26/11 is remembered by all Indians for it was day we sat with a dropped jaw in front of our TV, watching helplessly what was happening in our country, in Mumbai. The future was uncertain, and the terror was not coming to an end, we did not know what was coming up, as we had to sleep that night, or rather two consecutive nights wondering how safe are we? How safe we think we are in the close vicinity of our house?
It was a strange feeling on 27th evening when I returned from office, listening to FM radio, there was a sense of uncertainty and helplessness even in the tone of the radio anchor. It was again the usual evening and same quiet dinner at home with my family, but I was feeling the weight of heavy stones on my heart. I didn’t really want my kids to know what was happening… kids are much more sensitive… so wanted to keep them unaware of the terror attack in Mumbai.
It was tough to decide to put my head on my pillow that night, because there were many who would be shaking in terror or lying in the pool of their blood, far away from their loved ones. It was not a good thought to sleep conveniently in my bedroom, as if I was choosing ignorance. But I did sleep, and deeply, as I was tired – may be mentally too. Only to be woken up by the ring of my mobile phone.
I was so tired that I did not know that it was just 11 pm, and that the number flashing on my mobile phone was of my father. I was too sleepy to check the number and with shut eyes, I groggily uttered “hello”. The words that I heard rattled me….. my father spoke in a tone as if trying hard to remain calm, the words…. which still make me go numb. He said ” S (my brother-in-law) had gone to Vaishno Devi (Shrine) with his father, he fell down, unki death ho gayi”. (meaning – he died). I still remember his words.
I felt I was made to forcefully sit on a giant wheel, which whirled and whirled in circles and then dump me hard on the ground…… I opened my eyes and I had lost the sense of direction….. I didn’t know where I was…. for a few seconds….. and then I cried out to him “aap kya keh rahe ho??” (what are you saying?). He broke down, my father – a stoic person that he is – I had never seen him express his emotions before this. I knew he could not be wrong or mistaken, surely we had lost the husband of my younger sister, S.
What followed it were diverse emotions – first denial (no, this can not happen), then acceptance. Then I was questioning God, why did he do this? and then I grieved and grieved and cried and cried.
About S, he was a young, energetic guy who loved life, had so many dreams in his eyes. He was healthy, as we understood. He never smoked, would take a drink once in a blue moon, but did not exercise or went to gym, but was a very positive person in his attitude towards life, and I got along with him very well. While he was walking up Vaishno Devi Shrine, which is about 13 kms walk, with his father, he had 2 or 3 heart attacks. While he had the first attack, he understandably sweat profusely but did not realise its severity and he walked on, but the second or the third attack left him dead.
He died in the arms of his father, at a pilgrimage site which is very much respected by Hindus. The father, i am pained to say this but was one really unlucky father, who pleaded to doctors to conduct some test, some thing, anything to see if they could revive him, but I was too late. He had bring back his dead son by road. My heart still goes out to Uncle, as a shattered man that he had become, he, very bravely, went on directing us what to do next.
My sister, first was shocked, but later inconsolable, she kept saying “but he had bought new sports shoes, he said, I will come back and we will begin our morning walk together, we need to streamline our life, we will begin to take care of our health and family… but he bought new sports shoes yesterday” Something broke inside me each time I heard this. I remembered my kid sister’s face, when during our childhood, her ice candy would fell down on the floor in summer afternoons and she would cry… so innocently…. I saw the same on her face again. What was her fault in all this? But I did not stop her from crying. It’s important to grieve.
As for me, I suddenly realized that I was the only one over there on whom everyone, everyone in the two families could have leaned on. Suddenly I realized I was tough. Suddenly the immediate and future course of action was in front of my eyes. I never knew I was so strong. I cried, but mostly I stopped my tears, collected my pain inside my chest and decided to make my sister strong again. My sister went into a self pity. She thought, now it’s all over and she could not do anything. She won’t be able to take care of her 4 year old daughter, as the little angel was completely a daddy’s girl. She was lost, had begin to feel the pressure of the family members around her, who had begun to ask her about their bank accounts, FDs, investments etc. It was too early for her to even think like that. But, may be it was practical responsibilities which made them ask all that.
I had decided to visit my sister everyday till she became a bit balanced. To my surprise, the great keepers of our society told me, I should leave her alone in her in-laws place, and let them take care of her. Can you believe it?? Our traditions, customs are always above the sensitivity of a human being, they are mostly beyond us, and that’s why I don’t care for them much. I told my mother, in no uncertain terms, that I would be visiting my sister everyday, I will dress up like her in light coloured clothes and I won’t put a Bindi or any make up till I am with her, till the time she needs me. I can not let my sister go into self pity and a deep burrow of sorrow. That was my way of showing solidarity to her, as a human being. Of course, my mother did not like it, but I did what I had to do.
I had decided to use that pain which was churning and killing me inside. I had decided I am going to use this pain, and this pain will take us ahead. We settled all the documentation work in his office, financial transactions. I am glad I could instill faith in herself as a mother. Soon she understood that she was not helpless, her finances were sorted out and she knew she is not at the mercy of anyone. In due course of time, we could convince her to marry again. She has moved on now, married again. Though, the pain does not go completely but the wound begins to heal with time and with a proper support system.
I have to mention here that the only people in front of whom I feel like bowing my head, are the parent’s in law of my sister, who took care of my sister like their own daughter – not just in words but in deeds. I am indebted to them for my life.
Today, after 2 years I have relived this pain. I have re-lived each and every moment. yesterday and today. It is prudent to remember that death can come any moment, any time, without warning, when you won’t even have the time to goodbye to your loved one’s , you won’t have the opportunity to hug your loved one’s one last time. You won’t have the chance to tell some one how much you love them, be it your parents, your spouse, your partner or anyone.
I had always believed in living the moment to the fullest. Because it is this very moment which is mine. And this incident reinforced that belief in me. Unfortunately, for my sister and S, they were planning to live, they had postponed life to a better day , when……. (differs for every person)….. that made her really sad that they had not even begun to live, even after 10 years of marriage and one kid, they were planning to live and enjoy the things that they have, while both of them kept working hard. Today, the fruits of hard work are there, but may be the desire to taste them is not there.
Dear reader, there are two things I want to say to you. First, take care of your health, work comes next to a fit body, so please have proper diet, rest and do exercise before it gets too late.( Know about heart attack in young men from this post. Indian men are quite prone to heart diseases, and everyone should know this.) Also, don’t ignore any symptom which can be an indication of illness. Our body talks to us, we just have to listen to it.
And second, live….. Life is what you have right now in front of you. There are no tomorrows. One must plan for years to come, but in that zeal don’t forget your present, for only this moment is yours.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” –
— Mahatma Gandhi
Work like you don’t need the money;
dance like no one is watching;
sing like no one is listening;
love like you’ve never been hurt;
and live life every day as if it were your last.
-An Old Irish proverb