CREATIVE FICTION : Flood of Memories by Hemanya Vashishtha
It became just a tad bit rounder as I stopped its wavy flow by pushing a finger into its round watery belly, as it slipped down the tainted glass of the study window, leaving a sparkling trail behind from where it had been to where it had ceased its flow, or rather, I had. I removed my finger and stared at its tip- a shiny, transparent bubble, looking right back at me, as if daring me to wipe it off on a cloth. Chivalric as I am, refusing not the dare of even a raindrop, I picked the old chess cloth that lay nearby, and wiped it off. The water stain gazed at me for as long as it was alive, and soon it disappeared into the cloth, like it had never been.I sighed. One enjoys making messes, however cleaning them is entirely another thing. Thankfully for me, I hadn’t created much of one, all I had to do so that I could empty the plywood table was toss the chess cloth into where it belonged- the wooden box sitting alone in a corner, with the strange yet secretive fragrance of wood arising from it, alluringly. I stroked it gently. It had been years since the rightful owner had touched it so, and it would be much longer than years or centuries even before he would touch it again, or at least for those who believed in rebirth. A tear ran down my cheek as I spotted the bottle of rose water that lay beside it. He always liked his chess set to be sparkling clean, and fragrant all the same. I remembered how he would splash some onto me if I tried to snatch it away from me, begging meticulously to play. But the days once gone can’t ever come back. And the water in the bottle stared at me, as if its glass container was a window and I a stranger on the crowded streets of Haridwar.
Memories flooded in as I looked around the room. My brother was the sweetest person ever- figuratively and literally, for apart from his loving nature I had licked his cheek on a couple of incidents in my younger years. Apart from being Ria, the neighbourhood window-breaker and complete tomboy, I was his little Tia- a name allotted to me as soon as I came into his little arms, as he stared at his newborn sister, an eleven -year old holding a tiny baby wrapped in a pink towel is an adorable sight.
‘Tia!’ He had squealed, as soon as my parents had told him my name. ‘Tia, my princess sister!’
The name stuck onto for life. I might have been a topper in studies and a writer at heart, but when with him, I was just his Tia, his little biscuit, and we would laugh for hours mimicking our parents’ voices when they were mad, dancing to the tunes of the faraway Koel who would shout out to us. He enjoyed pushing me into the water- randomly and without warning- I would be standing my the bathtub, getting it all set for my luxurious bath involving rubber ducks and bubbles, peering in to look at my fine artwork, and would come from behind a slight push and he’d send ,me tumbling in.
‘Sorry, Tia. But you’re just so pushable!’ His standard apology and trademark laugh. It was so beautiful- I just couldn’t stay mad at him, when he would run his fingers through his naturally messy hair, trying to tame it, and scrunch his face and speak in his perfect raspy voice, grinning at my discomfort.
Little did I know, our pushing and pulling was a playful game, but when the waters of the sea pull you down from a merry cruise, it was nothing close to enjoyable.
I took a deep breath and opened the box of chess pieces, and eyed them as if they would come alive to relive my past. Tears flooded down my cheeks and I stifled a giant sob. Memories poured down the memory lane just as fast as the tears slid down my wet cheeks. I knew this crying would give me a headache, but it could be put up with. Forgotten memories, be they happy or sad- no.
‘We’re going on a ship! An actual ship! A huge boat!’ I screamed, lunging at him, thwacking a pillow onto his bright round face, happy and cheerful as the morning sun. He coughed some cotton out, playfully tapped my head and chided me gently. A heated discussion of plans followed, ranging from from what swimsuit we would carry to if all ships have their flags. His nature was calm and peaceful- not an instance did I remember when he got furious at me. Even when once I drew all over his history report that he was to submit the next day and had spent the entire prior week working on carelessly with a sketch pen, he laughed it off.
‘It’s a pretty drawing. You should work on it. Tell you what, we’ll have enrolled you in art classes.’
I somehow managed to distract them from the prospect of sitting under the guidance of an old lady with a bun. In no way would I miss my evening Netflix and chill with my brother, although I did not understand much, and he used to cover my eyes often or plug my ears at certain times. But nothing mattered in his presence. That was what actually mattered- his presence.
The weeks flew by like the view from the Shatabdi from Haridwar to Delhi and soon we were standing at the port of Kanyakumari, waiting for the ship to come by. I had my laced hat wrapped around my head, my little palms pressing it onto my ears so it would not fly away. My mother had bought two different sizes, one for herself and one for me from the Delhi airport a few minutes before the plane’s boarding to Kanyakumari airport. We’d almost missed our flight, but later a catwalk down the port to the ship was worth it, for the rest of the little kids stared at me, a mixture of awe and jealousy on their faces. My mother stood a few feet away from me, chattering away with my father, so we looked an adorable mother-daughter duo. She paid no attention to me as I clung onto my brother’s shirt for dear life.The wind was blowing at a speed scary enough for any five-year-old, let alone one who was afraid of everything, alive or dead.
‘Bhai,’ I said, my five-year old self trying to use the smallest of words so that sand wouldn’t enter my little mouth, ‘I feel like I’m going to be blown away!’
