The wind smells of earth. It has started raining; the only time I resent rain. We are supposed to collect his ashes, but fire and water usually don’t match, so we wait inside. His room is immaculate as always and the new wife, my ‘mother’ is crying. I can never seem to call her my mother because I don’t know if she is actually a mother. My brother and I have shared only a father since we were born, so how are we supposed to know what a mother is? What does a mother do that a father cannot? How do you know the value of something you have never seen, felt or heard?

Speaking of, there he is and he’s clean-shaven. Thank god, that ‘beard’ I saw on his Instagram was horrendous. It was like a little boy trying too hard to become a man with not even a beard, just flakes of hair. He sees me now; I have to get up and greet him.

“How are you?” my brother asks.

“I’m fine”

“How’s the mother?”

“Crying, as she is supposed to.”

He then pats me on my shoulder and starts mingling with the bunch of sad guests. Now, don’t be fooled. We are not two loving brothers hiding the misery of our father’s death behind futile small talk. We were like that at a point in the past but now, it’s different.

After sometime, I catch him by the kitchen counter.

“We were organising this function where everyone can meet and tell their favourite stories about papa, you should come.” I say, anticipating a no.

“When?” He says.

“Tomorrow after 3”

“I’ll try, I have an important call so I’ll be late.”

“Dada, it’s papa. Please, leave your call for once.”

“I said… okay. I’ll come.” He says, hesitantly.

In 2007, Dada went to the States to study but soon he settled down there, got a job and started earning. A lot. As they say, money does change a man and Dada was no exception. His Highness still comes to visit us maybe once every 4 months but last year he completely stopped. That’s when papa’s heart stopped functioning as well. ‘Mother’ and I took care of him and then on 6th December, 2020 he drifted peacefully in his sleep. His heart was both: the one who tortured him, and the one who brought him perpetual peace. The next morning, I got a call from Dada saying he’s coming back but father was already dead.

That brings us to today, 7th December 2020, 5:06 pm. The clouds are in deep sorrow, so I feel that they’ll cry for a couple of hours or so.

I find myself standing in the kitchen looking for something to eat because endless crying does make you exceptionally hungry. I look inside the fridge and there is nothing that I would like to eat. Then suddenly my senses motivate me to rush inside papa’s room and open the 3rd drawer to the left; “Kamalaal chocolate treats” is imprinted on the box. Only a few people know that Mr. Kamalaal was a dangerously good baker. His speciality: Chocolate cookies. We used to eat them since we were 4 years old. He had tried to bake other goods but none of them were as exquisite as his cookies. We used to joke about opening a bakery composed only of chocolate cookies.

My eyes are dewy with both, tears and nostalgia.

“I knew you would be here c’mon, shift a little.” He sits beside me looking at the treats and I know his mouth is drooling because he is making that face where his eyes open wide, and his lips align themselves into a weird smirk.

This angers me. I know he is Papa’s rightful son but how can he just come and take the cookies like that.

“No, you can’t have them.” I say as I smack his hand away.

“What’s your problem? I came all the way from New York, I’m hungry man.”

“No, you just can’t.”

“Oh, come on, you can’t keep them all to yourself, papa used to make these for both of his sons.”

“Oh really, well I didn’t see his ‘son’ when he suffered his heart attacks. I didn’t see his precious little son when he was scared to die, and I surely didn’t see him when he died right here.”

He pauses for a moment. “Don’t start now,” he says. My brother will do anything to avoid a fight.

“I will start now, and I regret that I didn’t start sooner. You know what papa’s last words were? ‘Where’s Raunak? Tell him that his favourite chocolates are in the 3rd drawer. He loves them even more than you!’

Papa may have forgiven you, but I haven’t, and that’s why you don’t deserve these chocolates.”

“You have to understand bhai, I was busy, I’m sorry. I tried so hard, but the life out there— it’s a competition. If you give up, they’ll eat you alive. All I can beg for is your forgiveness and that’s why I want to tell you something…”

“I don’t want to hear anything now. It’s too late.”

“I left my job. I’ll stay here now, with you and our supposed mother. I’ll work here, earn here and take care of you both.”

Okay, good move. “So, what about that call you were talking about?”

“Well, that was before I ate Kamalaal’s chocolate treats. Food makes you defensive and defenceless at the same time. I was beginning to cry, all my mistakes rushed past me. At that moment, you were the only who could understand my pain and I know you get hungry when you cry, so I came here. I resigned just after eating those cookies. It doesn’t matter anymore bhai, nothing comes above my family and I was very late to realise that. Papa and his treats might have forgiven me, but I’ll still live each day in regret. All I ask for is your forgiveness. I’m so sorry bhai, I’m just…”

He is sobbing now. I can’t forgive him just yet but it’s a fact that we all have a soft spot for our siblings. And when they cry, the soft spot bursts open like a volcano and you can try to resist it, but the affection will pour out of you like a river.

I hand him the chocolates. “Keep it. I don’t forgive you yet, but you need these chocolates. Anything to get you to stop crying or else ‘mother’ will get all the more sentimental! I can’t deal with two crying fools at once!”

Humour is the only defence mechanism I have to pain and other difficult feelings.

He hugs me and underneath all that crying I hear a faint voice that says, ” I missed you too bhai“.

 

– Ananya Pareek, Amity International School Noida

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