Readers Write In #135: Reconnect

Posted on January 22, 2020

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(by Iniya, the 14-year-old daughter of Aravindan R, a regular reader of this blog)

PROLOGUE – FORTNIGHT 

Me

That’s it. My life’s over. What will everyone say? Nah! Who cares what they say. Like I’m going to tell them. They’ll probably laugh at me. None of it matters now, without her. She was the only joy in my life. The reason I lived. Now that she’s gone as well, I’ve gone too.

Everyone is so scary in my house. Even the cook with his crooked nose frowns down upon me each time I steal into the kitchen. The maids turn their heads from the drying clothes to stare at me. I’m sure they were forced to. By him. By my mean old dad. He’s been dead six years but they run the house the same way.  My mother’s been dead for six years too. But, her thoughts aren’t taken into consideration. And, occasionally my grandfather visits to make sure things are going ‘right’.

In the evenings, when I would run to my room to cry, I would see my eldest brother looking at me. They all do. But there was something different in the way he looked at me. His eyes weren’t filled with hate. Sometimes, I could see some love in them. He, too, wanted a household where the concept of love isn’t a fantasy. It’s stupid how the fear of some dead man is keeping us from that. But I know the fear is strong. I see it in his eyes every time his name is mentioned by the servants. Along with a vehement hatred. And when the subject would move on to my mother, he would snap and yell at everybody before rushing out the room, leaving me alone with the rest of them.

At times like this, she was my greatest comfort. I would huddle into the little corner in my room (which I share with my brother), and cry into my pillow till the sky turned dark. And then, she would show up at the tiny window I recently discovered. She always did. She always came swiftly and silently, an aura of gentleness always surrounding her. I would rush out to the newfound terrace where we could laugh and play to our hearts content. She never spoke, but I seemed to understand her. I met her just a fortnight ago.

She taught me everything. We mocked the stars together. In her, I learnt about dark and light, I learnt to use my words to voice my thoughts. I learnt from her that the closer you are to people, the longer you hold a place in their hearts. No matter how beautiful and bright the others are.

She always listened to me and gave me the compassion and love I needed. The love that every starved motherless child needs. And she refused to burden me with her problems. I could see something was wrong with her; she looked less and less well each day. Till she completely disappeared.

I sit down now after an hour of frantically roaming the terrace searching for her. But no she doesn’t come. I finally break down and drop to the floor, tears streaming down my cheeks. Then I feel a hand on my shoulder.

I turn around to see a stranger through the blur of tears. He wipes my tears away and pushes my chin up gently. I stare at him for a long time before he lifts his golden brown eyes to meet mine. I know those eyes. I see them every time I look into the mirror. I remember them from the one memory I have of  he . Of her gold flecked eyes staring into mine for a fleeting second. They’re my mother’s eyes.

“Hello, my dear.” he says.

“ Are you okay, Wait, you’re clearly not. Want to talk about it, my dear? I’m your uncle by the way.” He talks so fast that his words flow into each other.

There’s something in those eyes that tell me he really needs this conversation with me for some reason. And I really need it too. So when he insists I tell him everything. I do.

I tell him everything about her, about my life.

When I’m done, it feels as though a huge weight has been lifted off me. And then my uncle laughs. At first I flare up, raging angry, but then notice he’s only chuckling.  “Oh, your friend will come back all right.” he says with conviction.

And somehow, I believe him. Just like that.

The moon will reappear.

1. BREATHLESS

Brother

She lies there panting, sobs racking her body, tears spilling down her cheeks. I can’t handle it anymore.

………………………………

It’s like my father couldn’t control himself. When my mother was well, she got the blows. It didn’t matter that she was his wife, that she was weak, that she was carrying a child inside her. I hated that. So I took the blows instead. My mother didn’t need to know. She’d protest, but  I know she’s too weak despite her act. The people who were the strongest once, are the ones who feel the powerlessness most keenly. I got beaten relentlessly, the same way he bet my mother. And every evening I would return to my room, clamber on to the windowsill and wait for her.

When she came, all my sorrows flew away. When she caressed my face, drying off the tears, I forgot everything else. The moment I first felt her touch my outstretched hand, she became the most vital part of my life. It didn’t matter how much I was hurting – outside and inside- she just washed it all away. The pain, the helplessness, the fear.

