Creative Nonfiction: Echoes of Time

By Bharti Bansal

It was a usual day. Ordinary. Maa had prepared breakfast and we were getting ready for school. I was in class 8, my sister in Class 6. As the clock struck 8, I decided to have one last revision for my test. My school was a small cramped building which was getting ready to spread its roots through newer buildings under construction. Tall deodar trees covered each side of roads, never touching each other, almost like an incomplete kiss. I had recently learnt about Tyndall effect. Everyday going to school, I could see the sun rays quarrelling their way to reach us, as my eyes trapped it like a hungry frog. Every school ride was a treat for the eyes. If we could have mornings for breakfast, I would choose it over and over again. But what does a child know of moments and realizations. Suddenly my mother's phone rang. It was not unusual. She has been working as a teacher for twelve years now and gets regular phone calls from anxious parents sending their kids to school for the first time. I believed it was one of those calls. Maa picked it up and went silent. Seconds passed before she recollected herself and became the harbinger of this news nobody wanted to listen. Dadu had died.

Men and their relationship with their fathers are complex. My father wasn't like that though. He wanted to take him into our newly constructed house, pkka makaan, and had planned everything already. Dadu was a tall, lean man with a charming smile. Papa called him baba. He wore a nehru cap all the time, and his white kurta pajama which I always believed never got dirty. I had no loving relationship with him then. The only memory I have was that of him running behind me as I carried wooden sticks, trying to climb up the stairs which were mountains for a child who had recently learnt to walk. My mother never shies away from laughing everytime she recalls it. The day he died, I didn't feel as if my world changed. Unbeknownst to what I would feel in later stages of my life, I started packing our bags. Father couldn't believe it. But like every father, he was my hero and I wasn't supposed to think if he could feel grief. Somewhere along the journey, our car crashed with a truck. It wasn't major but it told severity of my father's grief. 

When we reached Shimla, we saw Dadu's body on floor, his lean body, crumbled like a dry leaf, and his legs which were operated because he fell from terrace, were so thin, I wondered how did he manage to walk earlier. The entire environment echoed with the cries and screams and for the first time in my little life, I witnessed death closely. Time went by, and we went to school and started laughing and fighting. I never asked my father about it. But he would mention his Baba and Amma during the times we all sat together for dinner and it became a ritual when we would have no electricity due to heavy snowfall. It was another usual day in Chandigarh, when I saw an old man waiting for his grand-daughter's school bus. Dressed in a checkered suit-pant, turban matching the colour of his suit, he waited with such patience, I could wait for her too. As I watched the school bus pull up, his grand daughter, a tiny little girl in her school dress with two pony tails got out and he held her bag. The man was old would be an understatement. He walked slowly and with a hunch. They sat in their shiny black Sedan and went away. I had witnessed an absence of memory. I had no such recollection for my dadu. All I knew was he wanted to go Kullu- Manali with us. It hit me like a powerful tide and I was hurled deep into the past.

I could see my dadu with his walking stick, always asking for time every thirty minutes. He knew more about time and its elasticity. He knew it had been stretched to its limit after dadi died. Dadu would sometimes appear in my dreams. The only connection with him was nostalgic dreams. Grief has a way of returning through someone else's moments and memories. It did then. It never left me. Now when I sit alone, looking at the large framed photograph of Dadu and Dadi smiling, I believe this is the only home I will keep returning to. It has absence of my Dadu's feet, but now in these walls, I have his anticipation to visit it. At least he knew about it. At least I know that if time were to converge, it would reach back to the day my Dadu died. I would not look at his lean body. I would keep his nehru cap with me. As I travel through memories, I drink my cold tea and believe that somewhere I will meet them in different people. And I will love them with all my heart and all my absent memories. I will love them through my own past.

Bharti Bansal is a 25 year old poet from India. She loves cats and poetry.