It was a quiet unrewarding morning like it has been lately, it was raining inconclusively for 15 days. The rain carried humidity as its accomplice and the combo triggered a series of health issues in numerous toddlers in our colony. It became almost impossible for me to stop counting the number of persons who weren’t sneezing or having a dead look on their face. I used to jot down the number on my make-shift chalk board haphazardly everyday, any person in his right mind can observe and deduce the reason for decrease in the numbers as the season passed. I thought only I could make a difference by letting them know the invariability in life even after the modern medicine’s advent.
There was a parable circulating among the kids of the colony that one’s who didn’t catch cold or any of its grimy cousins will be killed by the end of the season. It was uncommon and unexpected of people to not catch this previously oblivious rule, as an outstanding kid in the family and the eldest among the 3 of us, I knew that this was just another “Pink eyes” slugfest. There used to be a rumour among kids that if you don’t have pink eyes, you would eventually be killed by the one’s having them and they’ll replace you as a kid of your parents. Owing to this rumour, kids started coating their eyes with their mothers’ lipsticks during nights and took a beating to sleep the whole night. I got to know about this prejudice from my brother while he was crying that night trying to mute his pain but unable to. He is a lively kid who used to be illustriously participative in the unreasonable and often unsafe acts of vandalism in the neighbourhood, he used to bring home his stories of bravery adamantly. His was a role of a quality checking staff of the neighbourhood; any insensate rumour should pass his test of self-check before being heard by other fellas.
The rains started declining ultimately and he was dejected that he was unhurt by this demon, he just wanted to live for until he becomes an adult, so he did the only thing that will accomplish his yearning: drown in tap water for two hours inexorably. He let water pass through his tiny ears, nose and all over his face, I noticed his act only when he was literally bulged like a sponge napkin. The usual rantings of my mom reverberated even more making our neighbours uncomfortable, but their mutual understanding rule works always; scream all you can but pass in front of their door as if nothing ever happened, they don’t talk about it and you don’t talk about it. By the time the street lights were ignited, he caught cold and mild temperature; as the outside temperatures dipped, his body warmth surged. Mom gave him few generic medicines of which she has a bag of, and let him sleep beside her for the night. I took the night off from my usual stargazing as clouds haven’t really dozed off.
A loud thump on the floors and a knocking on the door has woken me up, it was not alarming but it aroused concern in me. I drifted from my bed to the bathroom to wish good morning to my best friend ‘Vishnu’ who lives in the closet of the bathroom and engages me in never ending conversations so that I won’t feel bored every time I go there. While I was discussing the fate of my two-month old toothbrush with Vish, I heard people crying and running around my house. Now, I thought, is the time to interrupt and bring order to this mismanaged house. But the authoritative being in me died the moment I entered the hall, my brother was lying bare; his chest pale in colour, eyes turning limpid, hands unresponsive, neck hanging and heart inanimate. Poof, he was gone. An incredulous second while passing has galvanised a fear of loss in me. An air of confusion prevailed about his death until a doctor established the same.
People started gathering around the house and relatives inside the house. Everyone was busy with their own responsibilities of organising the cremation and taking care of mother and sister. They might’ve thought I will man myself up and will live through it without shedding a tear, but they were faulted in their thinking. What can I do without my brother, who will play hide and seek with me, who will accompany me in teasing my sister, can there be a possible replacement to his unwarranted attention towards his nonchalant brother ? Possibly no.