Thirteen

-Sampurna Pal

When I woke up, the sun was setting with a dark orange hue on the horizon. I don’t even remember when I had fallen asleep. I was in a somewhat familiar environment: I was back home. I shivered while getting out of the cozy blanket and looked through the glass window that oversaw the icy, silent town. Winters are pretty narcissistic that way.

I walked through the room to the kitchen, made myself a steaming hot cup of coffee, and sat on the kitchen island, a place Maa regularly told me not to sit on. I slept well after a long time without guilt and felt fresh. I did not have the same feelings of severe dejection or despondency, nor was I worried about an uncertain outcome. The voices in my head that kept screaming the other day were somehow buried down today. The almost nutty and lightly caramelized smell of the freshly brewed coffee in my hand brought me back to reality. This cup seems different… did Maa buy a new cup? Who knows? Wait! Did
Maa bake these white chocolate cookies for me? Ahhhhh… I love her so much.
 
 After finishing the coffee, I took two cookies, got off the island, and started exploring the house as if I were a little kid again. I had come home after a long time, and not much had changed in the last seven years. The TV in the living room was like a trophy because nobody ever watched TV in our house; everyone was always glued to their mobile phones. The cherry red 260-liter fridge stood in a corner outside the kitchen, which was bought when I was probably 11 years old. Across the refrigerator was the wooden table with many polythene bags filled with fruits, rice, ghee, flowers, and other stuff. Oh, I remember now, priests were coming.
 
At the end of the living room was the big puja Ghar. Maa carefully designed it according to Vastu, and Baba filled the room with a big platform, family deities, and idols. I stood outside and examined the room. The diya was not lit for a few days, the ashes of the
agarbatti had fallen on a piece of cloth beneath and had burned it, the flowers all dried up and scattered on the floor. Closing the door to the puja Ghar, I returned to my bed and drifted away to dreamland
 
Around seven, I woke up to my little brother beside me. He looked tired. College was taking up all of his time. A different kind of calmness struck me as I realized how much he had grown up to be a good brother and a great son. Although I was leaving today, I was happy.
 
Lying in bed, wide awake, I could hear the stirrings of life. Bhai’s breathing, the fan running at its lowest speed, the sound of the fluttery pages of the Technology Co-operative calendar hanging from a nail on the light pink wall. I could hear the scouring sound of a broom sluicing the courtyard. Baba was brushing his teeth in the bathroom, and Maa was making tea in the kitchen with her half-formed movements. Children were coming out of their houses and waiting for their vans; to go to school. A few rickshaws and cyclists pass by, all in a hurry before the school gates close.

I got out of bed and walked up to where my parents were. Their pale faces and puffy eyelids gave in as I realized they hadn’t slept well last night. Both of them were sipping on their cup of tea, and both of them were tired. Not a single word was spoken.

A few hours passed by, and friends and family started to come. I took a bath, wore the perfect dress, and came down to the courtyard where everything was taking place. The place was filled with everyone’s voices, the sounds of water, the clatter of metal buckets, food being prepared in the kitchen, the smell of agarbatti and flowers, and the priests chanting their prayers and getting ready for the havan.

 In the middle of the courtyard was a plaque; on a white platform covered with white garlands and incense sticks. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at my family for the last time, but I knew I had to leave.
 

 It was thirteen days since I had come back home.
 It was thirteen days since I had died.

4 Responses

  1. Heart touching. 🧡 Good job. Beautifully written. The subtle nuances of the calendar, the fan at its lowest speed, the things that go unnoticed but clear on a last visit… Beautiful. Congratulations.

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