“There are memories that time does not erase… Forever does not make loss forgettable, only bearable.” ― Cassandra Clare,
If the life that has gone has been like music, full of sweetness, full of concords, richness, delicacies and truth, then there are two ways to look at it, One is to say.” I have not lost it.” Another is to say ” Blessed by God that I have had it so long.” Beecher. Life is to be reckoned not only extensively, but also intensively: not merely by the number of its days, but also by the amount of thought and energy which we infuse into them. Some people are born to lead and destined to inspire others by setting an example of living life to the fullest and facing their last moments with an uncommon acceptance and courage. Major T. Shyam Sundar was that kind of a person. My brother, he was my guide, my confidant and my partner in crime, 🙂 during our growing up years.
It is tough to believe, that it is going to be 20 years, since he crossed over, on the early morning, of 24th October 1996. My world came to a stand still just as he took his last breath, after putting my parents hands into mine and asking me to take over the responsibility of their care from him. Being a brave Army officer, he had sacrificed his life for the nation.
Shyam was just two and a half years, elder to me. We were best friends. He loved adventure and would go off, into the dense forests of Silchar (Assam), all by himself, while we would be worried. Once, when our parents were away at a party, we got all the unit (An Army Corps) kids together and set off for the forest. Shyam was our guide, and we followed him in a line. He took us to a farmers hut and we had a tasty dinner of freshly harvested rice and tender chicken curry. Our parents were back by 10 PM, while we reached home, half an hour later. We did get reprimanded by them, but that experience is cherished by all of us, till date.
He was my bodyguard in school, and I basked under his protection, when it came to ragging. The baddies of the school, stayed away from me, due to the fear and respect for my brother. Shyam was fond of films. In most hindi movies, they show people eating paan (betel leaves) out of a special box. The way the paan is folded and put into the mouth, intrigued us, and we both wanted to give it a try. One lazy afternoon, my brother managed to get hold of two empty silver coated boxes of 777 sambar ( Indian spice )powder. He filled, freshly plucked tamarind in both boxes and gave one to me and kept one for himself. Then we began to enact the hindi film scenes, ” amma yaar, ek paan khaane se dimaag ki baati khul jaati hai” ( If you eat one properly made betel leaf, your mind opens up fully), while eating the tamarind in the same style. Before we knew it, the box was empty and soon we were making a beeline to the wash rooms (Yes! That’s what a whole box of tamarind does to your digestive system 🙂 )
Belonging to the Army, we have always had an exciting and adventures life, with a hectic social life, numerous parties and the like. But there are times when one wants to spend time, only with the family. On one such occasion, an officer and his wife had come to our house on a calling on visit and had overstayed their visit (at least that’s what we thought, on that day). After a while, we got irked and decided to send the couple off in our usual way. We unchained the leash of our pomerian( dog) and ruffled her fur, pulled her ears, opened the kitchen door and pushed her into the living room, where they were all seated. The way she entered the living room, suddenly out of nowhere, with her sparkling white teeth pinned up to her gums, with a nasty growling look, made the couple in question, say their hasty bye’s and rush out of our home. Did we laugh our hearts out after that. Our parents were kept in the dark, obviously 🙂
There are numerous funny and delightful incidents such as the ones mentioned above. But one incident, which has left an indelible mark in my heart is the one, when I had tied my last Rakhi (sacred thread, tied by a sister on her brothers wrist for protection) on his wrist. The Doctors had declared him terminally ill and he was given less than a month to live. I had my exams around the same time. As we both knew that this would be our last Rakhi, I did not want to miss it for anything in the world. I reached Pune, from Hyderabad and directly went to his hospital with the Rakhi. I slowly arranged the pooja thali ( Religious plate) with all the things, taking my own time. Somehow I just could not face him, as we both knew it was the final time. How does one prepare for such events? Is it possible? I did do many rehearsals at home, trying to look brave sans the tears. But when the moment came, it all just fizzled out. Understanding this, my braveheart brother, asked me to come close to him. I went close, he put out his right hand, I applied the Teeka ( vermilion) on his forehead and then I tied the Rakhi, somehow my hands were cold and unsteady, my eyes brimming with tears. He held my hands in his and gently made me sit beside him and said ,” I am tired, can I sleep for a while, holding your hands?” This was our ritual whenever I used to get scared at nights. He would come to my room, hold my hands, and leave only after I had slept. My eyes could no longer hold back the tears and they simply flowed down my cheeks. The fear that he would not get up, the thought that maybe this could be THE sleep, rooted me to the spot, where I had been sitting.Soon it was time for him to cross over. He called my parents and put their hands into mine and asked me to take over their responsibility from him. No words were spoken, they were just understood. For a minute which seemed like a lifetime, our eyes met and stayed locked in a gaze. I understood his dilemma, and asked my dad to release him, from his thoughts of holding on to my brother, for it was time now, for him to leave. My dad gave him the permission and Shyam, thanked all the doctors and staff present there, for taking care of him , during the hospital stay, all relatives present and even wished a cousin on his impending wedding. Soon his breathing changed and with a smile he left. He had crossed over. How many accept their end so gracefully? This incident changed my life and suddenly I began to understand life more clearly. I miss him every single day, but am thankful to him for teaching us about life, during his short stay with us.
20 years later, things are different. Grief has changed into a dream. I have taken up writing, with the aim of helping people who are in need of support, with a hope that, they would find the push required to outgrow their dependency on negativity and hopelessness.
Captured in this beautiful scrapbook, my memories come alive!