Friday, October 17, 2008

Chronicle of a Witness

My experiences with death started on a Sunday. My father was in government service and this time we have shifted to a small village. A place nature painted with different tones of green and gray. Here my childhood synchronized with the rhythm of nature for the first time. We have lived in a large spread of land with a pond, mango trees, banana plantation, a big tamarind tree and several other small trees. I was the emperor among them and I ruled the kingdom with a papaya leaf sword.
I was alone in my shell. One lonely afternoon I have sketched a boy soldier’s picture in my bedroom’s wall from a Russian Children’s book. He became my guardian angel from scary dreams. I talked and talked to him of my dreams and fears. He must have disappeared under the stones when the house demolished for reconstruction later.
Thankachan came to our home regularly with his Amma and slowly merged into our household as a member. He was young, strong and entrusted with the role of an elder brother. He taught me to ride a bicycle, swim, raw a boat and to catch fish. I have followed him everywhere like a faithful puppy. It was a great learning experience and without my knowledge I have touched nature’s gentle fingers through him.
First time I have seen blood through a microscope was at Varghese uncle’s clinical laboratory. He was a handsome man with beard and sparkling eyes and had the lab in a small line building near a tailor shop. Once when testing the blood sample of my sister he allowed me to look through the microscope. I was awestruck. Something like little bedbugs in blood made me terrified. Even if he has explained me of blood cells and all, it hounded me for days. The odd shaped things traveling through my vein made me creepy. In sleep they came out of Varghese uncle’s microscope and formed a dominion inside me. In murky liquid of my horror they existed without any compassion. My Russian boy soldier was the only comfort.
By the time I have settled into the new diagram of life, Thankachan patiently listed to my complaints and tried to sort them out. When we have bought a big valve radio Thankachan and my father placed it on the shelf away from the reach of small children including me. At that point of time I never thought that radios always remember me of the death of a loved one.
It was a Sunday night and I was sitting in the veranda with my father listening to the radio. Thankachan was doing something nearby. Suddenly he started vomiting. My mother asked him and he said nothing. Then his friend Ravi, our neighbor came and said Thankachan ate a wild poison fruit betting with the friends that he will not die.
But he failed for the first time. Next day when his body arrived from the hospital in an ambulance, his serenity made me shivering. My eyes tried to break his tranquility and find a motion. Instead I have seen a small fleck of blood near his ears. Suddenly the entire surrounding froze. The chilling touch of red creepy bugs from Varghese uncle’s microscope slowly started to slink to my brain. A pale light enveloped and carried me into the caves of unconsciousness.
In a hot day – frozen cries and barking of a wooden bell in the background was the sound of death.
I have not seen him buried. When everything was quiet there was a white dhoti hanging in the cloth line. I tightened it around me like a shroud and cried. I cried alone for him- as one cry for his own life.

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