“We, in our final analysis, have to survive on our own. Seek congeniality in those who are living; for company, turn to the dead.” These sheer simple words yet utterly profound, naive as a universal truth yet a conundrum like a complex code, kept reverberating in his ears. What did his brother mean by them? Yes, he thought, it’s true, it has always been this way, one has to survive on his own, and one always does. But what possible company could a dead on the face of earth provide? Damn, why did Bhai has to make everything so mystical, so difficult to comprehend?
It was then when something, as soothing as a mother’s tender hand on her child’s face and something as intimidating as a father’s yell on the day of the exam, woke him up from his sleep. But it was neither for he no longer had any of them to do so to him.
“Oh! and all the luxuries the death takes away along with the loved ones.”
Sitting akimbo on the same ‘khaat’ – the ropes of which were tightened a few months back by relentless efforts of both the brothers – and gulping down a few drops of water, his thoughts digressed away and he began ruminating about life and its unpredictability, love and its duty, sorrow and its truth, and of all the good times he had when all were still there – Maa, Papa, and Bhai. And of the time when all in his life but this silly flaccid khaat was fine. And now, the khaat is stiff and the life slacked. But just like a child – perplexed by the beauty and mysticism of different toys placed before him, unable to cling on to one, keeps vacillating between the various toys, trying the best to settle for one and failing miserably to convince himself as to which one, he kept turning from one thought to other. It was then when his brother’s words started haunting him again.
The words were uttered nonchalantly and without having the occasion call for it, and as Bhai always spoke – without being sermonizing and condescending – a real rarity these days, and with a smile that had set almost everything straight for the younger one in the past. It must be somewhere around the first Diwali after their parent’s…. Both the brothers were bereft by their parents’ unexpected(pardon me for the selection of this particular word, for there is no suitable word in English that could come any closer to express this feeling) demise. To lose one parent is a misery, to lose both is to lose the desire to express how it even feels. Both the brothers seldom talked about how it all happened and more importantly why it happened to them. It was once when despite all the courage, the younger one, turning lachrymose began sobbing when the elder brother saw him and came with his usual soothing smile, and uttered those words.
And now with his Bhai in a foreign land, and thereby left with no congeniality at hand, he turned on the lights of his father’s room and having cleaned the dust that had settled over the course of time he dusted his father’s bookshelf, and picked one of his father’s favorite book and began reading. He was taken aback by the uncanny resemblance he bore to his father. His father’s obsession with the bookmarks, and with the hardbound books. His father’s adjustable chair was just midway the ascend providing a certain level of inclination to one’s hands while writing, exactly the way he himself prefers his office chair to be. His father’s awkward smile in the family photographs suggested to him the same degree of distress that he feels when being pictured. And how now, as he now noticed, that his father, just like he prefers to do, almost always stood to the right of the person being photographed along. He didn’t cry now, he couldn’t have. Amazed at this mysterious resemblance, and consoled by the book once touched and devoured by his own father he couldn’t help but smile, a smile as genuine as a mother’s on her child’s misdeed and as naive as a child’s when he accidentally drops the food his mother prepared for him.
This is perhaps what his brother must have meant, he thought. No one, perhaps, really ever die. We are sum total of everyone we live with, and when we leave we still remain as this miniscule part in someone.
Let not the congeniality of the living, which on most of the occasions and especially when you need it might not be there to console you scare you, rather resort to the company of the dear dead ones – who never leave you alone. And that is exactly how we have got to live – with their tender memories in our hearts and a sense of their existence around us. They exist in the legacy they leave behind, and in the solution to all our problems. They live in our smiles and our tears.
He smiled, partly at his own amazement to his brother’s shrewd acumen towards life, and partly at having solved one of the so many other riddles his brother laid before him.
He came out of this reverie and checked the date on his phone. His brother was supposed to be back in the town. Elated, as he was by this fact, he jumped off the khaat and didn’t ridicule it for the first time. He touched it gently and made his way to complete his morning chores.