She taught me everything. I am who I am now because of her. It was like looking into the mirror every time I saw her. I am alive because of her. Literally. She taught me that there is no need for a spotlight to be special. That there’s beauty in the unnoticed, the silent, the invisible. She taught me the power of silence. I learnt that I could be whatever I wanted to be. She taught me that no matter how the world pushes you, one must endure. And that’s what I did.

The day my mother became immensely sick, I shut myself up. I wouldn’t leave the room to eat or drink. I was angry at the world. At my mother. I’d sacrificed so much for her, the least she could do for me was to stay alive. I shut the windows and drew the curtains. If my mother’s life was empty, then mine would be too. I didn’t even let her in, or see her for the entire week. I was suffocating, but I’d bear it.

At around midnight, a nurse opened the door. My mother was in labour. She thought I should know.

The tortured screams were warning enough. I was not deaf. I rushed to her room and saw her heaving on the bed, tears streaming down her face.

………………………………………

And now I see him. He just stands there. Blank. I am  seething. He has no right to see her like this. He made her like this.

The nurse tells me it is only a matter of seconds. And then her eyes meet mine. I see it in her eyes that she won’t make it. I don’t stay to watch.

I feel the weight of the world on me. The walls cave in. I’m suffocating. I stumble to the nearest window. I need her. My lungs do.

I get a new sister that night but I lose my mother. But as she takes her last breath, I feel like I’m taking my first. I am no longer breathless. And I will never be, as long as she moves in the silence of the night.

2. ASHES

Mother

I lie there panting, sobs racking my body, tears spilling down my cheeks. I can’t handle it anymore. My mind involuntarily wanders back in time.

……………………

Ashes were all I had my whole life. It was like getting married was a jinx. 3 years later, I lost my brother. Like literally lost him. And after that my husband snapped and let’s just say or marriage wasn’t a happy one after that. So held on to the only thing I could. Ashes of the times with my brother. Ashes of the person my husband used to be. And then there were the ashes of him.

They told me he was trouble. They told me to stay away. I’d seen what he could do. I’d seen people grow closer to him only to be hurt in the end. So I stayed away, or at least tried to. In my defense it lasted a whole 25 years of watching from the distance, till I broke. I decided, at that point in my life, there was nothing left of me to hurt, so I might as well take the risk.

I couldn’t help but be drawn to him. I couldn’t help but be bewitched by his charming looks. Some blessed soul made sure he was in the same spot everyday, dancing lithely for me. When I went near him a comforting feeling of warmth washed over me and my eyes lit up. I knew he could be tame and feeble but to me he was always the graceful strong dancer I saw every night. But I knew enough not to make contact with him.

I fell in love with him the moment I saw him, heard of him. It’s ironic how the first thing that drew me in was his ability to repel people. I needed to possess that quality. The more I observed him, the more stories I heard, the more I loved his personality. The more he shaped mine. I became just like him. It was like looking into the mirror every time I saw him. The spirit in me was never extinguished.

I was a dancer. I was powerful. I was a rebel.

I could hurt. I was unfeeling. I could repel.

But if  you looked past that, I could be warm comforting and supportive. In more ways than not, I resembled him. No matter how many times people stamped on him, he could always be brought back. I could always be brought back. At least until now.

He never came when it rained. The storm clouds were the one thing he couldn’t rebel against. I never came when my husband was home. He was the one thing I couldn’t rebel against. But he always came another day. I don’t have another.

…………………

I can’t die like this. I scream in pain and the birth is over. I can’t die like this. My life too is dangerously close to over. I will die like the girl I was. I will rebel against death.

I’m so weak, I can’t even walk straight, but I manage to get outside. It’s cold and angry clouds hang in the night sky, but they won’t stop me. Apparently they wont stop him as well. I stand next to his glowing, dancing profile and take a deep breath. Then I dance. I dance with nothing, not even my powerlessness holding me back. I dance out my years of restrictions, sorrow and pain.For that moment I’m invincible. I won’t let anyone snuff out my spirit. I bring out a part of me that has been dead for years. I dance till the end. Then I collapse.

As a last thought I thank the thoughtful person who made sure he was here each night. Tonight. I’ve rebelled as long as I can, but my time is up. I can’t defy death forever. The skies break apart and cry out- for me-  all the tears I have left to shed. The tiny droplets extinguish the the spirit of the dancer in front of me. Death comes upon me and extinguishes the rebel within.