He giggled and pretended to let out a deep sigh of anxiety. ‘We don’t want that now, do we, Tia?’ He tugged at my small ponytail and swept me into his warm embrace. I just stood there, my tiny self in his warm hug, knowing I was the safest I could be. It exuded literal rays of warmth and protection. Little did I know that this would be my last hug from him, but not his last one. For soon he would be swept off his feet and into the embrace of the menacing sea below our feet on the wooden deck of the creaky ship.
The small, flimsy handle keeping the window latched in place performed a merry jiggle as a strong gust of wind came our way. Boards of shops flailed around like ships in a storm. I could not stop the flow of the water, neither earlier nor as of the present moment, as another fresh bout of sobs came and I cried gallons.
‘All passengers are requested to stay in their rooms for the duration of the evening. A storm approaches our way.’
‘Ashok, did you call from the other sim? Does he have any other phone on him?’ My mother was freaking out, her hair wild and her clothes disheveled as she searched frantically among the blankets, checking if by any chance my brother had left his phone there. It was unlikely of him to ignore a call, especially during such a vital time when announcements were being made all over the ship, calling out for people to stay locked in so they would remain safe.
‘I’m scared, papa,’ I tugged at my father’s jacket while he tried to make another call. ‘Where is bhai?’
‘He’s coming Ria, he’ll be here soon. Don’t be frightened, little princess.’ I turned away. Only my brother called me that. I hoped he would be coming, and soon.
And so come he did. In a photograph, surrounded by flowers, kept on a white table in the midst of the hall, and all people looked at him with moist eyes, a deafening silence filling the room except from my mother’s escaping sobs and my father’s sniffs in between. They didn’t let me come to the funeral. They said that it would be disturbing for me- his body wasn’t in a good state, not to mention it would be traumatic for me. I didn’t understand- it had been days since I’d seen my brother, days since he’d poked me as I sat trying to make a good paper airplane, with a method that he’d taught me- easier than any other kid’s in the school. Days since he had glided his long pale fingers on my cheeks, picking up a colour from my palette and leaving bright lines on my face. Days since he had told me of his morning at school and laughed at my tales of my classmates who would forget their tables and alphabet and get scolded by the teacher. Days since I had seen his smile, beaming at me like moonlight from the latched window of a house on a hilltop.
They told me that he’d fallen into the sea and now he was a star in the night sky. I didn’t understand- how could someone down below go up in the sky? Was it evaporation- the strange concept that I’d heard my brother mug up for his examination? I asked my mother of the same. She looked at me, her cheeks damp and eyes filled. Slowly, she tucked a few strands of my chocolate brown hair behind my ear.
‘He’d have been proud of you, Tia. You’re such a sweet and smart girl. He would have asked me what I ate so as to get a kid as bright as you. He...would have teased you about being the favourite child....’ She turned away. For a mother, memories of her son’s being dead are overwhelming. She wouldn’t let me see her cry. She blinked back her big beads of tears as I heard her voice crack. ‘He’d have been really, really happy to see you right now.’
Have been? What did she mean, I thought. I just wanted to play with my bhai. Where was he, my knight? He said he would always be at my service , for I was his princess. He used to wear pink for me, even while he had to go to play with his friends. They teased him, but across the park he’d glance at me and think it was more than worth it, and say just as much to his friends. For a brother, he was too sweet.
They sprinkled some water, holy water, they said, on a body in a white cloth in the room. It was the last time I saw him physically. Emotionally and mentally, I could feel him everywhere. Then, and now. He never went away.
‘Tia, ready or not, I’m coming!’ He laughed. ‘You better not be too obvious this time, princess.’
I looked up and gave a gasp of shock. I could see him.
‘Bhai!’ I lunged forward, my hand reaching out into oblivion.
He disappeared, like fairy dust, you feel it about, yet you know not if it exists. They tell you lies to keep you happy but you just know it isn’t true.
I wiped my cheeks and wet eyelashes who were blinking white circles everywhere I looked, to stop the unending flow of tears from my eyes. Water is indeed unstoppable. But this time, when I had a chance, I stopped it. I stopped the flow of my tears. I was helpless once, I couldn’t be so twice. I couldn’t let myself drown in a sea of grief just like my brother had. I couldn’t, I just couldn’t let history repeat itself, just as the way it had seven years ago.
Water was indeed unstoppable; for when the water of time flows, when your time is there, you can do nothing to part its flow. My brother had been like water for me- vital, a requirement, tranquil- but the latter only for I, me and myself- if anyone hurt me, he’d be dangerous, like the raging sea waters that had swallowed him whole. He was absolutely like water- unstoppable.
For just like it, I was powerless when he had to leave- I could do nothing to stop him. But I lived with his memories- drowned in a water stain, a raindrop, a bottle of rose water and the raging seas that lay below when one stared down the cliffs in Kanyakumari.
About the Writer:
Writing ever since she picked up her first pencil, Hemanya Vashishtha is a thirteen-year-old who is a schoolgirl by day, a blogger by noon and a poet by night. She enjoys writing vivid poetry about nature and one’s feelings, stories that evoke deep emotion and articles reflecting the human nature in everyday life