Tell Me a Story

By: Ravinder Singh

Inspiring, Touching, Funny and Heartfelt Stories from Life . . .



... I Love you Rachu ...





The End of the Tunnel


KRISHNASISH JANA


Honestly, I had never imagined I would be opening this leaf from the book of my life ever again. It was presumably buried deep beneath the thick misty veils of what everybody calls ‘memory’. But there are some incidents that, at the sudden mention of certain words, shoot back as colourful kaleidoscopes right before your eyes, and then change, very slowly, to calm and clear images. The images I saw were not so clear, but for a moment I could smell the strange aura of grievance around me, which was an extraordinary case of déjà vu. The smell brought me tears.

I was a fourteen-year-old kid then, and I barely knew anything other than my parents, my home, my school, and the ‘ice-cream man’ at the gate. It was just another dull afternoon. My school van halted by the lane to my house, and I sprinted towards the newly painted gate, and saw my mother waiting for me. I opened the gate, but she hardly noticed the sound. That was something I experienced for the first time in my life. She could never have been so preoccupied. What was that she was so deeply absorbed in? For a moment I stared at her blankly, and the next moment, it struck me like a massive lightning bolt. I walked towards her. She suddenly turned around. Her eyes were swollen. I managed to ask, ‘Is it about Uncle?’

She did not reply. But I saw the terrible confirmation of my fears trickle as a callous teardrop down her cheek.

So, it’s over. He’s gone. Forever . . .

She took my bag from me, offered me a dry smile, and said, ‘Come upstairs, your lunch is ready.’

I did not ask any more questions. As I entered the house, I felt a weird silence all around. Even the leaves of the trees seemed to hustle with utmost caution. I tried to have a peek into my grandmother’s room, but my mother pulled me up the stairs. My father was nowhere to be seen.

I had my bath. I was not very surprised, because I had actually been praying to God for this. When the imminence of death stares right into one’s helpless eyes, it’s better to leave early than to stay a little longer and bear more pain quite unnecessarily. My uncle’s cancer was terminal. He never touched a cigarette in his life, and yet it was lung cancer.

Fate really knows how to mock itself at times.

I wasn’t allowed to visit him in the hospital. ‘He’s no longer the uncle you know,’ was the rational answer that was supposed to satiate my uncontrollable curiosity. But from their conversations I realized very well that my uncle was going through a lot of pain, unavoidable pain perhaps, while we all knew what the end would exactly be. I was too naïve to understand that the weakness of consanguinity was the only solid justification. Hope was everything then. Everything.

And now he was gone.

I ate quietly, and so did my mother. When I was going to bed for my regular afternoon nap, I mustered courage and asked her, ‘Where’s Father?’

‘He is returning from the hospital. They are bringing back your . . .’ she paused and paraphrased, ‘. . . the body.’

I did not know what to say. He would be ashes by evening. And yet I can hear his voice, fresh and alive, still ringing in my ears . . . calling out my name, with one hand behind him, hiding a story book, for me . . .

After a few hours, I heard a couple of cars screeching to a halt at our gate. But what I heard next shall always keep reverberating in the corridors of our house—I heard a mother howl helplessly, calling out the name of her son who would never respond. I rushed down and watched my uncle covered in a stretch of white cloth, and my grandmother screaming and trying to shake him up furiously. It looked like a big pot of suppressed sorrow had suddenly burst open.

I had seen this scene a hundred times in movies and TV serials. But seeing this right before my own eyes, with my own family members instead of unknown faces, was a horrible experience. I could feel my mother’s grip tighten around my wrist. She was crying, and it was no longer under her control. ‘Come back! You don’t have to see this!’ She kept on pleading, but I did not budge. I had to see.

My grandmother was gradually slowing down. Her shadow seemed to relentlessly pull her back on the ground, whispering in her ears that no matter how much she shouted, her son was too far to hear her. Her swollen eyes seemed ready to close any moment, because of the tempestuous deluge they had been suffering. She slowly stopped thumping on her dead son’s chest. Gradually, her voice lost its intensity. She placed her head on the wooden cot. My aunts and my father carried her slowly back to her room. She had lost all her energy to resist.

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