That’s you in the middle, Ibbu. And that’s me on your right, Sameen is on your left. Asher’s missing in this photo, though. Must be somewhere with Bhaiya.
It’s been so long. We don’t talk about you much. But I miss you, you know that, right? I miss having you as a best friend. I miss creating my own games with you, I miss talking to you about everything and nothing.
We don’t talk about you because it hurts. It hurts real bad. For some reason, my eyes hurt when I try talking about you. Why does that happen?
For so long, I’ve tried not thinking about you. I was your favourite cousin, and I, too, have tried burying you. What I didn’t realise was that you’re more than just a memory. You were an era that taught us a lesson after it was gone; a lesson on the power of unconditional love, loyal friendships, the importance of a family. Days are passing by in the blink of an eye and the worldly tasks that weigh me down keep me from counting my blessings but I try. I try because I remember you. We all remember you. It’s a grief that I haven’t fully embraced. Not yet.
I think about you often, you know? I wonder what it would have been like if you were here. You’d have been my biggest cheerleader of all, I know that! My favourite confidante, the family’s champion.
I wish I had insisted on coming to meet you at the hospital.. during your last days. They say we kids would have been frightened seeing you like that – attached to ‘a big machine’ that helped you breathe. I know what it’s called now, Ibu!It’s called a ventilator. I’m in med school now! Aren’t you proud? You are, right?
I remember standing by your little coffin, trying to understand the tragedy that had befallen us, trying to understand death. My young mind had struggled to fathom what death really meant, other than the simple fact that the elders presented us with: you had stopped breathing and that’s how you died, and then you were lowered into the grave and they called it “Allah Mian k paas jaana” (Going to God).
And that really was it for us all, us kids, your best friends.
See those smiles in the picture, Ibu? I miss those, too. That carefree twinkle in the eye when we weren’t bounded by the responsibility of being a human, of getting There safely. But you got There before us. Perhaps, you’re the lucky one. No, I’m pretty sure you are. It’s nasty down here, like a prison! I’m not joking! Even Nani Jan says that. She’s not the same anymore either. But I’m sure you know that already. Just like you know everything else that I have been wanting to tell you.
Sometimes, I wish I didn’t feel so much. It’s a curse when it brings you to the dry autumn of melancholy and you realize with a sinking heart that you have missed the train – the train that was taking you towards a destination unknown, unheard, unseen, but a destination nevertheless. It shakes you down to your very bones and you hear your joints rattling with the disdain of bittersweet, the kind that leaves you all hopeless and vulnerable, seeking the kind of joy that only the heavens can fetch you. And you, my dear cousin, are already There.
You’re already There!