It all started around ten years ago. I was just a thirteen year old kid. I wanted to be a Computer engineer then. Like all kids my age didn't understand the fact that terminology was incorrect. It had to be called a Software Engineer or a Hardware Engineer. Well I didn't know much about them either. The meanest computing machine came to me as a fascination. It still is.
The day I am writing about happened to be just another week day apart from the fact that it wasn't. I was getting ready for school. And so were my two siblings. My mother made us all self reliant. We never needed any help getting ready since I guess I got through third standard. So it was usual business. My mother was in the kitchen making breakfast for us three- me, my brother and my sister. The usual north Indian breakfast. Those delicious aaloo parathas that my mom makes still stimulates the hunger pangs in my stomach and the aroma of the vegetable oil being applied on the paratha and the swelling of the paratha beneath the cooking pin as a result of pressure generated by conversion of oil to gas tears away the side of the paratha peel and the warm air that eeks out of it and the along with it the sweet aroma which fills the kitchen. I love that moment of utter desperation where my mind submits to the taste buds in my mouth and i usually tend to overeat.
Mom was through with the breakfast and had packed our lunches and pushed them on the dining table, a rough piece of furniture thanks to my dad who got it made from my uncle. I don't remember the quality of wood but the table was in itself a poor sight. We still have it. Right there in the dumpster as the backyard. My dad won't let go of it.
My mother arranged breakfast on the table for us and we started eating in the standing position. There was no time to kill. It had been already 6:50 am in the morning. The doorbell ranged. My mom rushed to the door and opened it. My dad's friend, Nimesh uncle walked in. Alongwith my three cousins. Uncle is dad's sort of best friend. They have been together since time unknown and i had been just a toddler when they became friends or so they told me.
I was familiar was Ishika di, uncle's eldest kid. She studied in 9th standard in the same school with us, the St. Augustus Convent School and so did her two siblings, Abhimanyu who was two years younger than my brother and Vivaan who was two years younger than my sister. My brother is a year younger than me and my crazy sister around three. We six are all like a one big extended family. Out relationship is beyond blood. Perhaps better than that. Mom asked uncle why weren't the kids ready for school when it was already late. He said there was an issue at home. The second son of his landlord had died. He called him a charming young man who had fallen into a stale company and picked up betting as a habbit. Sometimes he won and sometimes he lost. But both weren't extreme to hurt his cause and he continued marching on the wrong course.
Uncle told my mom that the lad had put a bet on India Pakistan match. Oh yes I forgot to mention. It was 2003. And India is a cricket crazy nation. We love this game well beyond our national game hockey since we started performing as minnows in hockey and won the world cup in 1983 in cricket, twenty years ago. And Indians aren't averse to the idea of gambling in games and sports. Illiteracy is omnipresent and people resort to nefarious means to earn bread, without blinking an eyelid, all too easily. Betting is a fullfledged business now. It is told to be a four billion dollar industry, with the kingpin residing somewhere in Singapore, based on a recent New York TImes article. During the Cricket world cup, that is a once in a four year tournament fixture, such bets are on a alltime high.
Nimesh uncle said," The boy made a fool out of himself bhabhi. He used to surrender his winnings to his eldest sister who was married as she was sort of a accountant for the family. He had made an outrageous bet on India Pakistan cricket match and he still won. The man who arranged didn't pay and coerced him to keep playing till the worldcup ends and told him payment would be done when the world cup finishes. Later on when India marched to finals he put a bet again on India winning it and that was that. It was an even more outrageous sum. He lost. And he was done to dust. He was like twenty lakhs in debt. He had been getting frantic calls from the man who demanded payment. He gave away all the savings he had. His savings account had been left with hundred rupees when the family last checked. He was still overdue. He checked with his sister who refused to pay his money back to him. He took his family on a little trip down the town park down the main street and talked to his family. They said there wasn't an iota of doubt in their mind that he would commit suicide for this. He seemed happy or rather he pretended to be. They couldn't catch his nervousness. He met his elder sisters at another sister's place and tried finding a solution but to no effect and his elder sister Balvinder still resented the idea if giving him his own money, out of greed I guess. It drove him mad. But he didn't show it to their face. It had been thirty minutes past eight last night when he left home yesterday placing all his belongings, money, gold chain, gold ring, a silver bracelet with a blue gem encrusted inside, on the showcase inside the living room and went to the nearby railway tracks and put his head on the tracks. He committed suicide. He left a note on the showcase itself. His body was discovered on the tracks this morning when a lineman was walking down from his quarters to the railway station. I saw it. It was faceless. It was all bones and flesh and veins and blood that had protruded out and clotted. It was grotesque. After post mortem all the family got was a pile of bones and flesh wrapped untidy in a dhoti. So much for his old parents to grieve on. They are unconsolable. It's harsh for them to manage their loving son's death before them. They say it right. Death comes unannounced. I had to move the children out to avoid uneasy moments for them so I brought them here. Can you get them ready in time bhabhi ?"
