Friday, June 10, 2005

Halfway to heaven

My cousin was born when I was 12. She then naturally became the youngest in our family, on my mother’s side. She was the first baby I remember seeing grow up… fevers, colds, coughs, throwing up, dirty diapers, wails, gurgles all became a part of our life…

She was a special child. She was ill all the time. Seizures rocked her small and fragile body all the time. I hoped fervently that hers wouldn’t be my first experience at dealing with death.

But she lived. Every summer vacation when I saw her I was filled with happiness. My sister threw jealous fits when she saw me with my cousin. I didn’t have anything much to do anyway, so I walked her, played with her and even put her to bed and crooned songs that were way out of tune.

Her seizures never stopped though. Epileptic attacks were common and they tore my heart each time they happened. Each attack and I mentally told myself that this was gonna be the last time I am to see her alive, but she fought through each…

She was 6 and I was 18. Her brothers, two of them- one was too young to pay much of an attention to her at 10; and the other had a voice that was breaking and a sprout of hair that was alien on his face to him and her at 14, whom she didn’t pay much attention to!

I had a shadow those years. Wherever I went she came along. It was quite amusing actually… When my sister and I had innumerable quarrels right from the color of dress to buy to what to get mom to cook, it was nice to find an ardent admirer. She saved me the best slices of the mango, unbroken biscuits, colored glass and sequins… Her admiring glances when I combed my hair, wore my dress, painted my nails or just about anything I did…

School was out of question for her and hence friends were too. Neighbors and their children played all the time and any kind of physical activity was forbidden to her.

All through the year she waited for the summer holidays when I would come. Phone conversations always went on in the whining and almost pleading tone of, “When are you coming… Come soon please...”

A wedding somewhere in Thrissur and everyone at home wanted to go. Save me. My mother knew better than to force me into going along with them.

My aunt had more trust in me than I had in myself, for when my little cousin asked her if she could stay back too, my aunt assented after a brief pause. My cousin hugged me tight and said, “Chech, lets do everything we shouldn’t!” That’s when I very badly wanted to go for the wedding.

Waving till my arms ached, not because of the waving alone but also since I was carrying her, we went back inside after the car and my family turned the corner.

Home alone and with a child who was ill was scary. She never bothered me to play with her dolls or houses or any of those games that one could play sitting. She let me read my books or just sit all hunched up in the arm chair and think morbid thoughts.

She wanted to tell me something. I put my book down and smiled at her. Climbing onto the arm of the chair, she asked, “Can I play?”

There was a hitch, there had to be a hitch. She would never ask me if she could do something she’d been doing all 6 years of her life!

“What do you want to play?” I asked guardedly.

“Shall we fly a kite? A red one with a yellow tail?”

A kite?? I didn’t know anything about flying kites! I only knew about kites that flew by themselves- no strings attached!

“But I don’t know how to make one.”

I didn’t know how to fly one either. But I didn’t want to lose the one admirer I ever had!

“Oh don’t you worry. I have one.”

That’s when I actually began worrying.

“I don’t think there’s enough wind sweetheart, to fly a kite. And its ages since I’ve ever flown one”

Ages? Yeah- the period of time that means ‘NEVER’!

“We can try alle?”

Did kite flying involve any physical activity, I frantically asked myself? The people I’ve seen didn’t move much apart from their hands. She could move her hands alright….

She went in and came out with a red kite with yellow tail and a bundle of string. I didn’t even know where the string was to be tied.

Sitting on the floor, she looked at me with eyes full of confidence, while I tried my best to figure out which part of the kite would have a string. Was google invented then? But well, we didn’t have a computer and I didn’t know how to use one very well anyway. And P.L. Travers had only told me how one can come down from the sky on a kite! I realized that I had a lot of totally useless information….

I tied the string to all places that were tie-able! I even gummed the string with resin and saliva. A few staples were added on. Our kite finally felt like a baby with too many diapers!

If she appeared doubtful to all activities that I was doing, she didn’t comment.





Carrying the now sticky kite carefully, we walked out into the field.

