Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.
– Anne Frank
All my emotions churned and made me feel uneasy as I finally reached Dehradun. I look outside the window and saw my childhood friends eagerly waiting for me. Excited, I made my way through the crowd that rushed to get off the train. The strange feeling momentarily escaped from my senses.
“Guys, guys! She’s here!” I heard a girl scream out in excitement. I knew that girl so well. 7 years ago we were best of friends. I remember her sad face when she came to bid me goodbye. We were fourteen years old then. We’re twenty-one now. I saw the excitement in my friends’ eyes. With gleeful smiles and bittersweet emotions churning within us, I embraced each and every one of them.
It’s the month of June. Everyone has returned home to spend time with family. My friends would come home every year, but I was the one who took seven years to see my little town again. As I moved closer to Landour, I was welcomed by the old trees, the twists and turns of the road. Nostalgia set in and I closed my eyes and took in the scent of the hills and the trees. How I missed this place, how I missed the memories I made here.
I didn’t realize when I had fallen asleep. I opened my eyes and saw my little gray and brown house in front of me. There was a small garden now in place of an empty porch, and beautiful lanterns that hung from the roof. By the time we arrived at Landour, the sun had almost set and the sky turned dark orange with strokes of crimson. I got off the car as I finished making plans with my friends for the next day. I heard the car leave from behind me. Looking at the roof and the distorted bricks along the edges of the walls brought back all the memories of my brother, along with the bitterness that I had left here to linger for the past seven years.
I can’t express into words what I was feeling before I rang the doorbell. There was excitement, there was guilt, there was sadness and most importantly, there was longing. For years I had longed to return to Landour, but I could not gather enough courage. I could not meet my mother whom I so conveniently blamed for her own loss. Before I could ring the doorbell, the lanterns lit up. I realized they were electric lanterns. The lights made it better for me to look at my house once again. It made me feel warm. I couldn’t recall the last time I felt warm at the sight of my house. It was this warmth that made me realize how long it had been that I was gone.
I rang the doorbell and saw shadows of two people. Lean and thin. The door opened and I was greeted by the owners of those thin shadows with wide smiles on their faces. They hugged me tightly and cried with joy before I set my foot inside the house. How fragile they were, I thought.
I took my luggage inside and was greeted with a complete makeover that my house had gone through. A lot changed while I was away. I went into my room and felt relieved. It was just the way I had left it. My brother’s bed was opposite to mine, his pictures, his books, all were in their places. As for me, a new shelf was kept between my bed and my study table. I sat on my brother’s bed and looked at his pictures. So many memories, in so little time.
“Dinner’s ready!”I heard my father shout with exhilaration. My mother came into the room before I could leave. I remembered the last time I spent with her in this room; how I accused her of stealing my brother away from me. She had the same calm expression on her face. Her face had formed more wrinkles over the years. Age or sorrow, I did not know which one was the bigger cause of it.
I wanted to apologize. I wanted to be the same little girl my mother loved so dearly. All the years that I spent away from home made me realize how my brother would have felt about my actions. I never wanted to blame my mother. But it made me feel better, as if I had avenged my brother’s death, only to realize that I made situations far worse from my mother as well as for myself.
It seemed as if my mother knew what I wanted to say. She smiled again. This time, she looked relieved. She hugged me tightly and warmly. “Welcome home” I heard her say.
Mother made all my favourite dishes, especially the carrot cake for dessert that I used to love so much. It had been a long time since I had such a nice time. Family is family, I thought. I did not have any guilt now. After dinner, I saw my mother had hanged a family portrait. It was when I was nine years old, and when my brother was with us. I smiled and went into my room to sleep. Just as I finished setting my bed, I heard my mother ringing the bells as she prayed to the gods before going to sleep. I lied down on my bed and put my head on the pillow with the sound of the bells filling the house and echoing in my room. I heard my mother say “thank you” before drowsiness overcame me and I was fast asleep.
A sincere prayer is never unanswered, especially when it is a mother’s prayers for her children. Perhaps, my brother was too precious to the gods that they took him away from us, but they made sure that I understood the real meaning of family. I understood how fortunate I am. I remembered my mother’s prayers all these years and realized that all she ever asked for was her children’s happiness. My brother was happy before he left, and now I am content to be back to my little town, to my family.
I will always remember my mother’s prayers, for they do have the power to put everything back into place. Our bond, though one with friction, has gotten stronger. I was young. I didn’t understand how it feels for a mother to lose her own child. I still don’t know, but can only imagine. All these years have made me more mature. I now understand love, I now understand faith, and most importantly, I understand what my mother always held on to all these years – hope.