The smell of mango blossoms and the sweet calls of cuckoos. Being away from home for few years by then, I was longing for such mornings. But, that morning, all that sweetness tasted utterly bitter. Because our old man ‘Gangadhar aka Shaktiman’ lay on the bed, powerless, quiet and numb. He couldn’t even notice me when I entered. I had never seen him like that before. I was mad for he didn’t wait for me to say the final goodbye.
Have you ever experienced watching your loved ones die? This was my second. Ma too had left us when I was seven and Gurjit was three. This old man, our Babuji, did everything for us; ran our farm house, his business, all while playing the role of Ma to almost perfection. He was our superhero. At least for me. I am not so sure about Gurjit.
As kids, every time Babuji caught us doing something wrong and would teach us the “Choti Choti Magar Moti Baatein” (small but important lessons), I would cheerfully apologize but Gurjit, never! Even though ‘Shaktiman’ was his favorite superhero too. Always in the company of some spoiled brats in the neighborhood, being the most infamous kid in school, failing in exams, Gurjit brought Babuji only pain and shame. He could never appreciate Babuji, despite his sacrifices for us. On the other hand, he claimed that Babuji loved me more. Every time he would say that with envy, I would tease him and say, “Yes! Obviously, because they had found you in a garbage-bin”.
For the stubborn, unruly and wayward boy that Gurjit was, I had never seen him with his head down, let alone weeping. But that day, he stood in a corner, hiding his face, crying like a baby. He handed me a sealed envelope. There was a letter inside.
It’s time for me to take leave and join your Ma up there. There is something I must tell you, my sweetest angel. Ma is not your biological mother. You are our adopted child. But you know how proud you have always made us. I am sure our own daughter couldn’t have been any better. Look at your brother. It’s hard for us to believe that he is our creation.
Don’t be surprised to see my will. All that I am leaving behind needs someone who can understand its worth; not someone who wouldn’t even think twice before trading it for liquor, gambling and drugs.
I am very sure that you will take best care of both; the legacy and your brother!
Love & Blessings,
Your Gangadhar aka Shaktiman”
I stood frozen. Shattered. Shocked. Puzzled. Didn’t everyone always say that I look just like Ma?!
Twenty years later, I still wonder why Babuji did that to me. He could have given away every single penny to Gurjit instead. How could he not understand that my wealth was my identity? You know, how one truth can turn a whole life into a lie?!