By Mayank Mohanti:
It was a pensive evening in the year 2006. I was lost in my own world, contemplating over a hundred theories that had formulated in my head, none of which were pleasant. A week had passed yet there was no news from my parents. I was very disturbed; never before had my parents failed to check up on their youngest son, not a single day passed without me having said, “I’m okay.”
Swimming in a pool of anxiousness, I walked up the stairs towards the warden’s room and asked for his mobile phone. Tentatively, I dialed the number and held my breath after placing it upon my ears. “Hello” answered my mother in a calm voice. Straightaway, I headed for the question that had unsettled my nerves: “Why didn’t you call me?” ‘
“I’m sorry son, but we are in Mumbai,” she replied and then went quiet for a moment. “Your father is diagnosed with cancer.” The answer rattled me to the core; it brought an overwhelming sense of pain that was too hard to bear. I had read about it in science class and knew enough that there was no escaping the rapidly growing cells. I stood still in shock — my brain not willing to process what my ears had just heard. Mother cajoled me into taking care of myself, but the lump in my throat hindered any further communication. I wished I could be alone and cry out till the dawn, but it seemed as if the tear glands had gone dysfunctional. Despite my effort, tears didn’t flow out. I looked into the mirror: they were red and dry.
Ten years have passed, but it only seems like yesterday. “He was so young, so full of life; can’t imagine how this could have happened to such a kind person,” the villagers would whisper and debate: why of all the people the Almighty chose you. They say death is the only certain thing in this world and that it is nature’s way of restoring balance; seems like the world was abundant with the generous lot.
Sometimes, when I’m tired playing out my role in this circus, I think of you, papa. And in those moments, I feel the immense urge to travel beyond the horizon into the Holy land from where you are watching keenly and helping us in our each and every endeavour. And I bet, maa and bhaiyya would agree with me on it.
I miss you, papa, and I feel very lonely with you gone. I vividly remember the day you took me for a ride on the 350 cc Rajdoot. Despite mother’s concern, you lifted me off the ground and placed me on the backseat. Immediately, the fearsome kid clung to your waist and his tiny face hid behind your back. You kicked start the motorcycle and off we went. I opened my eyes to the wind blowing hard upon my face, trees running in a rapid motion, even the houses on wheels. I was dumbfounded, very eager to share this discovery with bhaiyya. As I was relishing this moment, my grip on the chappal went loose and it slipped from my foot. I started crying. The next moment, I saw you running back to me with a tiny chappal in your hand. I was overjoyed as I saw my first live hero.
They say time takes away the sharp edge of pain and that memories fade with time. Then why is it papa that I can still feel my eyes go warm and moist whenever I think of you? Why is it that I shiver every time I hear the word ‘cancer’?
There is one thing that I regret the most: I wasn’t by your side when you breathed your last. I could never tell how much I loved you. It wasn’t something extraordinary that I could spell ‘carbon dioxide’ in UKG, but papa, your exuberant applause made it obvious that I was your smartest child. The way you escorted the guests into our living room and showed off our trophies and medals with pride, I could not have been surer. We were your little precious birds, whom you had given the wings to fly – only high and above.
I want to tell you, papa, that we are all fine. Maa, she is a superhuman. I don’t know how she managed to raise us single-handedly — the whole village is in awe, some relatives jealous and we, the three proud sons, grateful to God for having blessed us with such great parents.
Together we three brothers stand, with hands holding out toward each other and head bowed down in reverence to our two idols: maa and papa, please make us your scion in the next life and beyond.