I’ve been suffering from a kind of writer’s block. I don’t claim to be a great writer, I don’t even claim to be a good one, but I feel the need to write. It helps me make sense of thoughts I avoid. “The only requirement,” to be a writer, said Stephen King, “is the ability to remember every scar.” So that’s what this is. Me writing about a scar. It isn’t one of my best works, but it isn’t one of my worst either.
It was a day like any other. There’s nothing in particular I remember about it, except I didn’t want to visit Nani. I never wanted to. A fifteen year old has so much more to worry about. The game of basketball she wasn’t allowed to play, the cute guy who won’t ask her out, the music that she hasn’t listened to in a while, the homework she doesn’t want to do, the exams she desperately wants to avoid, the TV show she’s been obsessed with, and her friend who was throwing an unnecessary fit now and again. “Honestly, who had the time to go all the way to Nani’s house across the city?” I thought as I changed out of my uniform into a faded t-shirt and torn jeans. “Mom’s going to kill me,” I thought, smiling to myself. I don’t know what it was, but annoying Mom was a new hobby for me. I think it was the teenage hormones that caused the redundant need to rebel.
That day, I wasn’t asked if I wanted to come along. Daddu had told me I had to, in a voice that could not be argued with. So I slammed the door as I slid into the passenger seat and jammed my headphones on so I could tune out the unfairness of the situation. I used to be one hell of a drama queen. One must understand, I was missing my favourite TV show, and I really didn’t want to go.
As we pulled up at Nani’s house, I couldn’t help but wonder why there was a sea of people swarming around the place. I took out one of my headphones as I walked towards the gate, hoping to see a familiar face in the hundred odd people in Nani’s house. In retrospect, I should have figured out that something terrible had happened, but I’ve never been the best at facial expressions. There wasn’t a smile in sight; everyone had the most sombre expression they could muster plastered across their face. “Nana!” I exclaimed as I finally spotted a family member. He snapped out of it and walked up to me. Then, at that very moment, I realized only something dreadful could have happened. His eyes said it all. There was pain in them, the kind of pain I had never seen before. There were tears brimming, and he looked ten years older than usual. He smiled at me through the pain, patted me on my back, and jolted off to where his brother was calling him. My pleas of “tell me what’s going on” were promptly ignored.
My earphones were off and I frantically searched for someone who could tell me, or give me some kind of hint to what had happened here. My eyes searched for Nani, but I couldn’t see her anywhere. As I ran outside, I bumped into Kathan. Kathan! He could tell me what was going on, he would tell me what was going on. I caught hold of his wrist and dragged him outside the house. “What’s happening? Why are there so many people here, why is Nana crying, and where is everyone?” I practically screamed at my young cousin. He looked up. There were no tears there anymore, there was just pain.
“Nani’s been murdered.”
“No. What? I’m sorry, what?”
“Ashni, calm dow–“
“You don’t understand! I need you to repeat what you said. I don’t think I understood you.”
He took a deep breath and said exactly what I had heard the first time.
In that moment, I practically felt the weight of those words crashing down upon me. My stomach dropped and a chill run through my spine. My eyes welled up and the tears came splashing down my face. The chill didn’t go away; it kept crawling through my body as the night went on. I sat down and heard Kathan tell me exactly what he knew, but I was barely even listening. “She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone.” That’s all the voice in my head could say.
I don’t think I had ever truly felt pain before. As a child I had often wondered how losing a grandparent would be. Yes, that’s a morbid train of thought, but not for a second did I figure I would lose one of them to murder. It was always natural causes, and death gave them peace in the end. The vision of Nani hobbling towards me saying “Ashu” still haunts me. I never saw her do that again. I never expected to lose her, not on that day, not so soon…not when I had been taking her for granted.
I realize now that back then, I was feeling something I had never felt before. There was a whole lot of pain, but there was something much scarier than that. Anger and regret. When a fifteen year old is left to deal with loss, she will hardly ever do a good job of it. Anger seemed to be the only logical channel of release. It consumed my existence for the longest time. I rebelled more than I needed to, and anger management became an active part of my life. If I got a penny for the number of times I’d been to the Principals office, I would be rich. Life suddenly became a whole lot harder to deal with. My grades dropped, my friends couldn’t stand me, and I couldn’t sleep no matter how hard I tried. Eventually I realized I could mask my anger and seem normal. It still didn’t stop my occasional outbursts of anger; those still happen. It’s what happens when rationality leaves my body, and heat replaces it. I feel anger more realistically than most people. It doesn’t stay in my head, it pulses through my body like surges of electricity.
Regret is harder to deal with than loss. You learn that only when you have the deepest of regrets. This wasn’t an “I wish I had to talked to that cute guy” regret. This was the real deal. The regret of not utilizing the time you could have had with someone if you had just gotten out of your own head. The absolute nature of this emotion is unfathomable unless you’ve felt it. Regret is the only emotion my mind has never been able to conquer.
I couldn’t help but question the existence of God either. She was the gentlest soul I knew, and she died in front of the Mandir in the house with the Bhagwat Gita in her hand. It was enough to make anyone wonder. I didn’t really believe in Him, I was agnostic at best. It’s been ten years since I lost her. I still ask myself the same questions. I still can’t talk about it without choking up. I don’t think I did a great job of dealing with it. I started locking up thoughts I couldn’t find answers to. And it worked for the most part. I could finally control myself and my surroundings; all I had to ensure was my thoughts stay safely out of thinking range. That sounds weird, unrealistic and borderline crazy, but it’s true. Staying out of your own head is a real thing. When I open those locks, I drown at an alarming rate, so I keep them closed.
There is no point to this piece of writing. I’ve been trying to get back to myself, something I haven’t tried in a long time. That requires me talking, or writing about memories I’ve managed to bury deep inside myself. I didn’t realize it until now, that what happened to Nani is one of the biggest milestones of my being, so it had to be done. It was the root of many evils that grew along with me.