When I was young, I used to live in a small house with my parents and my brother in a town called Landour in India. It is a small town surrounded by hills. We had a traditional lifestyle and lived with very little requirements. I remember often playing the game of I-Spy with my brother. Back then we used call it ‘Ice Spice’. Our house was situated at a steep hill. We had a small living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms at the four sides of the square shaped house with a tiny dining space in the middle. The walls within our little house had a warm yellow color.
From my brother and my room, one could see the entire scenery of the small city. He and I would climb up to the rooftop. We did so with utmost caution. If you missed one step you would fall to your death. Such was the beauty of our little house.
I was 9 years old back then and my brother was 12. By then we had mastered the art of climbing the rooftop, with him being familiar with each and every crease along the walls. The outer walls of our house were painted with a dull gray and brown color which made every crease in the walls to become more prominent. My brother taught me how to climb the bricks and creases when I was 7. I was then envious of how he would climb up with such ease. Now I wonder how he was able to learn how to climb all on his own, knowing the danger of missing even one step. But I knew he would never give up, for I too started craving for the feeling of being on top of the world, as we liked to call it.
When I was 10 years old, my mother caught us on the rooftop. She let out a shriek as if she had seen a ghost and the next moment we saw her shouting at us to immediately come back to the ground. While my brother was scared to his wits, I was astonished at how my mother’s reactions changed at every moment. This was something I had seen for the first time. However, before I could ponder and be more fascinated about it, my mother pulled our ears and dragged us into the house and started chanting the names of every god she was aware of, even the ones whose names I was hearing for the first time. I started counting the names and shouted “twelve!” as soon as my mother stopped speaking. I immediately regretted it as I felt my mother’s hands grab hold of my shoulders and violently shake me as if to bring me back to my senses. How was she to know that I was fully aware of my surroundings and was delightfully feeding my curious mind about the reactions my mother gave when she found me and my brother in a “dangerous state”. It was then that I saw her bloodshot eyes and a tear trickle down her cheeks as she tightly hugged me, wishing against all her wishes to never let me go.
Mother was furious because she knew it was my brother who would have taught me the risky “stunt”. He had a mischievous look in his eyes which only I understood. “You need to stop this. What are you teaching your sister?” my mother would ask him. She further said he had a bad influence on me and ordered me to stop following my brother’s moves. I always heard my mother say that a bad influence should always be done away with, as it does more harm than anything else does. When I look back to my childhood, I realize how each and every word my mother spoke came true.
It is often said that a mother’s sincere prayers have all the powers of the universe. That year, when I was 10 years old and my brother was 13, my mother understood how powerful each and every word she spoke was. She prayed for me to be free of every bad influence and that I never left her. I was the youngest one in the family, and also the dearest. Mother loved both of us alike, but her prayers, mere words to us, had more in store for me than they had for my brother. Oh, how I wish my mother prayed the same for him. How she regrets not keeping him close to her bosoms and praying for him to never, ever leave her.
Landour was a small town surrounded by hills and the cold weather. But the winter that year lasted for a lifetime. Winter is always followed by spring. Had the prayers were not limited by mere words, we would have enjoyed the short duration of spring that we get to see. But the Winter never left our home. My family and I never got to see Spring again.