3. STRUCK

Father

She lies there panting, sobs racking her body, tears spilling down her cheeks. I can’t handle it anymore. I slip into my own world and revisit the memories I haven’t visited in a long long time. Memories that I hid away in a far corner in my head.

………………

I had just lost everything. It was pouring fast, and I was out in the rain, dripping wet. Alone in the clearing in front of the dreary house I shared with my wife. The thunder rumbled in the distance. I had lost everything.

I was mad at him, my best friend for leaving me alone. For leaving us alone. The day he disappeared it broke both of us. I snapped and succumbed to my emotions. My wife became scared of me. Just like that, in one day, I lost everything. My best friend. My temper. My wife.

My sanity.

The only thing I hadn’t lost was him. I could see him in the distance. He was everything I was then. Everything I wanted to feel. Angry, powerful, relentless. Dangerous. We didn’t have a strong relationship, but the similarities were striking after that day. It was like looking into the mirror every time I saw him.

I became like him. I became a different person. I lost every bit of love or respect I had earned over the years. I was a terrible husband. I was the sort of parent my father was. I subjected my son to a childhood I never wished for anyone. I didn’t think. I only felt. Felt emotions that were beginning to possess me. I lived another life.

………………

When I tune back from my memories she’s gone. I rush outside and  I see her lifeless body on the ground near the ashes of a once burning flame. Then the old me is resurrected from the grave it was buried in. I feel emotions I haven’t felt for years. Regret, sorrow, loss. I step outside. It’s now pouring fast, and I am out in the rain, dripping wet. Alone in the clearing in front of the dreary house I had once shared with my wife. The thunder rumbles in the distance. I have lost everything.

I watch as he hits the ground repeatedly in his rage, coming closer each time.

I know the odds of him hitting me are very less. But he is unforgiving.

The odds were not in my favor that day.

4. FLOW

Uncle

I know all the maps there are by heart. I know every street, every lake every turn around the corner. Yet I’m lost. I know my location in the physical world. But otherwise, my maps aren’t useful. No logical method helps. My heart that is my only compass, broke the day she died.

Right now I’m staring at the house where my sister lost everything. Her husband, her dignity, her life. Where I lost everything. My sister, my spirit, my emotional bearings.

………………

After 2 years of wandering about and searching for her, I had finally located my sister and her husband who was my closest friend, till he started beating my sister. I could hear her cries. I lit a fire for her everyday for 10 years but I was too much of a coward to show my face after I ruined her life by leaving her. I have never regretted a decision more. Not even my decision to leave her in the first place.

All my life, when I’m lost without my sister, I looked to her to help me out. I needed her. She never taught me anything, she just went were the world took her forgetting everything. I learnt on my own. And that was the first lesson I learnt. To go with the flow. And I implemented it. Like her, I tried my hand at different things, never focusing completely on one task. But I should have seen where she ended up. It was like looking into the mirror every time I saw her. I would end up the same way she did. Everything would end at the place where it all started. Now she’s lost, I’m lost. Lost in my emotions, in my responsibilities, in the sudden sea of opportunities that stretch out before me.

…………………

Then I know what I must do. I unlock the door and slip up to the terrace where I hear muffled sobs. A child about 6  years old sits there with her head down and tears rolling down. And even before I tilt her her chin up, I know. She’s the child my sister gave birth to on her deathbed.

I lift her chin up and look into her eyes. They’re the same ones I saw everyday when I woke up as a child. They’re the same ones that shed the tears I wiped away. They’re the same ones that sparkled with excitement on her wedding day. The same ones that were filled with tears the day I left. The same ones that cried so many other times without me. They’re the eyes I never got a chance to look at one last time. The eyes of her mother. The eyes of my sister.

I know I’ve found a place where I’ll belong. People with whom I’ll belong with. My sister never got the opportunity, but she did. When the river flows into the sea, it abandons its identity and takes on a new one and becomes part of a larger family. I look at the child in front of me, and at the silhouette of a 16 year old boy who’s reading by a fire. My family is nowhere near to being as big as the sea, but it is the sea that awaits me.

EPILOGUE

The wind will return.

The fire will rebel.

The lightning will remember.

The river will re-unite.