Open Page

And it’ll never be the same again

What death does: It changes lives, while keeping memories of the departed frozen in time in multiple ways

It was the Spring of 1996. I was 12, and he was two. He was running about on the verandah of the house. And I was chasing him, shouting “Don’t run too fast!” I picked him up and carried him back inside, though he was actually a little heavy for the scrawny skeletal frame that I was. He fussed for a fourth helping of his favourite ‘Fuut Salad’. I turned down his plea and gave him a peck on the cheek instead. In return he gave me his own version of kisses — a lick on the cheek.

Year 1998. I was 13 and he was three. It was the year I learnt to ride a scooter and he was in his Karate Kid phase. I was exhausted the whole time, getting punched incessantly, though it didn’t stop him from throwing tantrums to go riding on the scooter. He would stand in the front, howling and screaming in happy hysteria when the wind kissed his soft, round, chubby face.

Onam 1999. Me 14 and he four. All the cousins were gathered at one place to celebrate the festival. He was the centre of attraction of course, being his nonchalant self, wooing everyone with his antics. It was also the Onam when we would watch Juhi Chawla’s only Malayalam movie to date, and he would make me repeatedly sing his favourite song from it till he slept off by my side.

Year 2005. Me 21, and he 11. We were teaching him how to play Rummy. He was so bad at it that halfway he stormed off to play cricket. It was also around the time mobile phones made their entrance into our lives. And one night he took my phone, read all the SMS messages in my in box and started blackmailing me in return for chocolates.

Year 2007. I was 24, and he was 14. It was the year I started earning ample money to afford buying branded clothes for him and to have dinner night-outs.

Those were also the days I would call in sick at work and extend the weekend just to sit and watch cricket with him, eat and drink in the same bed the whole day, and finally doze off gazing at the TV, hugging each other.

Year 2012. Me 28, he 18. It was the year he stripped open his wallet of secrets and regrets to me. Girlfriends past and present; friends he loathed and enemies who were friends, the scars they left, along with the lessons; of his realisations that family comes before anybody and stands by you in front of anybody; of his myriad introspections. Those were the days he held a mirror across his heart and asked me to peek in. The image that ricocheted off all that made me realise that the toddler I had come to love about two decades ago had almost completed his transmogrification to an adult — and a beautiful one at that.

Then came 2013. Me 29, him 19. It was the year I finally taught him how to play Rummy during a family trip to Munnar. And boy, was he proud! The year when on and off he would ask me out of the blue, “29 chechi (sister)? Really?” And I’d smile and nod, “Yes, I’m 29.” He would then chuckle, revealing the cute one-of-a-kind dimple — which was not on his cheeks but on its fold, under his eye — and reply, “But you sure don’t look a day older than 15!”

It was also the year that had the night I wailed in horror, staring at a TV screen. The year he disappeared without even a hint. The year I wish I could erase from memory.

Throughout the year I wondered how I would ever cope with the loss. Time flowed by and I gradually came to realise... from that night in May my life would never be the same. Life as I knew it had irrevocably changed the night he left without even a wave of the hand.

No matter what an incredible holiday I get to take, I’d always think, “if only he was here with me on this trip”. No matter how huge the leaps of success I make, I’d always think, “if only he was here to celebrate this with me”. No matter how blissful a moment I get to savour, it would always be marred by the shadow of what transpired on that dreadful night in May. No matter how beautiful a moment I have, a second later it would diminish in quality, and lose its sheen just by the thought of not having him in my life anymore, or ever again.

Year 2016. Me 32, he still 19. That’s what death does. It changes lives; while keeping the person intact, frozen in memory.

aarti.panikkar@gmail.com

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 11:50:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/And-it%E2%80%99ll-never-be-the-same-again/article16946754.ece

Next Story