A year to the worst ever burn, and a lose that left a permanent void in all our lives. It was on 5th Jan 2016, I was (supposed to be) preparing for my Gate exams coming up, while I was actually goofing around reading other books and writing stuff. Usually my home will be all dark except for mine or sometimes my brother’s room- whose maximum is 10:30- by 9 itself. After around 11 it’s just me in the entire house. One of the things I like about my home is the seclusion of rooms. Especially the upstairs rooms; whatever may happen downstairs, whoever may come and go, that’d never affect my solitude in my room. That’s how I avoid most of the guests and visitors. Even people are used to not having me around, so they won’t even know that I’m there upstairs. When I come down accidentally for something else, they’d go ‘Oh, you were here! We din even know!’ and mom would be like, ‘Oh, I totally forgot!’ while she’d actually think ‘I thought to save you, but you trapped yourself’ and I’d say, ‘I din hear anything up there’, which is where the special feature come handy.
That night, I came down for an errand at about 11 o’ clock – a little earlier than usual as I was feeling sleepy – just to see if they had locked the doors and turned the gas cylinder off, but saw mom packing some dresses of dad and her in hurry, and dad was no where to be seen. She looked alarmed but composed, as if she’s ready for anything. As always. It’s this about my mom I always admire. She’s always ready for the worst. And that composed look on her face is what alarms me. She turned to me on my ‘What’s going on? Where’s dad?’. Dad had got a call around midnight, saying his brother has collapsed and is being taken to hospital. He had left already and I didn’t even know. One of the rarest times I hated not knowing what was happening downstairs. ‘Go get ready instead of standing there! And yeah, give a knock on your brother’s door too, he seems to be asleep already.. he din even see dad going..’ Mom was trailing off, when I went to wake my brother up, who was sleeping with both his textbook and mouth open. ‘Moothappa is taken to hospital and mom’s expecting the worst and packing bags already, we’re supposed to be ready too’, as inappropriate as it was to wake up someone like this, I had no choice. He was on his feet even before I finished, so I went upstairs and came back ready in few minutes. Mom and brother was ready too, and the phone rang just then. “Innalillahi Va inna ilaihi rajioon..(we’re from almighty, we’re to be returned to him)” was all mom said and we knew we could do nothing but say the same after her. As ever, mom was supposed to call the relatives and she knew her duty well. She told me to try connecting moothappa’s daughter in China on Skype and started calling cousins and uncles one by one. That’s when the landline rang again to let us know what we should be doing. I was in too much shock and thirsty that I forgot it was a thermos flask in front of me, I opened the lid and poured the fuming boiled water mom had just kept in the flask right into my mouth. Bottom up. A fleeting moment, I could feel the burn going from mouth all the way to stomach, that was it. Pain. Mom had almost dropped the phone, gaping, ‘what. Did. You. Just. Do!!’ I ran to kitchen, opening all the doors mom had locked, opened the freezer and stuffed my mouth with ice cubes. By then dad had called again to inform mom that the car has only one seat left and my brother and I would have to stay home till morning as they can’t find another car for just the two of us that late at night. Mom agreed and asked to take care of myself and do all the Skype calls to cousins abroad, and left. Rest of night was spent on calls and waiting for dawn. Few minutes before Azaan, I went to wake my brother up, only to see him out of bed already. Ofcourse he din sleep either. ‘What should we do for breakfast?’ I asked. ‘We better do something here itself so that mom and dad will have one thing less to worry about, don’t you think?’. I agreed. After namaz, I prepared a quick breakfast with the help of my brother ofcourse, and I was planning to skip eating but he was adamant. I tried to make it look like it’s because I’m not hungry, but he knew well that my entire system from mouth to stomach had gone totally numb. I made him promise that he won’t tell anyone, and showed him my mouth where there was no skin left. He told me I can have something sweet that it won’t hurt much to which I agreed. We finished as fast as we could and left for moothappa’s place which is about an hour and a half journey far. On my way I was trying to remember something good so that I can forget that moothappa is no more or my pain, but all that came to my mind was something happened hardly a week before that day. One of my cousin’s husband had barged in to our house asking for dad. He seemed to have something urgent to discuss with dad. They talked for a long time in a closed room and when they came out for tea, dad seemed quite distressed. The person who came gave a brief to us too. He din like his mother-in-law that’s my cousin’s mom, being called for help when moothappa falls sick. His point was, why his daughters or daughter in-laws can’t stay back and help moothamma(moothappa’s wife) in taking care as he has 3 daughters and 2 sons of his own? He seemed to have talked in depth about properties and maybe be even compared rights of each person has on others naming people from our family, cuz when he left, dad was saying he never expected to hear about his own brother being a burden. From then dad used to stay more time with him than before. Mom was also very disturbed and during a talk over dinner she said if we get too busy in our own life, it’s okay if we sent them to a old age home or something than leaving them to rot alone at home. ‘At least we’d have some company’, she had said. It was too depressing a memory, so I tried to divert my mind again buy got stuck on the accident that changed everything. Moothappa was well and fine and it was his wife – my aunt who always had health problems. Once they were returning back from the doctor after some checkups, walking back home from bus stop. A motorcycle came in high speed and hit him. He was rushed to the hospital, for he was a well respected person who runs to help anyone, but the injury on head was quite serious. That’s where it all started. The medicines given for head injury wasn’t doing good with the health of his heart and vice versa. The memory started to misbehave. I know that’s not a good word to use, but that’s what actually happened. His memory didn’t fade, nor did he forget things. It was like some things in his head got edited on its own. It’s hard to believe, how things go upside down with the mistake of some complete stranger! He was a boy; a minor without licence. His family came to uncle’s house begging to take the case back. He took it back saying an old man’s health is not more valuable than a kid’s future, besides there was nothing we could undo by putting him through some punishment. We agreed to uncle’s decision and took back the case. Two years it’s been since the accident, he had survived many falls since, just not this one. For 3 days mom and dad stayed there. I came back that night itself and went back on third day morning. Everyone got to know about the burn too; despite all my tries to divert people’s attention from it, they kept asking me or talking among themselves about it. I had to talk a lot to convince them by making it look like it’s not very bad, fighting back all the pain. Brother kept his word and didn’t let mom know about the severity of the burn till they got home after 3rd day. As always, everyone left moothamma and family at the end of third day, including us. Who all had the guilt or for how long they felt it, I don’t know. The burn was cured by 2 months; new skin had grown, the pain had gone or I had gotten habitual to it. Some marks remained for a few more months, but I had gotten used to it too. I could taste things again. There was no more pain from chest when food went through the oesophagus. But the void left by moothappa was never filled. Neither for dad who had lost his second pillar to lean on to, nor for us for whom he was more like a grandfather than uncle. Their house changed its looks, his children did charity on his name but none of it could really erase things. It’s like my brother said afterwards. ‘Stories we missed, things left unsaid. That’s a big hole we’d never be able to fill.’
~ Written a few days ago, I was not sure whether to post it or not, but here it is. The number given is two as #1 is gonna come later.
Featured image is of decaying leaves, which are not really dead; we think they’re useless, they are waste of space, they are as good as dead; but they feel. They feel everything we do to them. So does old people. Or those with memory problems. They might not remember things you think they should, but they might actually remember the pain you gave them by your taunts or some glances you pass at them, or if you have hurt them physically thinking they’d forget and won’t complain… Cuz they’re not dead, not yet. ~