Standing at the door of the room that everyone was huddled in, my eyes went straight to my mother. While others were sitting at the edge of the bed, my mother sat in the front, on a low chair, face buried in her hands, hair sticking to her cheeks and the color of her ears and her skin was crimson. To me she looked small and helpless.
My heart sank. I knew the that the news was bad, and almost instantly I started praying under my breath for it to be bad rather than worse.
Let him be injured God, please let him just be injured.
It couldn’t be…. could it? With that feeling I started going from one person to another, shaking everyone, trying to ask why mom was crying the way she was. “Tell me pls. Kya hua mummy ko? Bataiye na!” Almost everyone choked before any words came out. Until, my aunt looked at me and said something to the effect of what’s left to tell…
Then a hand(that of my elder brother’s) swooped me in an embrace as he said in my ears, as gently as one could…. “beta apke daddy shaheed ho gaye”.
For a minute, my heart stopped. Like I couldn’t hear anything. Then the very next minute, it started beating very fast. Like I needed to do something. I screamed for my sister and the minute she walked in, I looked at her and said , “Diksha… daddy…daddy”..
Then I turned around, looked at my mother, but, what could I say? “It will get better”, maybe? I mean that is what they always said in the movies. But right now, they seemed like the wrongest words on earth. How will it? Also, what was this hard pounding in my chest? As I tried to rotate between mummy and Diksha, my heart wouldn’t stop pounding. I remember thinking, am I going to die too? Is this how you feel when you are about to die? But I can’t. Daddy’s gone already. Who will take care of mummy? Who will see Diksha through? I was 12, all of 12, but suddenly I felt like I was older and all of this was upto me!
The rest of the day passed by in some kind of a routine. Mummy would cry, stop a little at some point, when a fresh group of people would walk in, and she would look at them and burst out again.
Every single person was connected to daddy. Not just people, objects too. When she went to take clothes out from her bag in the night, the bag welcomed her with the stuff that she had bought for daddy from her trip to Siliguri.
As for me, I remember praying very hard through out the day, that let this be a bad dream. Let me wake up now. Please God please. Who will teach me maths now? I will fail my exams… People will laugh at me.. and then who will step forward to save me from the embarrassment. Who will comfort me and make me feel like all will be well again? Nobody. No, I am not prepared for this… Please God please….
My sister and I, used to pray to god just before sleeping every night. The first thing we would ask for always was "Dear God, please keep daddy safe.." followed by all the chants that we had managed to retain over the years. I will never forget the night of 3rd July 1999. As I sat down cross legged, folding my arms in front of my chest, by virtue of habit, it seemed as if I was sitting for an exam and had suddenly forgotten all my lessons. I believe most of us have had this nightmare at some point of time in our lives.
But that night, in that instant, I unfolded my arms and put my head on the pillow, knowing very well that our nightmare had just come true.