It seems surreal. The more I think of that day … that morning … the more it seems like a really bad dream that I wish I could wake up from. But the nightmare continues and the person who has left us all broken hearted is really gone. Forever! I do hope someday I can see him again. I hope someday I can give him the hug I did not give him the last time we met. The last conversation I remember with him was -- him telling me he was coming to Bangalore to shop for second hand books at Blossoms and me getting him to promise that he would take me along. Not because I could not go on my own… but he knew the place better and I bet he knew where the good books would be sitting. Blossoms your regular book worm will not be coming back!
The time was 5:30 am the call was to Suresh’s phone but the call was from my side of the family. My heart started pounding immediately … expecting bad news … but I did not think it would be this bad. I heard only one side of the conversation …
Suresh: I cannot hear you cheta … you are breaking up …. What! … And ? What are you saying cheta?
And just like that in a few seconds … the youngest in our batch of cousins was gone! Gone forever. He was 10 years younger than me and so it wasn’t like we shared the strongest bonds. But I have so many memories from our childhood. Pinching his cheeks … kissing him because he hated girls. That was his favourite dialogue ‘I don’t like girls’ … made us girl cousins enjoy annoy him even more by kissing his cheeks.
A few days ago his brother shared with us a page from his dairy that talked about our native place and I remember the sitting on one of those walls along those fields on a wall talking about ‘Charles in Charge’ or some other American serial … and I wondered how even though he was 10 years younger than me, he knew about it.
Among my early memories of Pappu or Vivek as he was officially known was sitting in the living room of their living quarters and watching some documentary on Swami Vivekananda. The narrator mentioned that ‘Vivek’ meant Knowledge. Pappu about 3 or 4 I think (maybe younger) looked up from him game of something and looked intently at the TV. Then he turned to his father and said ‘Vivek’. I still remember the pride on Uncle’s face that in between all the games this boy had heard his name among all the other droning that the narrator had gone on about!
I left for the US at 22 … that means he must have been 12. When he moved to Mumbai for Med school I was not there and I feel like I missed a lot of his life. I always thought I would get a chance to bond once I got back to India. But he was busy and I was crazy. But it always seemed like when we met … we had never missed a moment in each other life. That was Pappu. He never made you feel distant of like an introduction to what was going on was needed. He always knew where to start the conversation and how to keep it going without hurting anyone or digging into deep wounds. I always called him diplomatic. He managed to stay in everyone’s good books. I even remember thinking once… I got to learn that art from him. And yet in the midst of all this he was watching us keenly … and being part of our life.
When someone older goes away forever … you somehow make your peace with it. But when someone younger and so much younger goes … peace seems so distant and the constant word in my mind is – Why?
We were all eagerly waiting for him to get married. All us girl cousins had this tag line – ‘ We need to buy a new dress’ and I think he once said … why do I need to get married for that – I can buy you one right away.
It wouldn’t be the same … nothing will be the same. Anything that this family now gets together for will constantly feel the vacuum of your loss Pappu. You landed for everything no matter which part of the country your were in … no matter what exams you had. We all have photos with you at our weddings and we are so grateful for that time.
The last time we met, I asked him ‘Da whats your plan?’ and he went into a passionate narration of how he was going to get into literature. You could hear the excitement in his voice even as he spoke about how hard it was to get into the University he wanted to study at. I told him how jealous I was that he was following his heart and I told him that if anyone was giving him a hard time, it was because they were not brave enough to follow their heart. I should have hugged him tight that time … but like an older sister who didn’t want to spoil her little brother I gave him a pat on his shoulder and he went away.
What do I say about him … being the youngest and a boy and a doctor you would think he would be spoilt rotten … but he was level headed, calm, and never let the good grades or the Med School admission get to his head. When I spoke to his school friends they all had this common thing to say – he never had to study! That was not the Pappu who showed up at all the weddings. He always asked questions and listened like he was gaining some knowledge from you.
As I waited in that house to watch him make his last journey, I kept telling myself I should just leave. I saw him there all wrapped up and with a smile on his face. I just wanted to leave. But every time I talked about booking tickets, I felt I would be leaving him in between something. And so I saw him all the way to pyre. And just like that you were gone. Vivek Krishnan I am so grateful to have you as my brother. You have affected my life without even me realizing it. You have left us all broken-hearted!