I see her every Monday. She rests in the same place almost every time I see her. I sometimes wonder if she is the one resting or it is someone else. This Monday is different; I am supposed to meet her for our 38th annual day. ‘Annual day’, yes, it is a term that we thought of together. We were bored of the widespread connotation that was used by everybody and everyone. Either way, annual day, in our term, was the day when we had first met.
This Monday had already begun the smell of finishing a year and moving forward to another year, in my heart, always felt good. But the daily routine that I used to follow after that didn’t actually make me that happy after all. Everyone, almost everyone, says that I should probably stop doing this. After all, nothing can change what had happened and this could only bring me more grief. But something in me said that the first time I would let anyone look at me, should be her. For the way she looked at me the first time, with whatever feeling, I knew no one else would ever come close to reciprocating that feeling. I walk out of my house; ‘my’ - isn’t that a foolish term too? Foolish in the sense, we come naked, and we go naked and nothing lasts. But every single day, probably every single second, we are surrounded by either ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘myself’. My house hasn’t changed. It has stayed the same way as she had left it. Her room has all the things exactly as she wanted. The colour of the walls, the scent of the room, the books, the silence and last, but not the least, her paintings are kept exactly in the same arrangement as she wanted them.
Dawn has finally arrived and the sun starts sweeping past the multi storeyed buildings. We no longer have empty spaces, like we had then .I remember the way she would show me the beauty of the sunrise and the sunsets every time we would be together and whisper about the splendour it carried.
It is time for me now to change- I start changing from unkempt to well kempt. I shave all of the beard that crisscrosses my face and I look at the mirror. The memory reel starts projecting- I sense her sitting behind me, on that favourite teak chair of hers and forcing me to shave. This was one of the questions I never asked her, the reason behind her obsession with clean shaven chins. I slip into the last pair of formals she had bought for me, lock the doors and windows, stare at the change in the colour of the sky and start burning the V-8 engine of my car.
This time, in the car and the drive down to her, is probably among the most taxing moments in my life. My heart literally thumps, my mouth dries up and a shroud of uneasiness covers up my body. Generally, I would feel akin to this at the time of results- I hated them. I still remember the time when the UPSC finals were declared, I was seized with panic, afraid to even see what my preparation had mounted to. She saw me and came up to me, rolled her fingers over my head and said, “Karmanney Vadhikarastein Ma Faleshu Kadachana”. It is in Sanskrit and it implies that one only has control over his/her actions and not over his/her results. Though it sounded great the first time I heard it, I could never actually apply it in my life and thus the result. I would always wonder, being what she was and growing up from where she did, how the hell in the world could she actually know so much about so many things. Things which would floor me every second I would spend with her. The car turns downhill, sharp turns they are. The shopkeepers have already begun selling, though it is as early as 6 o’clock in the morning. “In the hills, life is governed by the sun, dear”, I remembered her voice. The final turn arrives, the tea plantations has grazed throughout the hill, and with Kanchendzonga behind them acting as perfect scenic monument, I recapitulated those countless moments when we stood there to watch the magic of life.
Slowly, the memories wash away and I see the final frontier. The majestic gate awaits me. There is nothing but the gurgling sound of the Rangit River which makes her presence noticeable. I see the boulders, the rock and remember the way she would throw water at me. Those splashes of the icy cold water and treks up till those gentle waterfalls, most of them unnamed where no tourists would arrive, where she would exclaim, “This is us Rig. We start from somewhere, end up somewhere else and the only thing constant is the flow. It is the flow that makes us what we are, so never cease ever for a moment. Remember, the day you cease, it is the end my love”.
I take steps, a few forward and a lot backward and I realise that the time has arrived. I see a young rhododendron with its vivid flowers staring at her. I pluck, a la carte, place it carefully in my inner pocket and resume the long walk to her. It is strange, the way this final bit is always the same. I walk in the same manner, remember the same things and feel the same emotions, and almost every single time a tear drop somehow enunciates in my subconscious but never really appears in form.
The last frames of her last memory reel in my mind strike back again.
A man in his late forties sits beside me. We speak.
“Too late, is it?”
“Yes, I am sorry”
“How much time?”
I look at her through the barrage of needles, I know not what to do. I gaze at her and my shirt soon turns wet.
I finally arrive in front of it. Time has turned, and the sun is all over her un-named grave. She always wanted it this way. I kneel in front of her, place the flower on her grave and as I am about to leave, I see a group of people laying a headstone beside hers. The dates on the head stone appear to be the same. The end date was 15th April - today. I look through it a bit harder and find the birth year to be 1977 - same as mine.
And suddenly, it strikes me. With a gentle smile on my face I say to her, “Mother, I am staying”.
Sketch By: Divyank Sinha