The pre-monsoon showers had arrived, and a gentle breeze carried the smell of fresh green mangoes. My mother was particular that I pluck them and not wait for them to ripen. The logic: the larvae in the mangoes will mature into worms as the fruit ripens. This exchange with my mother made the tendrils of my mind spiral and waft through the breeze, teleporting me to something that happened a few years back.
The November sun had almost retired for the day, when I returned to my room after the exams. I rummaged through my backpack and fished out my phone that kept buzzing. I walked out to the balcony and took the call.
“Come to the hospital soon. Your father’s condition is a bit serious,” said a doctor, whose name I failed to catch. My mind went blank, and my hands suddenly felt clammy. I slid the phone inside my pocket, rushed to the nearest bus depot and boarded a bus to Coimbatore.
At the end of the 10-hour journey that felt like an eternity, I was greeted by the cold morning fog: a precursor to the cold news that awaited me.
During the rituals that followed my father’s death, I stood strong – like an anchored boat in a storm. I assuaged my mother’s grief and arranged for all the religious rites. At times, I wondered why no tears stung my eyes, why no thoughts clouded my mind.
As I lit the pyre, I tried to force out a teardrop but felt that my eyes were dry.
As the smoke from the pyre billowed in the evening sky, I felt a small hole in my mind; a small cavity which would enlarge into a gaping void one day.
Today, the void has grown to a phenomenal size, whose girth and depth I fail to fathom. I mourn the loss by pouring my feelings into the intermittent diary entries I make. The more I think about your words and actions, the more I am reminded of myself. I recollect the most mundane things like keeping your room tidy, to the more serious ones like how you went about various family matters with care, and I try to implement those in my life. But then the void deepens and grows in girth, flooding the anchored boat in my mind with questions.
Whom do I look up to when I have a problem? Whom do I take my questions to? From whom do I get genuine appreciation? Who gives me constructive criticism? Who, in this super-busy world, has time to hear me out? Who wants to listen?
Am I not surrounded by people who want to be heard, who want to shower some sympathies and impose their binary solutions?
These questions further enlarge the void, and the void, in turn, bombards me with more questions.
This void, like little larvae, has grown up to be the worms that spoil the fruits of my mind. I wonder whether these worms will continue to infest upon the fruits of the coming seasons or whether the magic of time will somehow assuage my pain. I also wonder, helplessly, this: if I had somehow let those tears stream down my cheeks when I lit the pyre, then would I have been able to preserve the fruit from getting infested?
That, maybe, I should have plucked the mangoes before the larvae had grown into worms.
Adarsh is currently pursuing a diploma in print journalism at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai and his short stories have appeared in journals like Indian Ruminations and Museindia, and in the newspaper The Hindu.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty