplice. Her marriage and moving away to Karachi and much later her passing away, left a huge gap in our lives.

I now watch indulgently as my grandchildren ‘exploit and manipulate’ their aunt (my younger daughter) in person or on Skype. I can only watch with a smile and thank my Creator for all the aunts in the world and the love they represent.