We had spent many years away from our hometown and relatives. We used to visit my parent’s family once in a year during our summer vacations. Obviously, “two months” felt like just “two days” to my parents . It was too less for them and they used to miss their family badly. Even my elder sister and I are close to our mother’s family. We loved spending time with our grandparents and our two uncles. We always felt so special and welcomed by them. They would fulfill our every single wish. We meant the world to each one of them. Therefore, when my father announced that he had been transferred to our hometown, we were super excited. We were looking forward to spend more time with my mother’s family.
In 2003, I came here with my parents. My elder sister did not come with us as she got chance to study civil engineering in another city in south India. She used to visit us during her holidays. Therefore, it was three of us and later mother brought one dog, which made us again 4 in Kolkata. Our dream came true. We got to spend more time with my grandparents and two uncles (my mother’s brothers. My mother is eldest among them). Even my grandmother’s mother was alive then and stayed with them. We could meet or talk over phone whenever they or we wanted. It felt too good to be true at first. Looking back, we feel that it was the best time of our life for my family. Everything was just perfect. It is a dream of every military personal around the world to live closer to their family. We could not ask anything more from life.
I still remember we arrived here on 22 Sep 2003, in the middle of my academic session. I thought I would manage somehow. I forgot about the hardships I would face like adjusting with the new school, friends, teachers, and courses. All I wanted was to be with my grandparents and uncles. Before shifting to our flat and taking admission in a new school, my parents wanted to spend few days at my grandparents place.
My birthday was just few days away. It was on 26 Sep. My younger uncle wanted to celebrate my birthday in a grand way because it was the first time that I was with them on my birthday. They never got this opportunity to celebrate my birthday before with me, as we were living in other places, away from them. My uncle was planning about the foods and how he will decorate the whole house with balloons as well as other stuffs since the day we arrived. I never felt special like this before. Although, my parents used to celebrate our birthday every year but this was different.
Suddenly, one day before my birthday, my father announced that we have to shift to our new home and so I could not celebrate my birthday with them. It left my uncle heartbroken. He had already booked my favorite chocolate cake and was decorating the house when he got to know about it. I tried to comfort him by saying that we would celebrate my next birthday at my grandparents place next year. "No matter what, we will celebrate together next year", I assured him. I could see a faint smile in the corner of his lips as if he was trying to say that he does not believe in tomorrow.
Life was good that time. We visited each other’s place often, talked over phone daily; we were attending family picnics and gatherinsg for the first time in my life. The happiest among all was my mother. For the first time after her marriage, she was staying closer to her parents. My mother treats her brothers like her own kids. I had never seen them fighting ever in my life. However, our happiness did not stay for long. It was just for six months then suddenly life happened to us and killed all our happiness and dreams.
When we woke up on 10 April 2004, we thought it is just any other normal day for us except that it was my uncle’s birthday. We did not know it would change our life forever. I was at home that day. My senior higher secondary examination was over and I was waiting for my result to get admission in college. Like everyday, my mother was shouting at me that day to take shower, so that we three can have lunch together, after my dad come back from office. I used to take 2-3 hours to take shower those days. To avoid my mom’s anger I thought bathroom is the best place to hide and have fun. After dancing, singing, and obviously bathing I came out from bathroom. I took at least one hour that day. Meanwhile, I had heard phone ringing and my mom screaming over phone. I did not pay much heed to it and went on with my singing, dancing and bathing. I thought she answered a wrong number.
When I came out from the bathroom, I noticed a strange silence hanging over our house. However, dad was not back from his office yet but still the silence made me scared and uncomfortable. I stared calling my mom and asked where she is 2-3 times but I did not get any reply from her. My heart started beating fast. I dressed up quickly and rush towards drawing room to find my mother.
I found her sitting beside the phone motionless like stone and blank. All of a sudden, my beautiful young mom looked 50 years older than her actual age. I called her, "MOM ,MOM". She did not reply. I was not sure if she is alive. My father came back from office after half an hour. Somehow, my mother gathered courage to bring out the words from her mouth. She told father that her younger brother (my uncle, whose birthday It was) had met with an accident. Grandmother further told my mom that he was hit by a bike and taken to a hospital.
First, we tried to assure my mother that bike accident is not a big deal. My uncle will be fine, nothing will happen to him. It was hard to tell from her expression if she was at all listening to us. She was blank. Her eyes were not wet. We asked her name of the hospital where my uncle had been taken. She did not know. Therefore, my father called my elder uncle to know the name. We forgot about our lunch and rush towards nearest taxi stand to reach hospital.
After running here and there for a cab, we finally got one. Though, I was damn sure that it was just a minor accident and nothing will happen to my dear uncle. I shouted at the insensitive driver who was playing some Hindi songs aloud even when he knew that we were going to hospital and someone might be battling for life there. I do not understand how people become so insensitive.
