I distinctly remember his rickety cycle, the glint through the spokes always caught my curious eyes whenever they had the chance. He had come to perform in our locality right after the chief minister had paid us a visit , but for an eight year old priorities and attention seeking objects are starkly altered.
My working parents had no time for such nuisance, and they promised me something better if I stopped pesking their weekends. So I complied and didn’t bother them anymore but my curiosity refused to subside. And one day I didn’t see him, my eyes searched the vast empty ground he had erected his little tent on . But I could only see his cycle leaning onto the wall of a newly formed grave of sort in a state of sheer helplessness. I inquired, and my dear friend told me not to brood over it as it was simply a part of the trick. He had himself buried, and he planned to come back out alive after three days.
Those three were the most nightmarish days of my life. I thought of all the lives that now belonged to the grave; my pigeons, my six-month old kitten, an unfortunate friend , my granddad and many more and I wondered if they had made a mistake whilst they were being buried and that’s why they are locked down there forever. I had no choice but to wait. On the fourth day I ran away from home and watched the resurrecting ritual of that magician in awe. The souvenir of that day I still wear on my back.
The wound didn’t sting because I had found the secret of resurrection, I took up a spade and dug the little pigeon’s grave again but I found him still as stone sans a few feathers and bone. And I knew I hadn’t followed the procedure and I miserably failed at it. That day I decided what I wanted to be and from that day onwards every essay that bore the words; What, want and Grow up, was answered in one word; ‘Gravedigger’.
Days passed and so did the memories of that day until it diminished into some dark corners of my mind. However the ghosts of the past never really go away they just lurk around and capture you when you are least expecting them. Four years later I went to attend my third cousin’s wedding. We arrived a bit late at the hotel, and it was only when the dawn broke I realized that our hotel overlooked a cemetery. That was it, my only chance and I slipped through the first creek of opportunity I saw.
The graves were beautifully tended to and why not for the dead should see something good when they came to life again . As I strolled, touching the headstones and reading out the names I wondered how dreary it must be six feet under. It was then that I spotted him. Hunched over like a sickle digging his way, he probably felt a pair of inquisitive eyes upon him because he turned the moment I opened my mouth. No words escaped from me, so he was the one who asked,
“Nothing, I thought if you’d teach me the magic of gravedigging”
“Because there are many people I’d want back from dead”
He wiped his hand clean on his thread-bare shirt and scooped me in his arms. We sat next to a grave with a rather small headstone. He looked at it and I saw him drifting into a world of his own, and when he spoke it seemed as though he was attached to this world from one loose string and that string was me.
I still remember his haunting words, and I keep it with me. Although my life’s priority has changed and I have come of age when digging graves no longer seems to be a remunerative option but his words have stayed with me.
No power in this world or beyond can bring back the dead to life. They are gone, and they are gone for good but for those left behind there is nothing, but the bereavement and the only way to resurrect the dead is to find the joy in their glorious memories which is the only thing that’s left of them.
and as an afterthought he added so is the thing with relations and emotions my child although it’s not your age to realize, but the reality will dawn on you someday…
(I’d take the time to acknowledge the benign presence of these two people in my life. They hold the beacon of hope when I seem to have wandered off track. It’s the sound of their incessant laughter that guides me through the silent alleys. And every time when my knees go down and I find myself in solemn prayer, you both will find your ways into it and I shall forever hope that you never run out of joys to celebrate and never lose the sight of that silver lining even in the darkest of days. May you stick together forever and exemplify what it is like to have a brother who treats you with so much love that you never find yourself shadowed by the uncertainty of your existence and that of a sister who will always be there with you even when the sun decides to change its course.)
Rohit and Priyanka (* I love you more than words can say)