Wherever you are

I usually try to imagine you are dead. After trying many settings, I settled on having you inside a crypt. But crypts seem so cold. I used to tell myself that the cold protects you by dissolving whatever comes from outside the crypt’s space. Whatever comes from outside must be what made you go away. 

You caused me to worry very early on because you believed too easily in all things strange. You used to religiously save all your pencils’ shavings after every sharpening. When Ma wasn’t looking, you’d pour your milk into your already emptied toomlet and before heading out to school, you’d pour it into a steel glass and mix the milk with the shavings. Every evening, when we returned from school you’d check the glass to see if the mix inside had turned into an eraser. Every evening you’d only find soggy shavings and rancid milk. But you said the day would come.

I once imagined a crypt that had a fur-covered floor and you had been laid on that floor with a furry blanket atop you: large enough that your stiff toes did not show. But who would you have had to place the blanket over you? And sometimes I fear that only I would take care to make sure that your toes were all in.

You were never the religious type growing up. You used to say that the message is always screwed up by the presentation. When we’d watch the Mahabharata episodes, you’d say all that gold and glitter made the characters seem so done up that the bling scrambled your brain and you couldn’t understand the dialogues. You used to say every holy character on TV had such sanctimonious tones as if they ate only honey and the honey remained honey when it exited their body. You used to think sadhus could only know relative truths-small truths that helped them untangle whatever neuroses they’d built up over their lives. I want to repeat this opinion of yours to Ma whenever yet another acquaintance tells her that you are in Haridwar, Benaras, Gosaikunda, Ladakh, living in a secluded ashram.

But with these anecdotes, you’d at least be in an ashram. My dubi has now spread from my fingers all the way up my arms. Maybe because I had to deal with the world’s questions about the visible white spots very early on, for me the dubi was a problem that I learned to explain away, which I think is a way of accepting it. I used to think that you were dealing with your dubi too, because you tried to hide it by never wearing saris and thus baring your midriff. But sometimes I think you never tried to deal with it the right way. That you always saw the dubi as more than a deformity that would turn a potential husband away. You were mythologising it. You turned many a marriage proposal down because you always saw the dubi as a portent: that it foretold the rejection you knew you’d face in the end.

Even as you spent nights huddled under two quilts, whispering on the phone to your lover, I worried because between the sibilance of your whispers, I’d home in on the silences. In those silences I knew you harboured the stories of your mythology, in which everyone abandoned everyone else. The same way Baba abandoned Ma, according to you. You used to say that you hated how you could never find a way to figure the world without resorting to analogies. How every event could only be viewed as a copy of a copy of copy. But Baba never abandoned Ma. Ma separated from him and Ma has always said that the separation strengthened her. From where did you draw the elements, the tone, the threads that made up your mythologies?

Sometimes I imagine I am you inside the crypt. To feel how safe you must feel when you know that nothing from the outside can disrupt your peace. It’s impossible to imagine the absence of consciousness, but there is also peace in knowing that that absence cannot be imagined. I owe that peace to one of your many sayings that you had worked out in your head over the years: “Beyond our imagination lies peace”.

Two years ago, I went looking for your lover. I wanted to confront him. I wanted to break all his bones. I didn’t know who he was or where he lived. So I visited all the places you’d take me to on our adventure trips around this city. I thought you might have taken him to the same places. I imagined that he must have some regrets about the two of you falling out and that he’d come looking for you in these places, if only to assuage his guilt: I’d sit on the the steps of Krishna Mandir; on that paati near Sankhamul; inside the walled courtyard of that temple in Teku, which we’d decided was a gem of a hidden spot. But every man I laid my eyes on had something about them that gave them away as not being your lover. Many were too good looking. Many exuded too much peace in their demeanour. And most didn’t have that edge about them that I knew drew you to people: I can sense that edgy energy from a mile away. Because I’d lived in that energy’s presence with you for close to twenty-five years: fidgety fingers always smoothing down something, such as a wayward crease on your shirt; impatient eyes that darted like swift swallows; your taut body holding in a breath for too long because it couldn’t let go of a persistent thought.

I’m not you so I keep telling myself that I can let go of things easier and try to get on with things. I’m writing this to let you know that I’ve been engaged and that I’ve made up my mind to focus on my future family. Ma wants grandkids. I wish you could teach me how to imagine resurrecting you from your crypt and to imagine you playing with the kids, with them hanging from your arms, like we used to do with Ma, before you started questioning the world. But I don’t know where I’ll send this letter.