Sunday, November 24, 2013

In Memoriam

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I remember when I sat alone at home. Waiting for someone to walk through the gate and give me company while I finished threading the jasmines. The garden always changed shape and form. Each visit, it looked different. The plants this time around looked unfamiliar. It was so strange, expecting to come home to a crowd only to find no one there. And then a familiar face peeks from behind the door. A familiar smile, a familiar voice and a particularly memorable hug. We smile. I show you how much I tried to catch up with that string you'd left behind. You're happy with my handiwork. It's like I'd never left the last time to go back to Madras, and school and all the things I pretend to miss when I'm with you.

I remember our little walks along the compound wall. Talking about the little things we wanted to discuss. We could only discuss with sisters. Boys, the things we did in school. our friends, our hopes, our dreams, our academics, our lives. You were older than me by four years and it seemed to me like you were living a dream. Four years further from the drudgery of Class 8 algebra, four blissful years away from school and exams and horrid teachers and horrid boys. Four years away from all the things I loathed about being a teenager.

I remember that you kept studying. And such complicated things like Zoology. It seemed like you knew everything. And science was not a looming threat to your sanity. Your books were all over the house. Fat and overwhelming, they seemed to tell me that you were the fount of all wisdom and if needed I could call you and cry to you about failing science, because I was such a nitwit and you knew more than I could ever imagine. I never did. Because I had so many other things to talk to you about. So many things to share with you.

Our parents spent a lot of time fighting and arguing. They're brother and sister and my father is older, and for some reason I thought they hated each other. And yet, when it was time for lunch, it seemed like all those arguments were forgotten and my aunt went our of her way to make her brother comfortable.

I remember the time when we pulled a jackfruit from the tree and spread newspaper all over the floor, rubbed our hands with coconut oil and devoured it. All six of us. And spent the next day in a line outside the door of the loo.

I remember the games you orchestrated. Where each of us had a role to play and you led it all with your brand of discipline and fun. I remember the summer you spent at home, for the first time it was you over and my house and not the other way around. The way we had to push that irritating Fiat car in the sweltering Madras summer. The way you insisted that I learn how to make sambar so that I wouldn't have to come all the way to Palakkad just to eat sambar. I still don't know how to make it and I don't think I want to learn. What's the point if you're not there to nag me about it.

It devastates me to realise that the little side of the road where we walked is where you landed, head first, after a turn gone wrong. The corner of the compound where we played is now a house. That jackfruit tree is still there. The garden still changes every time I come around. But there's one change that I am not comfortable with and one change I don't want to deal with - your death and the gaping hole that it has left in my heart and soul.

You were one of the best parts of my family and now I don't know what I'll do without you. You were supposed to come visit me and make plans to travel across the country, to wherever I'd be going. You promised. And before anything could be done about it, I was at the gate, looking at your bruised face, swathed in that particular hospital white reserved for dead bodies, and trying to take it all in as they planned to leave with the freezer box to burn your body.

I hope you are happy wherever you are my chechi. I'll miss you always.

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