The sun is shining at it’s best right now. Two days ago, the world marked the first day of the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere, the first longest day in 2017, yet.
Well it ain’t quite Spring over here, in my part of the globe, it’s sweltering summer! Although officially, we started atleast two weeks early.
The afternoons are the worst. Everything alive runs for cover or burns alive. The oppressive midday sun casts a spell upon all in my household. The elderly succumb rather quickly to their afternoon naps which have grown deeper and rather meditative in nature.
I am not untouched by the sun’s sultriness either. Although I did not give in to sleep, I did let my mind drift away in a train of thought, that a tropical Loo blew in this afternoon. I am not in charge of the direction, I cannot hence decide what I am to feel, but maybe a little lethargy and a pinch of curiosity.
In the dull whir of my ceiling fan, I was carried away to a Summer afternoon exactly fourteen years ago. The day I experienced for the first time, the loss of someone I loved dearly. It was also the day I learned that Death is most usually accompanied by Confusion. Sorrow arrives only later.
It was the first day of my year-end examinations. Mathematics. Urgh! But I had done fairly well. And so with spirited steps I walked back home from school, eagerly looking forward to the start of summer holidays in a week’s time. The happiness that ebbed from the fact that I could ignore Algebra and Geometry for atleast two months, created a sense of freedom to go with the holiday spirit. I remember I had great plans for that summer.
But as soon as I walked through the door, I sensed something was not right. The old and cheerfully-fragile figure, that was my Grandfather, was missing from his usual chair, with his usual, ‘So how did you do today?‘
I learned later that he had a small accident whence he lost his balance and fell and lost copious amounts of blood. But they said he would be all right and that he would probably be back home by dinner. So I calmed myself down. I still remember watching him shift uneasily in the hospital bed. He was impatient to get back home. He kept telling me and anyone who would listen, that he was fine and that we should do something about getting the discharge papers in order. I smiled and told him that he would soon be home, and left the hospital to prepare for my Science exam the next day.
That was the last time I saw him smile.
Turns out, just minutes after his discharge papers came through, he happily got up from his bed, ready to come home for tea, when his heart decided to stop. It was instantaneous and painless. His last thought was probably, ‘I am going home.‘
I was surprised when they told me that he wasn’t going to be back home for dinner after all. I was all of 13. Old enough to understand what death meant, but too naive to deal with the process of bidding goodbye. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do next. My mother was still away in Muscat. Her brother, my local guardian, was busy with hospital formalities. His wife, my aunt, was trying to comfort the weeping and wailing mess, that was my Grandmother. I sat there looking at them all, wondering, ‘What should I be doing?’
I was Confused. I had a lot of questions. All the Whys and Hows, and no one to ask. Thankfully, our neighbours came over and asked me to help them find people off the phone book, those who needed to be informed immediately. I finally had something to do. That I did for quite some time I think, maybe an hour or two.
The next thing I remember, it was almost dusk. It was still pretty hot, not only because Summer had started early again that year, but because of the number of people crammed into that small living room of ours. I had dutifully shared all the important contacts, informed the grown-ups about how and when to reach certain members of the family and the like, when I saw my aunt walk towards me.
She took the phone book away from my hands, looked at me and asked, ‘Are you okay?‘
I was glad she did. I fell onto her, wrapped my arms around her as tightly as I could and cried. Sorrow had arrived and I was happy to embrace it. I forgot about the questions that had bothered me till then.
Since that afternoon, every Summer, I think about how illusive our concept of Time and Death really is. We are convinced that by achieving our life goals or amassing wealth or love, we can justify our date with Death. We wish to do those things that will keep us alive in the fond memories of people, even after we are gone. We try to steal in some Sense of Self, even in Death. Hah! The Self stops existing when life exits. What remains, no matter who you were, are only ashes.
But we must live, love and feel alive in every way possible. Not to give meaning or continuity to our lives, but to enrich this soul with the wisdom of the world, unique to our own view of it. So that this energy that preserved us can guide another human life through it’s own journey.
My old man died that day, but his loss has made its presence felt in my life many times since. He was a simple man with his own set of vices and virtues. I do not think that today I miss the person he was. No, the world would be fine without him, just as it would be fine without me after 50 years.
I only miss the love that he was for me. He loved me in a very unique way and hence left a void where that was, something no one can fill. And that is all right. It’s good to have some empty spaces in life.
Afterall, it would be impossible to read a story, without the empty spaces between words.
I return to the March in 2017. This summer afternoon has almost exhausted itself. And I should probably go wake everyone up and remind them to drink plenty of water.