As she made her way to her cold car- the only one in the deserted parking lot- Amulya’s mind took her to the night when he ended up here. And she wished it hadn’t.
Last night, she saw him again. Of the eleven nights Amulya spent religiously walking up to his room just to stroke his cheek and wish him a good night, this was the last. He has left her and there is nothing she can do to stop him now. “I just hope you shine as bright as everyone said you would, wherever you end up”, she said to herself, her breath billowing white puffs in the cold December air.
He and Amulya went long back. In fact, he was a part of her life for as far back as her memory took her. It had been just a day since he left but it felt to her as if an entire lifetime had passed. She never got to have much of him in his last days, anyway. So many people had hovered all around him that she can bet her last penny on the fact that he did not get enough time to even register their faces. Sitting on the corner of her bed in the darkness, she allowed herself to go further into her memory since she had ventured to step into it anyway. She took a deep breath and prepared herself for the inevitable outburst of helpless sobs. But she seemed to get a weird high off this. She would think about him, tear herself into pieces, then gather those pieces back up and go about as if nothing had happened- until some random instance struck her memory once again. This had become a pattern for the past twenty- four hours.
This time she thought about his blue eyes. Throughout his life, people had marvelled at the way he looked. This, along with his kindness and his wisdom made him the star attraction in the family. His milky white skin paired with those impenetrable crystal blue eyes, in a family of brown skin and brown eyes, made him stand out. What else made him stand out was his upright, strong and confident demeanour. He wasn’t particularly tall but the serious expression he always wore on his face made people respect him the way one would respect their guru. His dark round glasses and his loud and clear voice made him someone who could not be messed with. He was grand. He was enigmatic. He had been a great sportsman and athlete. From hockey to long jump- he aced it all. In fact, he had turned his passion for sports into his career at Roorkee University. But- there’s always a but- just like with every single person on this planet, life happened to him.
Amulya now went back to the day when she was shooting for a short film project with her friends. She was in the middle of being slapped and thrown on the floor by her abusive husband when her phone rang. The hint of alarm was clear in her mother’s otherwise calm voice.
“Beta, go back home right now. We’re on our way back as well. Baba lost his balance and fell.” There was a short pause on the other end and then in an almost whimper, her mother said, “he’s hurt.”
Up until this moment Amulya had not been too acknowledging of Baba’s presence in the home- or in her life. She had done what was required of every grandchild to do and that was essentially where her relationship with him ended, apart from the occasional storytelling sessions where he would narrate anecdotes from the past that Amulya had learned by heart over these seventeen years of her life. But she loved hearing them over and over again.
The last three months, Amulya thought, went by in a blur. She tried remembering what those three months felt like but all she could recall were little bits and pieces of stark images that now seems to be engraved on her mind. Endless, sleepless nights, shaking hands, dribbling drool, forgetfulness and broken speech. This is all she could remember and, perhaps, all she would remember from hereon of those three months. Instead of tearing apart this time though, she surprised herself. She got up and gave out a little sad laugh. It was funny, she thought, how a lifetime of grandeur could be overshadowed in three swift months, and be packed away and sent over to the other side.
That pleasant October day fastened Baba’s departure. With each passing day, Baba’s winter neared until he was as cold as that December night which took him away.