The steel rails were cold as I held her feet, perhaps less than her. She was sleeping, quietly with a quaint demeanour. The hospital air had an undertone of bleach as the walls were scraped in places and the pictures on the walls were cheap benign prints of uplifting scenes. Terminal Cancer takes a toll on a person in obscure ways. Rama used to often ask me to read her a story, something she could use to escape the confines of her disease. But there were these times when she screamed in pain and there was no doubting the agony. Her morphine would then be increased, sliding her to a long dream which was a parallel world, with her body so still that everyone often wondered if she had passed on. I held Rama’s hand and gently kissed it. Suddenly, the heartbeat detector started fluctuating and with it came a straight line with such a deafening noise that probably stuck me forever.
She was gone. I placed my hand on her cheek and bent forward to kiss her forehead. Tears soaked in my upper collar as I witnessed the hardest day of my life pass by. She was cremated the next day. People in white with faces so unfamiliar over the past decades came. They stood by in silence as the pyre reduced to ash. I sat on the ground, a few feet away from the pyre. Non-emotive in spirit, I looked and looked. I did not shed a single tear on the cremation day. I did not let out one tear. My neighbour dropped me back to our home. I entered the familiar setting, kept my keys on the table and sat down on the rocking bench we had. Rama smiles at me through the 16*18 frame photograph, she got framed for me to put on the wall once she dies. What I once treasured, is now a memory, a shadow lingering in the depths of my mind. It’s a strange thing to lose something which you once had, like a limb torn from your body, without getting a chance to save it. She had left me; I was alone.
I wake up next morning and shout for tea. “Rama, Chai!”, I say. Some moments pass and I realise what I just did. I make myself tea and I do the utensils on my own without anyone mocking me playfully. I return to my bedroom, in delusion after one time. I start to look across Rama’s belongings in order to clear stuff. As I look across her almirah, my hands go through the silk of her beautiful long dresses. I look at the crimson dress with ornamental designs and remember how beautiful she looked the night, I proposed her. I look at the red saree that she wore on our first dinner together and how those earrings transformed her into this beautiful, beautiful person. I look at a polaroid snap of ours, where she’s making faces and resenting the fact that I am taking a photo when she’s not looking good. There are some random photographs spread across. I collect them in my hands with so much care, as if I am holding living memories, brim with emotions and with her essence. One photo has her pointing a finger at me saying she’ll kill me if I continue to click pictures when she’s having bad hair days. There is another one, where we are hugging each other too hard and I am smiling at the camera awkwardly. I smile as I look at them, and my eyes become moist. A few tears trickle down and with them, these drops convert to a downpour. I cry openly, till my eyes and throat are dry. I cry till I can feel the shudder of what I have become. There is an unopened packet with green earrings that I had gifted her recently, hoping she’ll wear them on our approaching anniversary, I find. Shuffling through more such belongings, I come across a white envelope. I wipe my tears away and I put on my glasses to read what is written.
Rama had written this letter two months ago. I opened its seal carefully and start reading it;
I know you’re crying right now and for that, I have folded a small silk cloth in the envelope for you to wipe these big tears away. “Ro to nhi rhe na ab? Pakka?” Good! I know that I am going to cease to exist in the coming few months. Life has been unhappy with me, for some particular reason. But, you know what, I am not leaving you at all. I am going to be there with you, forever. Tragedies will always be found in the things we love. And if we are not willing to see the beauty in something that means the world to us, then imagine how terrible it will be to live for them.
We must always welcome the end of all things. For sometimes, knowing nothing lasts forever, is the only way we can learn to fall in love with all the moments and all the people that are meant to take our breath away. We are all birds trapped inside an invisible cage. Some of us discover our wings, while others search forever for the needless key. Perhaps, we write about our memories, because we want to right them. You’ve always been with me. Because you’ve always been the image I had of the perfect mistake I always wanted to make. You know how they say that your entire life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die. I don’t think it does. One doesn’t see everything. All they see are the things they love. Maybe, the last thing I’ll see would be you. Sometimes I wonder how someone like me can deserve someone like you. I wonder because I am a mess of a human being. I am a disaster and you’re this beautiful person with this lovely smile and a million of unravelling stories while I am just this close book you decided to open and discover. Thank you for being my imperfect another half. Thank you for loving me in days when I didn’t love you enough.
Thank you, my dear.
I kept the letter down and stared at blank space for a while. I smiled and realized that there is still life after death. When you lose someone, it can make you feel so alone. But there’s one thing I’ve learned. If you really love them, you never lose them. Sometimes, just sometimes when people say forever, they mean it.