The smoke rose high on that damp evening, contributing to the atmosphere a heavy dose of carbon content. The smoke rose above the sesame tree, above the electric pole wires, above the mobile towers, the smoke rose higher and higher. We all watched in silence, as Babuji was lapped by the best purifier, fire, en route to his final journey at the Damodar Ghat.
Men in white outfits with grim faces circled the burning pyre. I was standing behind Rajeev and Shashi bhaiya, with my left hand puncturing the wrist of my right hand at the back. Everything was hazy, tears kept rolling down my cheeks, originating from the teary eyes. The same eyes that once saw Babuji laughing, as Amma ranted about his devouring of the sweets. The same eyes, that once saw him sitting with Amma under the crescent moon and humming old Raj Kapoor songs. The same eyes that once saw him flipping the pages of his small telephone diary and calling Rajeev and Shashi bhaiya after dinner. The same eyes that once saw him rubbing Amma’s hand, the day before she died.
Though Amma’s demise sucked the life out of him, he still flipped the telephone diary.
The flames had abated by now, I could see the smouldering logs of wood under the ashes. The assembly of men clad in white dispersed.
Shashi bhaiya made faces, rubbed eyes but tears call for affection. It seemed as if all his sorrows were lost in the flames of Babuji’s pyre. A father never wants his son to be sad, even after his death.
For Rajeev bhaiya, it was just a day, no different from other days.
I remember, how secluded Babuji had become after Amma’s death. He paced on the terrace, sat under the crescent moon for hours. He stopped mingling with people. The insulin dose had increased, but now he didn’t flinch as the insulin syringes pierced into his belly, since Amma wasn’t there to squint her eyes and bite her lips.
Many a night, his calls went unanswered and there weren’t return calls from either Rajeev or Shashi bhaiya. But the flipping of the telephone diary never ceased.
Babuji had been bedridden for two years now. He had been limited to the room now. At night, the fever would rise, but I assured him of the homecoming of Rajeev and Shashi bhaiya.
Hope is the best medicine – it gives you the strength to defy the odds even when there’s no hope. My lies kept death at bay. But, not for long.
I was sitting at the edge of his bed, after giving him the insulin. It was the day before his demise. He seemed so jubilant that day. He was reminiscing the past events of his life: how he met Amma, how they got married, how they fought over the name `Rajeev’, how Shashi was born… everything, he was narrating everything.
He kept pinning for Rajeev and Shashi bhaiya till his last breath, but they showed up only after the disturbing phone calls had no reason to continue. And I knew why? Just to have his property- worth a fortune, considering the prime location.
So, now when I look back I can finally make sense of babuji’s decision, that he named his whole property to me, his loyal servant and caretaker.