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Write a story based on the phrase “You will realize a person’s worth when they are gone.”

Today, we bear him on the bier.

There he stands distant, like a fading memory eons away from this moment. In a photo that commemorates my father’s nuptials, all his siblings are boxed into a black and white shot- framed for future generations. A handsome full blooded man of twenty five-ish, grins mischievously as the photographer says,”Ready”! Perhaps, mimicking his favourite, Dilip Sahab, the icon of million Indians, he poses before the camera to captivate.

Kaka has been a visionary: the most ambitious, commanding, sharp, and forthright amongst his siblings. From planning the business empire to laying bricks for our homes along with dad; from planning investments to examining property papers and pointing faulty clauses out, from planning family reunion journeys to smaller picnics in the home ground; from being an important part of family weddings to Eid gatherings; Kaka has seen each plan through. And yesterday as Eid gatherings appeared in the horizon he was nowhere….he lay in bed. Today as we answer calls of condolences, we reel in our loss. Each memory flashes back, as if unfolding one more yesterday.

We are numbed by the fog of memories: that picture of my parents nuptials celebration – the broad grin on the faces of the rest of the clan…. except the bride and groom who are lost in their own thoughts…and that handsome full blooded man who dared look life in the eye….is fading away. Disheartening, nay, daunting, depressing, is this truth !

Today, we stand at a juncture, where this same energetic man who has trained hundreds of young men to become ideal entrepreneurs, lies lost in a miasma of despair.

His condition is not an unfamiliar one: Illness visiting the corporeal and leaving it empty… or is there more to it? Who will answer… but he who chooses fatal silence.

That the aged must go, is, a truth, but, surely not in a painful way. When the old who have been fiercely independent and have called shots throughout their lives lose their bearing, it is deeply painful to see them struggle like infants struggling with scattered thoughts, distraught, they are powerless. I’m reminded of Meena Kumari’s lines ..”Zindagi kya isi ko kehte hain….Simtaa, simtaa sa ek makaa.n tanha.”

A preoccupying sole thought that pervasively nags -a silent understanding of the last rite of passage, is deeply felt by each of us who visits him. We look back at his yesteryears and think of his raucous jokes…the rippling laughter that echoed because of his humour, presence of mind, and natural comic timing.

Now my kaka, is a bag of bones… lying on the Air cushioned bed, biding his time: and, though I’ve seen my Mother-in-law shrink in a likewise manner, my heart fails to accept this even though it were fated. Then, I had the courage to stomach my mother-in-law’s demise and the passing away of two elder kakas…today what is it that prevents me from accepting this fact?

Shouldn’t I be stoic having seen one of my kaka’s rage through the dark night of Cancer- to finally succumb to it? Shouldn’t my emotions be absolutely numbed because of the sudden loss of another kaka to Heat wave when performing Hajj? Nothing prepares one for death as watching a close one slowly move away…

Probably, that kaka’s dying body is to be wrapped in a shroud, the last rites given or is it the fact that one more name I’ve always called out to, will no more answer, it will just disappear into that unknown realm from where none returns. Is it Life’s uncertainty, unpredictability that pierces my soul–that deep sense of void; a hollow-ness when one realises, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel?

And the fact that the ensuing hue and cry…will fade away, as the world begins afresh another day. The Sun will clamber the skies of morrow but, we lose our sunshine! May be it is the voracious appetite of Grief that sucks sanguinity. And the fact, that, Tears will unashamedly flow, remain, in the face of loss – yet this deluge of tears has lost its echoing storm. Because that smile of joy in a black and white photo, that can’t be altered, will never appear again… And yes, as greys touch me I realise, my walk on the path of life is shortening day by day.

©Mumtaz Khorakiwala

An original piece in memory of my youngest kaka( paternal uncle) who was grappling with death and is no more.

© yes

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