The thought that ate him gradually
To begin with, he wanted to be everything. A writer, a singer, an actor, a dancer. He wanted to flow like the river, soar like an eagle!
The problem that he faced every nano second
He stammered. A lot.
Lower middle class families in the mid 70s in Calcutta were misery incarnate. On top of that, he had lost his father at a tender age and his mother had no idea of worldly scheme of things. She thought she gave everything towards the well being of his only son, her only reason to live. But she failed to realize that the child needed much more than food to survive. It wasn’t her fault; it wasn’t the boy’s fault either. He was studying in class VI.
An introvert by nature, he could make no friends in school. Bullied by almost everybody, he created a world where imagination fed him. He used to sit and stare at the wall for hours. Those blank stares were filled with events that only took place in his pre-teen neocortex. He began to forget his world and got more and more sucked into the other world. That’s when he acquired this habit of forgetting. He could wipe out an entire year, an entire month, an entire day. The days in his mind increased. Books he read less, but what he read sat in his head with all its characters and actions. Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews held daily meetings, solved cases with flying colors and embark on a Journey to the centre of the earth only to find The Blue Lotus in the Land Of Black Gold.
His father was an asthma patient who suffered for a decade. Then came a day when his suffering ended. He was watching Chitrahaar when his mother came crying and hugged him constantly. Then he came to know that his father had died.
Before this he had seen Gabbar Singh die, Prem Chopra die, even Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla die. So, death means you would sleep for ever. But then Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla had done films after Quyamat Se Quyamat Tak.
He learned the word much later: crematorium. Cremation. He was brought near his father’s body. He touched him. Ice cold and rough. It didn’t feel like human skin at all. He merely scratched the skin of a tree, bark. It was someone, something else that lay there in front of him. He thought once when all this would be finished, he would go ho e and finish his maths, or else father will come and beat him up. He was fair and when his father beat him, his skin reddened. But, people told him repeatedly that his father had died and now he will have to be strong and look after his mother. He imagined he had seen similar scenes in a hindi movie that he saw in television in his friend’s house.
Rituals that are done to your loved ones
Coldness ruled the entire night. He was given a stick and fire was lighted at one end. His father’s stony face was trembling in the flickering flame. One of his family members said that now he would have to touch his father’s lips with the fire. He was terrified. Is it a game that the adults are playing? But he wanted the night to end. He closed his eyes and did what the adults around told him to do. By then, he had started believing that it was his father, who was lying still in front of him.
His mother was sobbing incessantly near the body and was telling an interested passerby how his husband had looked at her for the last time and then how his eyes went upwards and he died. The passerby consoled his mother by saying that the eyes travelling upward meant a sure trip to heaven. She made sure that he was a pious soul. His mother repeated the entire story to several other adults. So, he thought for the first time, what happens when a person dies?