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Updated: Apr 8

By P Sasikanth

This was the day when it all began a year ago.

A lethargic evening and my birthday, that is what I remember.

My uncle called me to wish. Everybody talked, everybody wished.

He, Lucky, my nephew wished and talked to me that day. He giggled. He inquired. Wished me good luck.

Everything felt normal.

Four days later I called my uncle.

He responded…distantly. His replies were only sad grunts and deep pauses.

The noise of the fan behind was clearly audible. Such was the silence.

When I asked him why, he didn’t tell me any.

But then he started forcing himself to talk. That didn’t work and our call soon ended.

A week later, I come home to see my mother in desperate painful tears.

Her eyes were swollen.

Amidst the choking sobs,

she broke me the news.

“Lucky has cancer. They are saying that it is fatal”

The word cancer sounded so foreign that it felt impossible to imagine him having it.

In stark disbelief I talk to my uncle hoping that he would tell me otherwise.

Instead, he too was crying. He told me that it was liver cancer in the final stage

And the chances of his recovery were grim.

The ground under my feet felt uncertain.

After fourteen days of relentless and tiresome battle

he died in the hospital.

With fingers tightly wound around his father’s finger,

As he whimpered for help,

The light in his eyes faded away.

His death was neither sudden nor slow

It had a pace of its own.

It made sure that it has hurt and extracted the maximum pain possible.

With each hour as a nightmare

In a swirl of fear and wild hope,

with bleak optimism and desperate faith for a miracle,

those fourteen days went mercilessly.

I witnessed his healthy body getting scarred and wounded

I witnessed his childish innocence getting burdened under the weight of death

I witnessed his handsome features wither to lifelessness

“I was unable to save my son. He believed in me, and I disappointed him” were the words his father kept saying after Lucky’s death.

The next day we went there.

Scorched and perspired under the sun the house lay in melancholic silence

my grandmother and grandfather were shuffling restlessly

“The ambulance hasn’t come yet” “they might reach by evening” they said.

We waited in silence as more and more people gathered in the house.

As the sun descended into the horizon scattering its final dim yellow rays across the sky

The ambulance arrived.

Amidst huge wails the doors opened, and he was brought out.

People who loved him and known only his innocence became hysterical at the sight they saw.

He was brought into the house on a stretcher and shifted onto the freezer

I saw him then.

It was not the nephew I knew.

Tightly wrapped in a cloth,

With falling head, partly opened eyes and fluid oozing out of his mouth,

he barely resembled the boy I knew.

the swollen stomach, scarred skin and the body marred beyond belief

narrated volumes of the suffering he underwent.

His maternal grandmother, collapsed at the sight of her grandson.

His maternal grandfather sat faraway in a corner silently wiping his tears.

Frail, fragile and completely strengthless

His father went from one to another explaining them the painful ordeal

His mother, collapsed in a chair oblivious to the things happening around her.

Hours ran without pause.

And preparations for the funeral went quickly.

Night has dawned.

People have left and many members retired to sleep.

I sat beside his mother.

His mother barely looked fine.

Through dark circles around her sunken eyes,

through the bulged veins in her bloodshot eyes,

she struggled to stay awake through the sleep deprivation.

When the people around nudged her to sleep,

she stubbornly refused.

Instead, she got up immediately and with a coarse wet cloth she rubbed her eyeballs.

“I cannot leave my son alone. He’s scared of darkness” she said.

The night has passed, and the dawn broke.

the house was filled again with people.

funeral preparations were all done.

He was prepared for his final journey.

As he was lifted and mounted into the van,

The wails of his desperate mother filled the air with misery

people around struggled to console and restrain her.

The van started its journey to the cremation ground.

With burning coal in a pot his father sat silently looking at the boy.

The ground was already dug,

and the rites were ready to be executed.

His father cried like a child,

He desperately called for his son to come back and tell him that it was all a terrible nightmare.

His painful wails reverberated through the cremation ground

He bathed in cold water and shouldered an earthen pot filled with water.

As he made rounds around the boy,

He constantly apologized for disappointing him as a father.

Even the eyes of the most hardened spectators would’ve moistened at the plight of his father.

The boy was placed in the pit

and was slowly filled with soil,

The sense that he was becoming more and more inaccessible with every foot of soil on him

his father whimpered uncontrollably.

The rites were all performed

And his father was taken away from the cremation ground by force.

Walking barefoot he suddenly crossed the road.

Rest all followed him.

Pointing to a school nearby he told,

“This is my child’s nursery school. One evening I was late to pick him up from school. Thinking that I wouldn’t come, he started walking back home. He walked to the main road and got confused. He was terrified of the vehicles and noises. By the time I found him, he was crouched on the footpath looking scared for being left alone. The moment he saw me, he came running and hugging me tightly he cried. That day I promised my son that I would never leave him alone again. But today, I failed to keep that promise. I left my son in the cremation ground just in front of his school all alone to the nights.”

He broke down to terrible sobs shivering under weight of the tragedy.

To watch our parents die is unbearable. But to watch our children die is unimaginable.

That night his paternal grandmother got up from her bed.

When I asked her the reason, she told,

“I’m unable to sleep with the reality that my grandson was gone”

Days after she fell ill,

And fifteen days later she died.

By P Sasikanth

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