Name: Uncle Hungry
Encountered: WWOOF Farm, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
One of the most enigmatic figures we’ve encountered on the trip, the mid-50’ish Uncle Hungry is a man that defies definition (and conversation, no matter how many phrases we threw at him). He inhabited the room next to us on the Farm, and made strange noises from his mouth/nose region throughout the night, whether asleep or not. Sibling to Farmer D_____’s wife, he was assigned various odd tasks by his brother-in-law, like meticulously caring for an eggplant patch, or moving small piles of wood up to but not exceeding five feet from their original location, or shooting at giant fruit bats in the middle of the night with an air rifle (which we also did, but for some reason he used up 23 pellets for our one), or trying to wrestle his nephew at inopportune moments. Retired, and apparently with nothing on his plate, he came to the farm for periods of the year the lengths of which his nephew and niece estimated as “toooooo long”.
Though we gave him the name Uncle Hungry, a name that was put into use by the entire family within five hours of us uttering it, we can’t claim creative rights on it. Those belong to the always nicknaming Sanju the Servant Boy, who called him a rhyming Hindi term that amounts to “Eat-a-lot Eat-a-lot“, because he would, believe it or not, eat noticeably large portions of Mrs. Farmer’s food. Sorry Sanju old sport, I guess the English name was a bit more pithy.
Anyway, we learned a lot about Uncle Hungry on our stay – mostly through his niece and nephew complaining about him, but also through our keen observations. For example, the number of times we saw him suddenly stop what he was doing to chase geese like a preschooler (five) or kick dogs (three) revealed to us his close connection to nature. We also noted that he took up to forty minutes to shower every morning and evening, this being due to, as his nephew told us, his fondness for scrubbing the skin on his legs until it was close to bleeding, and brushing his teeth with three separate toothbrushes – one for top, one for bottom, and one for sides. We detected his ability to detect mosquito nets, when he walked into our room, looked at our mosquito nets, and said “Mosquito nets”, then left. We perceived that he had bandy legs, and sort of crazy eyes, and only ever wore a red shirt and lavender short shorts.
Oh, and he ate a lot too. We did see that happen.