TODAY -

The Coming of Spring

By Milly Thangjam *



The winter I turned five, the earth was dry and barren, the wind crisp and bitingly cold. The usually bright sun was a pale yellow sphere, almost indistinguishable from the grey sky. People in the neighborhood seemed to walk more slowly than before. Even the dogs looked lazy.

But for me, life was still the same as it always had been. My older brother and cousin still ordered me about, and I still felt privileged to do their biddings. My mother and aunt still complained about cooking for twelve persons every day.

My father still read in the bathroom, my grandfather still loved animals, and flowers, and trees, and was still looming large over us all. It was still the same world I had known, unchanged and safe. But even then, I was aware that we were waiting for winter to end, and for spring to come.

Little did I know then that seasons bring change, that each season, new lives are created, and old lives live out theirs and pass on. There was that thought in my mind, not consciously, but rather nebulously, that people live on forever, that once born, nothing can destroy us. That winter, my doll 'died' and I had my first encounter with death.

My brother and cousin were largely instrumental in the 'death' of my doll. I got a once in a blue moon chance to play dolls with my cousin, a result of a bargain I had struck with them. I was to keep my mouth shut and not tell a soul about them smoking Grandmother's cigarettes in the "haunted house", an old store-room filled with musty old clothes and books, and odd pieces of furniture forgotten for years. In return, I was going to have a glorious time playing dolls with my cousin.

That's how we came about to be playing dolls that winter afternoon. I had my doll in the blue dress, also the one with the curly dark brown hair. Their house was set, their cardboard box-beds were beautifully made. Two minutes into it, my cousin announced it was time for the dolls to go to bed. An hour or so later, it was still 'night' and the dolls were still sleeping. And my cousin was nowhere near.

When she finally came back, my cousin said the doll in blue had died in her sleep. She and my brother planned the funeral. She was to be buried under the gooseberry shrubs. I felt a little sad about burying her, worried that it might soil her clothes, but I was not going to let it ruin the important occasion. Besides, I liked gooseberries.

After my doll's death and burial, I dug her up again and after a bath, she was as good as new. That was how I viewed death. Nothing permanent, but something reversible. But events that happened some time later would alter my perspective.

On a Saturday morning towards the end of winter, Grandfather took ill when he was feeding his pet doves. I saw the doctor arrive, looking grim and important. My father and uncle came back home from work, that terrified me a little. I hardly ever saw them at home around mid morning. That meant something was wrong.

The house was suddenly so quiet, broken only by the sound of people weeping. I heard that Grandfather had had a fatal heart attack, but I didn't really understand what it meant. I saw tears in my grandmother's eyes. My grandmother never cried, that was the first and the last time I ever saw her cry.

I could hear my tiny heart pounding fast against my ribs and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness, but I knew better. I knew Grandfather was coming back, just like I had retrieved my doll from under the gooseberry bushes.

Winter got over and spring came but Grandfather did not come back. For many months, I waited for him to walk in the door. I wanted to tell him that his roses were in bloom again, that the trees that he loved were lush green. I stopped waiting for him after a year or two. My little mind comprehended finally that death was final.

But over the years, my notion of death have gone back almost to the one I had as a little five year old. That death is not permanent. I no longer think that the dead materialize in their physical shelves and continue breathing, sleeping, laughing and all the other things we do when we are alive, but they do live on in their spirits.

They live on in the things and people they loved, in the beliefs they had, and in the persons they once were. Every spring, Grandfather comes back as a part of the trees, as a part of the flowers, and of the blue skies.

(This is for B.B. Heavily drawn from real life, timings of events have been changed.)




* Milly Thangjam contributes to e-pao.net regularly. This article was webcasted on October 4th , 2008.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




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