If I stayed here, something inside me would be lost forever—something I couldn’t afford to lose. It was like a vague dream, a burning, unfulfilled desire. The kind of dream people have only when they’re seventeen. – Haruki Murakami
The years that followed formed a void in my heart. Four years had gone by, but the pain remained. Every morning I climbed up the rooftop to see the beautiful town surrounded by hills. I could see the sun rising and listen to the birds chirping as the lazily got out of their nests. Every evening I would climb the rooftop again and watch the sky change colours as the sun kissed the hills and bade them good night. The birds returned to their nests. Children ran up to their fathers after a long day. Families sat together for dinner and joyfully narrated the day’s activities.
It was 8 o’ clock when went back into my house. The yellow walls now reminded me of a summer that was stripped of joy. There was no sunshine, no warmth. Sitting in my bedroom was my mother. Her face was calm and lacked expression as she sat on my brother’s bed, sliding her hands through the thin sheet. It had been four years since he left us. I remember often fighting with him. I wanted the room all to myself. “Not this way”, I thought.
I was fourteen then. High school was about to begin. I saw my mother looking at my brother’s photograph. Anger set in, or was it hatred? Or was it my inner sadness and desperation to see my brother again that was set free? I do not know what happened, but it was at that moment when I looked at my mother with accusatory eyes. It was not her fault. She lost her son. But for that one moment, I had forgotten all about it and blamed her for my brother’s death. I got back to my senses when I saw in utter disbelief that my mother accepted it.
Feeling victorious at first, I still feel ridiculous for pointing finger at her. Every now and then I wonder what must have been going on in my mother’s mind. It was a traumatic experience for everyone, me, my mother and my father. Perhaps, it was that very trauma that made her feel guilty of something even she knew she had not done. We all wanted to blame somebody; we all wanted to take the blame for something. My brother couldn’t have died for nothing. I looked up to him as a mentor, as an inspiration. I blamed myself for being the one my mother loved more by parents. My mother blames herself for not keeping her son close to her. My father blames himself for not spending time with the son whose future he was working so hard for.
I had to catch the train the next day for Dehradun, where my father enrolled me to study. It was a boarding school. I felt happy to leave, to not live in a place which was haunted by my brother’s cheerful memories. I did not want to live in a place where the winter had only darkness to show. I wanted a new phase of life where I could begin again. With a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, I slept, hoping to leave behind the sadness that lingered in the small house.
The next morning, I heard the sound of bells as my mother prayed earnestly for me to have a safe journey and a good life in my new school. I didn’t want her to pray for me anymore. I didn’t want her to do anything for me anymore. I packed my bags, checked and rechecked my lists and waited for the car to arrive. One last time I climbed up the rooftop and filled my heart with the scenery of my town. I breathed in the scent of the town as I felt my brother’s presence around me, smiling as I imagined him with closed eyes.
The horn of the car interrupted my imagination. I came back to the ground and took one last look at the house I had built so many memories in. I looked at my mother. She had the same calm expression on her face. She hugged me and bid my goodbye. She too had tears in her eyes and had a pained expression on her face. However, I saw the agony only when she remembered my brother. Why did she feel the agony when I was alive?
The car took me from Landour to Dehradun. I stared at the trees, the hills and the people and cars that passed by. Upon reaching my new school, I saw parents hugging their children. I was disheartened that my mother didn’t come along with me and my father. I asked father why she didn’t come with us. All he said was that she did not have the courage to face another loss. It was then that I realised the agony, the sadness that she kept inside her.
The night when I accused her and the day when I left her added up to her sorrow. The morning when she was praying, she was not only praying for my well-being, but also for her own strength. Four years ago she lost her son she loved so dearly. It was at this moment that I realised that all she had prayed for after his demise was to not lose her daughter. It seemed as if this time her prayers were not answered, this time her hopes were not fulfilled. When a mother prays with sincerity, her prayers are never unanswered. This time, however, it seemed as if the Gods had something else in store for her.