On the way to hospital, my mom did not talk to us. I tried to give her courage. It was hard for me to see her in pain. I thought this would be over soon when she will see her brother herself in the hospital and doctor would tell her that her brother is completely out of danger. Meanwhile, my father got another call from my uncle. All I heard him saying is,”okay”. Then my father instructed our driver to take us to another hospital, which was not far from my grandparent’s place. I found it strange but did not say anything and still I felt confident that nothing would happen to my uncle.
We saw my uncle and my younger uncle’s friend standing inside the hospital gate. We could not make anything from their faces. When my mom asked them, how is his brother now? They just said, "he is inside". Then they asked us to go home (my grandparent’s place). We left reluctantly. Some of his friends left with us. They were quite inside the car and talked tactfully. Giving away nothing about the condition of my uncle.
As soon as our car reached near my grandparents place, we found huge crowd standing outside their house. Road was jammed with people. Crowd for a minor accident, did not make any sense to me Moreover, my uncle will be back from hospital tomorrow, I thought confidently. Seeing us, my uncle’s wife came running to us and asked me crying uncontrollably that how is her husband? Where is he? Why he didn’t come with us? I replied, “it’s just a bike accident, mami(aunty). You know well, he will be fine. Don’t you? Then why are you crying?”
It was evening when we reached our grandparent’s house. Crowd was increasing and the father of the man who had hit my uncle by his bike was present in that crowd. I got to know about it later. I found my grandparents in terrible condition. They were sitting at the floor and were behaving like mad persons. I was thinking everything would get back to normal once my uncle comes back from the hospital tomorrow after getting his first aid, but I was so wrong. Sometime later, my father or someone else I don’t remember announced that, “My uncle is no more.”
Infact, he died just 17 minutes after the accident but nobody had the courage to inform us and rest of the family. Only my father and uncle knew it. He died much before ambulance came to take him to hospital. He was returning to his home on his by cycle to have lunch with his family like everyday but that day was his birthday. He met a friend on his way and was talking with him, when suddenly a bike came and hit him in the head. There was no traffic or anything. He died just like that because of someone’s carelessness. That person is living a normal life after spending just 3 years in jail. He killed an entire family. My uncle’s life was worth few bucks and three years.
After that, all I could hear was the sound of crying and screaming. The whole town was crying with us. Those crying voices haunt me even today. It was the darkest night of my life. In the midst of all, I noticed that my mother’s eyes were dry. She was not crying and moving at all. She sat like a stone there. Somebody told me that it is not good for health. She must cry. We must try to make her cry. I was all alone. There was no one beside me that day. How can I make my own mother cry? How can tears make her feel better? I didn’t know what to do. I was finding it hard to believe that our life had turned upside down just in seconds. It felt like a bad dream. However, it was not. My grandmother tried to make my mom cry but she behaved like a deaf person.
At last, she busted into tears next day when she saw her child like brother lying motionless. She fainted in my arms. There was a huge crowd outside but no one came to give us support. I was finding it hard to carry my mom’s fainted body in my arms. I started screaming and crying but no one paid heed to us. Somehow, I took her to house and sparkled some water on her face. Meanwhile, the vehicle which carried my favorite uncle left us alone ,taking my uncle along with him.
After some time my mom came into her senses. I touched her and found that her forehead was burning from fever. She looked at me and then at the direction of the vehicle. When she didn’t see the vehicle, she said to me,” he left ? But he didn’t have his evening tea. Ask someone to make tea for him. its his tea time”. She passed out again saying that. Her words broke my heart. That moment I knew I have lost my mother forever. She will not be same ever again.
She is alive just for her daughters. That night I tried hard to make her cry and since then she never stopped crying. My grandfather left us just 10 months after my uncle’s death. My family went through again pain and suffering. She went into depression. She has changed. I never found my old beautiful, lively, and confident mother back. However, she always did her duty well. She is an awesome mother and wife.
Last time my younger uncle called us, he wanted to speak to me. I did not answer his call as I was upset with my parents and so I was not talking to anyone. I regret it now. Life never gave me second chance to talk to him again.
Its 12:42 am here right now and my mom is sleeping in another room. The first thing I would do after waking up in the morning is I would hug her tight. I wish, I see smile on her face.
**** ***** ***** *****
Dear choto mama(uncle),
I know you are around us always and you are our guardian angel. I know you saved me from many troubles. Life has changed so much after you left us. Grandma and uncle left that house because your memories haunt them. Last time I went there, it does not looks like our house anymore where we spent happy times together. The house looks neglected, sad, and abandoned. I am sure the walls, plants and walls miss you and us terribly. We met your friends and they too miss you badly still. Your elder niece is married now and she has one daughter. She is naughty like her.
I hope you know that I am getting married too. Choto mama, we will miss you badly on my D-day. It breaks my heart to know that my children will never get chance to meet you and play with you like we did.
Be with us and bless us always! Convey my regards to our beloved grandfather.