Full Text Sharing

“Storytellers are individuals who enjoy creating a holiday for the mind.” 
― Linda Daly

The wedding was over , the guests had begun to depart to their respective destinations. The air was however heavy  with the smell of marigold flowers that were used during the wedding. The corridors of the house still echoed with the laughter of the three little girls who ran around playing “Catch Me if You Can “ just a few days ago.  The remaining family members gathered around my grandmother for  the last ceremony from the heavy  package of ceremonies that each  North Indian Hindu household  performs prior, during and after a wedding.

No ceremony in my household is considered complete till there is a story telling session, usually initiated by one of my uncles and led by my grandmother. This was an important session for one reason. The stories were directed towards the new bride for her to get a glimpse of the personalities that she would be interacting with for the rest of her life. As it so happens, the entire crowd unanimously decided to make me the topic of their stories. The light jovial atmosphere elicited laughter from me accompanied with a volley of protests when I could anticipate  a particularly embarrassing anecdote about me ready to be told. The atmosphere also brought tears to my eyes because the master storyteller of my life was conspicuous by his absence.  Stories about me were told but the punch was missing. Some stories were deliberately left untold for  they were best narrated when they came from the Storyteller himself. Amongst the happy faces, my   heart  was suddenly and unbearably tired.

  Our lives, my Storyteller’s and mine are intertwined in such a way that it is difficult to say where one began and the other‘s ended. Our lives decided to cross reach other and be firmly clasped in each other’s grip the day I was born.  I was told he was the first person to hold me in his arms when my mother returned home from the hospital.  Every time I try to imagine the tiny arms of an eleven year old  holding an even tinier me, a smile reaches my eye and makes them bright and small. In a family where  most people were either much older to my mother or her contemporaries, my Storyteller quickly became my only friend.  Every year I would eagerly wait for my summer vacation so that I could spend  a whole month ( or sometimes two) with him. My grandmother’s cooking, my aunts’ affection and endless hours of playing house with my cousins was an attractive deal  that each visit to my mother’s family offered. All this was the cake though. The proverbial icing and the cherry was my Storyteller. 

 Every teenager needs a confidant, who can just listen to him/her without being judgemental. A person who is there, just there. Always. Sometimes as a buddy ,sneaking out at nights for a long drive through the pothole covered roads, sometimes as a counsellor to tell you that you must apologise to your  parents for being rude ;  oftentimes as a complaint box where the teenager can go and register all his/ her grievances against the world and also as a shoulder to cry upon when a 14 year old feels completely alienated and totally friendless. He was all that to me and much more. He was my growing up buddy on whom I piggy backed  and learnt swimming when I was five. There is nothing better for a fifteen year old to have a much older friend who loves her to bits but also treats her as an adult. I felt totally smudged.  

“  I’m in a lot of pain Pragya”, said my Storyteller. This was the only sentence he spoke in all the five days I was with him.  I had only heard that chemotherapy and radiation are painful processes. Today my Storyteller was a living example of this. I wanted to hug him tight, kiss his forehead and take away all his pain. But I could not.  He was frail and had lost a significant amount of weight. My hug could have caused him more harm than the good I wanted to pass on. Instead I mumbled something about “this too shall pass away” and let  the silent flood of my tears drench my cheeks.  My childhood hero was talking about pain and death. The brave one had crumbled.

 I  visited him every single day that I was at my grandmother’s, sometimes helping  his wife to take care of him. There were medicines to be given, ice cold cloth to be kept on his head, hands and legs so that he could get  some relief from the heat, food to be fed through the nose pipe that was inserted. The chores of a caregiver are endless. Sometimes I would  just sit next to him and look at his face,  aching to touch him and tell him that I love him. I didn’t. My touch would have broken him further. Touch of a loved one often does that when one is in excruciating pain.  How much had changed in the last few months. The man who knew nothing but to smile at life had a deeply troubled  expression even in his sleep.  The Storyteller who loved telling anecdotes about  his family now begged for silence around him. The difference was never as stark between his and my life as when I was sponging his arms with ice-cold cloth. My extremely tanned and deep orange hennaed hands against his pale and thin arms. It was as if  life was mocking at both of us for thinking that our lives would be intertwined forever with happy thoughts with a sprinkle of  teasing affection that only an uncle and niece share.  

 I am back from visiting him. I get up, get dressed and go to work  like any other day. Everything is the same; except for one minor change.  My mind refuses to let go of the only sentence my Storyteller told me a few days ago. Nowadays I walk around with a helpless rage enveloping me like a blanket. My optimism is wavering like a flame against the wind but I have resolved to be strong.  The tunnel looks unending and the light very faint. Go near the tunnel, crinkle your eyes a bit and see through it again.  Don’t you see a handsome man holding the hands of his children and beside him is his lovely wife smiling at him. Yes that’s the one,  the Storyteller of my life. 


Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.