The Chevrolet pulled over near the gates of the bus stand. I wanted to come out of the vehicle and feel the early morning fresh breeze on my face. I saw my brother getting out of the front seat, almost half-asleep. I have always felt a sense of responsibility towards him…such a pure soul and a soft heart. Though his strong voice and rugged looks would defy what I just mentioned, he indeed would always be my little brother. I have always taken pride in how he had managed to keep this family together. The loss of our father had never been an obstacle that could have faltered his determination and love for the family. He had truly inherited the traits of our mother…such a strong-willed woman. We miss her a lot. When she passed away last year, we were completely broken, especially my brother. It was the first time I saw him crying like a baby at an age of forty, as if all the emotions held up inside him had broken loose…all the tough attire had been shed…all the love had been lost. I was broken, too. I wanted to weep too. I wished to shout, too. I longed to ask GOD…Why us again…but only could just hold him close to my heart, hoping that our sadness would pacify each other’s loss.
The cellphone vibrated and a face of a boy in early twenties flashed on the screen. The face was a carbon copy of that of the boy’s mother. My brother always forgets to keep his cellphone with him and so it was not a surprise when I found the mobile vibrating and blinking beside my seat. I was about to receive the call, when a sudden feeling of obsolescence popped up inside me. Such technological advancements have rendered the old generation helpless. Moreover there were no buttons and only just a screen on the device. How could one pick up a call without any answering button? I remembered how many times I had seen my nephew teaching his father to operate the smart phone.
“Nil…we are here”,
my brother picked up the call whilst I was lost in my mind, enjoying the cellphone teaching session between the father and son. There was grief in his voice. I could easily interpret how much yearning was in those dark eyes, to see his son – my nephew. I could connect myself to that feeling. Never a day has passed when I have not thought of Nil. Though I was just his aunt, he has always treated me like a mother. I believe God has been kind to me on this, for once in my life. Being unmarried might be a curse for others, but it was a gift as I got to be an integral part of my brother’s family and to be godmother of my nephew. What more one can ask for when one is loved and respected and needed like a segment of single heart beating in different bodies…I wish this attachment remain reinforced till eternity. However, being an elder sister, I believe I have taken up ma’s role quite well – an emotional and motivational backbone.
The roads were empty except for few heavy vehicles. The morning was peacefully serene in itself. I had never felt the calmness in my life as I felt there waiting for my nephew. However, I could not say the same thing for my brother. He seemed restless and tensed. He kept pacing up and down and once in every minute looked at his watch or his cellphone. Other than the driver, a guy in late forties, similar to my brother’s age, was asleep in the backseat. He looked tired with his wrinkled and unshaven face. He wore a muffler around his neck and a shawl covered his white kurta. He had been a close acquaintance, more like a brother to me and a closest friend to our family. He was quite dexterous with medicines and medical advice. He woke up on my brother’s voice and I saw the same restless and weary look in his eyes.
“Shekhar, have some coffee. He is on his way…about to reach…”
Have you felt a sea of happiness and love when you see your child after so many years? I guess, everyone has his/her own way of expressing the inexplicable emotions. Yeah, I saw Nil after almost a year. I could remember his soft little finger holding mine, while I walked him school every morning for almost his whole childhood…his pleas to cook his favorite potato-gravy dish every day…his agreement with me for buying the harry potter books secretly without letting his parents know. I have been an indispensable unit of his life and the same goes for him. I have seen the small innocent child grow to a mature adult. He had always been homesick for his family. Even he had been living away from home since his high school days and it has been close to five years, he still acts like a little kid when he is among us.
“How are you Dad? …how are you holding up? “
Nil hugged him with all his heart. I could clearly see the tears that trickled down my brother’s face and landed onto Nil’s shirt. I too felt the surge of tears overflowing the corners of my eyes, praying to be set free. I have always admired the guy for his maturity at the hour of need. I have known him better than his parents. I know how strong he can look from outside and at the same time have a fragile heart within. His preference for his family has always made me feel proud of him. But it was I, who had witnessed his fears and flimsy side. He never did hide anything from me…his failures…his aspirations…his dreams…his strengths…his weakness. Everyone has someone whom they could fall back to and I was a friend to him more than an aunt.
He entered the vehicle…looked at me…I wanted to say so many things…but it was the surge of tears that rendered me stupefied. He held me in his arms…a hug that could make one feel the amalgamation of all possible sorts of emotion…make one feel the depth of one’s soul inundated with affection. All the snippets of memories ushered in front of my eyes. I was satisfied that I had been a part of each and every memory of his life. I hope I have raised him well enough for the world and taught him the virtues of love in the hatred-driven race. I know he would one day leave his footprints in this sphere, and touch many lives as he has touched mine.
Finally, the vehicle slowed down in front of our house after the twelve hours journey from the bus stand. These few hours ride seemed the most precious phase of my life, with the two most important persons who sat by my side, holding me. This silence was new and comfortable as it kept shouting that I was loved and cared by the persons who were my world. It is difficult to witness such a feeling and more difficult to experience it in this materialistic life.
The whole society had gathered in front of the gates. I knew it was my time to bid farewell to my little brother; yes he would always be little for me. For Nil, I am not worried, he won’t cry I know…not today at least…he would definitely find his own moment and I pray God that He would provide him someone who could be there to pick him up. For my sweet cute niece, I will look after her from the stars.
As soon as the Chevrolet stopped, the relatives rushed forward. I bade aunt the last kiss on the forehead. She seemed to be deep in her eternal heavenly sleep…she was at peace. One of the neighbors opened the door and helped Shekhar uncle with body. Few persons came forward and delicately and safely took the still and silent body of my aunt away from the ambulance. I sat there transfixed to the seat, watching my mother, father and sister as they walked on with everyone in the crowd for the funeral.
She is lost to stars but will always be close to our heart…
PS: Gigi…I love u a lot…will always will…miss u a lot…will always will…