The bereaved

Lying on my back in the middle of my grandma’s paddy fields, I stared at the sky. I was so lost that the fat mosquitoes sucking my blood didn’t bother me. The sky looked like a beautiful bride, covered with shining diamonds all over. There were no artificial lights in the village to overshadow the stars. My sister went on and on about how we should head back home because it was very late already. But I tuned her voice out of my head and got back to gazing at the sky.
One particular star caught my attention, twinkling in the north east, brightest in that direction. My grandpa once said that people became stars after they died. I wished they did. At least we’d know our people were existing somewhere other than in our dark memory lanes. But even stars die after a few thousand years!
He raised me, pampered me and spoiled me with loads of toys. He took me on long walks at one in the night, fed me Cerelac and came back early from office only to let me pull his hair. He didn’t mind the sleep deprivation and told me all the mythological stories that he knew of. He taught me the basic lessons of life and instilled his value system in me. All through my formative years, I was the center of his existence, the apple of his eye.
And one wretched Sunday morning, he was suddenly gone, became a star himself. We were destined to live with the gaping void of his absence till we were burnt into ashes ourselves. People said we’d get over it, as new folks entered our lives. But nobody understood that a sphere never fit completely into a square shaped hole. Being so used to living around his bright aura, we couldn’t get used to that terrible darkness. All we had left were tons of memories which made us cry, no matter happy or sad. No more lectures about discipline, no more heated up political discussions or waking up early in the morning to pray. I never saw that smile again, never saw those soft brown eyes filled with love for me. He was not there to say, “My granddaughter is the best,” even when I didn’t bring huge trophies home. When I did achieve something, the happiness died down because I couldn’t share it with him. There was nobody to sit at the head of the dining table, telling us fascinating tales from the 1950s. My guide for life was lost himself, in some unknown world.
I didn’t bite my nails anymore. I didn’t skip meals. I was finally in med school. Where was my grandfather when I needed him to wish me luck for the entrance exam and my first day of college? Where was he when we were all crying our eyes out because we missed him? Where exactly was he, did he have a new family wherever he was? Was he born again as somebody else or was his soul still wandering the earth? Was he in heaven, if it ever existed outside legends? Why would God decide to take him away from us all of a sudden? Could he see us from wherever he was, did he see my baby brother grow into a handsome young boy? Why couldn’t it be a long official tour from where he could come back one day?
My Grandfather always said whatever we lose comes back to us in some form or the other. Why didn’t this loss have a compensation?
My sister shook me and screamed, “I’m asking you something. Why won’t you listen? Talk to me!”
I said, “Some questions just don’t have answers. They remain questions forever. We demand answers but they never come. Let’s go home. It’s getting very late.”

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