And there we were. Mom, Abby and Anuj, with teeka smeared on our forehead and roli on our wrists. There was silence, in the temple, and inside. Wet eyes, dry thoughts, and papa in our prayers. This was the day, an year ago, when papa was made to leave us.
We blamed God, we blamed the driver who rammed his truck into him, we blamed our destiny – but nothing made it easier to accept the hitting reality – papa was no more. The Whys and the Hows of what happened to us remained unanswered. The only piercing answer to everything was his death. The fact that he was no more.
And then we reached the orphanage. The same place where we celebrated maulik’s birthday last year. As papa had helped him slice the cake, the little faces were gleaming at the thought of gulping it. There was joy, so intrinsic to papa’s presence.
Today, our visit was rather sober.
A lot has changed for us in this year. Though emotionally we feel broke, mentally we have become much tougher. All of us, including Maulik. The little one asks intense questions about naanu, and I can never answer. So many things have pained us cruelly. Like the time when mom returned from the hospital and was face to face with papa’s picture on the wall. Or when after getting my promotion letter at the last job, I so much wanted to call papa. Recently at shopping, when glancing through those kurtas I pointed at one for her, I saw mom turning her face away. Beautiful crimson it was; clearly not the color she wants to consider now. It hurt. It fuckin’ did hurt.
The year has taught me that it is not just a life that falls silent. It is an entire world that crashes, a beautiful era that vanishes. The house that papa tastefully renovated only two years back stands silent, and waiting. The thing that they most enjoyed - their evening walks - would be now so lonely for mom and slower. Her favorite possessions in the almirah - those vivacious, flashy sarees - which once defined her style statement, are now hanging redundantly. For the stylish, savvy, prim and proper mom, I hope her personality sustains against the harsh social norms.
So ya, while the world took a 360 degree turn for us, there is one thing that remains unchanged. The cheerful faces of these young bubbly kids at the orphanage. One look at them and I felt life is enduring. Ajay is 5 and treats me like a friend. He flashes a smile the moment I tell him he is the naughtiest. He indeed is. But these kids have such contented faces. They are so young to acknowledge things, but much appreciate our visit. There was a smile on my face as I tried to wipe that tear on the corner of my eye.
Life indeed is a cruel reality. But we need to go on. And smile should be essential.