My mother was half wailing, half shattered, half shocked, half in angst and completely outraged. But she had to shed all feelings aside to tell uncle that it would take fifteen minutes. The school gate was to be closed at 7 :30 am. They had time at hand. Mom took my two cousins Abhi and Vivi, as we nicknamed them to the bathroom and bathed them to nimbleness. She returned exactly five minutes later. Asked Ishi Di to bath in rest five. Ishi Di obliged and returned soon after. Mom fixed breakfast for them meanwhile in the kitchen and filled their lunch boxes with the same aaloo ke parathe and semi solid curd. I remember the day. It wasn't a pleasant one. I was just a kid but I made an opinion in life sometimes your blood relations can make you do things you don't want to and put you at risk to test you. Your patience, your perseverence, your attitude or plainly because they deem it right. I wondered what kind of money would that be that drive that guy to suicide. My mind said blood money and the apalling woman, Balvinder had loads of it. To her use. God bless this woman for her immense indifference towards her brother and the situation she put him in. Their old parents are beyond grief. It was ten years back. Their second son Inderjeet had gone to afterlife. It wasn't the end.
Ten years later.
I am sleeping in my bed. It's ten am in the morning. I see my smartphone lying around and check for time from a half open half closed eyelid and put it back on the bedside table. I hear a sudden commotion outside. I wake up. Out of a strange Indian habbit walk out my front door into the balcony and peer outside, down the street. On two doors from my right there is a ruckus. Inderjeet bhaiya's younger brother was shouting at a couple of women who had gathered around the house and had settled down on the a dark red and blue ragged carpet which was laid on the floor. Behind them men sat. A couple of men were shouting back in unison to support the woman who was being pressed to leave the house with the public. The woman was weeping, wailing to be profound. She was inconsolable. The strange sight wasn't that strange. I gathered that somebody had died. Had to be the woman's husband. It was tragic. Death comes unannounced.
I went back to bed and slept again. My mom came back from her job around three in the evening. He saw the same ruckus outside. Her friend Ritu aunty had dropped her home as usual. She was frantic and cussing uselessly. Rather she was in a way apalled. She does that when she is hurt. I asked her what's the matter. I understand my mom. She told me that Inderjeet bhaiya's elder brother committed suicide. and that too in a fashion similar to him. He crossed railway tracks. Sat on them. He was delivered from the hospital morgue after postmortem in a hump laid on a dhoti. Same fashion as his younder brother. Amarjeet bhaiya was no more. He had left a wife, who earned her bread as a saleswoman selling petty items door to door, and an adopted kid daughter, who was actually his niece. My heart sank. Mom continued.
She told me it was again a matter of loan sharks. He was under debt. It wasn't a big sum of money. It was all a sixty thousand deal. He had been receiving frantic calls just like inderjeet bhaiya and the day before had asked his wife to give her gold chain to him so he can clear off half his debt. She told him it was lying with her mom as she had to move outside for her work. She would go to her the day after and have him his way. She wasn't aware that he would take such a drastic step.
I recollected what was happening during the day. Inderjeet bhaiya's younger brother shouting from his balcony to move Amarjeet bhaiya's wife from his paternal house to go back to her rented accomodation for grieving. He wanted her to go away. He wanted his house secure. Amarjeet bhaiya had separated after taking one lakh rupees before partition from his family. His brother didn't want his wife to lay claim on his house. He shifted from grieving mode to being aggressive. I recollect that they had fought for two hours before the neighbors silenced the indifferent brother and brought him into submission. It was clear he had no remorse. He shared no emotions with the agrieved woman. All he cared for was his house. And when she would leave it to his hands. He hardly shed a tear for his brother, my mother told me later. Such a grotesque tale of indifference amongst siblings, in relationships. It nearly sank me. It was a travesty of human emotions.
I wondered what became of their parents watching them from the heavens. Were they bereaved at the appalling state of their immediate family ?
I guess they would be.
Two brothers conjoined by fate. United after death. Or united in death. Gruesome. Grotesque. Horrendous.
God save humanity.