He was 21, give or take a few months. I remember him as one of the many tall, gangly, slightly geekish, apprehensively fashionable people that my brother spent his four engineering years with. Slightly on the quiet side – ‘you have to see him when he is with friends’ Young Bro used to footnote, ‘he is like an energy tornado. He is just scared of you, that’s why he is silent.’ – and good looking in that awkward way all late teenagers and early twenty somethings are, trying to get used to what they look like and how other see them. I remember him also as the boy (because when your Younger Bro is six years younger than you are, his friends are always boys!) who used to bring mountains of mangoes to the hostel… and some to our home when he visited us in the summers. All in all, I have vague memories of him; a face in a crowd, a voice in a chorus, a smile in a party.
And even more than that, I keep on wondering how his family would cope with something like that. How do you face the death of a 21 year old son, the one you loved, you have seen grow up, you have dreamt dreams for, have put in so much of your life in to? How do you bear the pain of knowing that your younger brother – the one who you used to tease about having girl friends, the one who used to bum cigarettes of you, the one who came to you in times of trouble and asked for solutions, the one you shared your books and music with – is suddenly not there… That if you grope in the middle of the night, in pitch darkness, you will no longer touch his tousled head but only the empty ghosts of memories of the brother who has now gone? How do you deal with knowing that the friend you spent four years with, living in the same house, sharing classes, joking about people, sharing secrets, confessing fantasies and chatting over coffees with, is suddenly never going to call you, never going to hold hands with you, never going to listen to brave plans of things to do and life to come? I know that we are all braver than we think we are, that we find resources within us to cope with the pain, the grief and the searing agony of loss of life… but I do know that I am very scared of searching so deep within me to build up resources like this. And I am very scared of imagining what his family must be going through at a time like this.
Death is cruel – not to the people who die, because I believe that they go to a happy place – but to the people who are left behind, reminded, of their indefatigable mortality and the abysmal loss that haunts us, long after the people who have left us dwindled into nothing more than ash and bones, wind water earth fire sky.
This post is for that young man who lived short and will be missed by so many – even people who did not always know him or were a part of his horizons. This post is for the people who loved him, for the people he loved, who are left behind and will have to conjure such great strengths to see themselves through it. This post is for all the people I love and the people who love me, to let them know that I am thankful, even though I might not always say it, that they are alive, with me (even when they are far, far away) and reassuring me, in their presence, that they are still alive, and that so am I.