“Please let the kite fly! I’ll even start praying…Hmm… no, I don’t think I will… I mean I don’t think I can… but the kite can fly… she believes in God, so the kite can fly and she can pray…” discombobulated thoughts.

“Ok, now fly it” she said.

I wish I knew how to! I looked around. It was the only time I wished we had neighbors at closer ranges than acres apart!

I threw the kite up in the air. It promptly came down and added onto its red body, green grass and mud!

“I don’t think that’s how you do it”, she said after a number of attempts at throwing the kite up and expecting it to fly.

I figured that much out myself.

“I think you should run”

I should what? Run? And with the kite? Never be kind to anybody, I learnt that day.

I even ran with the kite and the string. Now don’t ask me how that was supposed to make the kite fly!

“Think like an engineer” I told myself. But I’d only been granted admission to an Engineering college and I knew already that I’d make a rotten engineer.

I asked her to hold the now almost pathetic looking kite. Walking a few paces away from her, I unraveled the string. We stood there looking at each other for sometime.

Holding the kite, she ran all of a sudden. The string that I wasn’t holding on too tightly too, unfurled on… I stood there in shock. She wasn’t supposed to run!

I tugged at the running length of the twine. Maybe it was the sudden act on my part or maybe it was bad twine, it snapped. At that exact moment, she let go of the kite… the kite disencumbered, fluttered a few moments in the air and lifted up… it flew up and away… while both of us stood below and looked at it…

I hugged her how panting, trembling body, terrified that she was going to get yet another attack and die in my arms as I always feared would happen…I could feel her heart hammering like crazy. Don’t know whose was louder, hers or mine.

“We flew a kite chechi”, she panted.

“We flew a kite baby”, I agreed.

She flew a kite that day…A kite that went halfway to heaven….

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful... :o)~

6:05 AM  
Blogger Arvind Iyer said...

yeee..
Colour photu !!
I'll read it later :)

8:05 AM  
Blogger Kraz Arkin said...

Think like an engineer..LOL...but kites are exhilarating.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Praveen said...

Great photo to go with this really poignant article. Really good!

2:05 AM  
Blogger arvindiyer said...

Thank god blogger comments come with pictures;) hehehe...well LONG POST>..oopsy meant to say Nice post:)

7:14 AM  
Blogger hope and love said...

very touching post poornima.. you write very well..

6:41 PM  
Blogger Arvind Iyer said...

damn good.
fiction ?

9:33 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Fadia: Where's the bib?!

Arvind: Yeah- color photo! Damn good huh? You are full of questions mister! Ask no questions and you'll be told no lies!

Kraz: Teach me to fly a kite...

Praveen: I am getting known for the photos... Is anyone at all reading what I write?!

Arvind: Dude- LONG? I only wrote half of what I wanted to! *Sulk!*

Hope and love: Thank you...

12:13 AM  
Blogger Thetis said...

Beautiful picture.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey love...tat was a beautiful one..and jus wondering from where u get all these wonderful photos to go with ur thoughts...

12:21 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Thetis: Yeah.

Anon: You have a name. Use it! You have a blog. Use it! Wonderful thoughts deserve wonderful pictures no? ;o)

2:27 AM  
Blogger Praveen said...

I did indeed read your article, but the picture was so much in sync with the article that it deserved a mention :-)

3:23 AM  
Blogger manuscrypts said...

maam, u sure know how to write!! :)

7:16 AM  
Blogger Sachin said...

Shucks..Beautiful..U painted a lovely moving picture indeed !! Neat blog there !!

9:12 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Praveen: My room mate even told me that the girl in the picture looks like me!!!

Manu: Coming from a famous short story writer, I guess that's something!!

Sachin: Shucks is used to mention regret no?

9:48 PM  
Blogger pegasus said...

a wonderful description

10:05 PM  
Blogger xinphoe said...

just wondering who enjoyed more U or the child...he he

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PsPBuRnOuT KoOl Image, love it :)

6:28 PM  
Anonymous KERABYTE said...

THATS THE PROBLEMS WITH KITES YOU SEE, THEY NEVER COME BACK

I RECENTLY SWITHCED TO A GENUINE AUSTRALIAN BOOMERANG

1:46 AM  

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