Amritavarshini. You would hardly hear anybody calling me by my full name. The last time I think I heard that myself was when my class teachers took our daily attendance back in school. I am Varshini to my dad, Amrita to my neighbours, Varshee to some of my friends, Amy to few others, Varshu to my cousins, and Ammu to my mom. Ammu – would Siddarth have called me that way?
Siddarth – all I know of him is what I have heard from my parents and my aunts and uncles. Are you surprised when I tell you that I didn’t know of him till I was ten years old? He was like a little box of chocolates hidden away from me; a treasure that remained oblivious till I was deemed fit to be told about it.
It was on December 19 1996, when mom pulled me into the dining room, as I returned from school and threw my bags carelessly on the sofa. I still remember that day so vividly, in all its detail, as if it had happened yesterday. There was a cake with a single, lonely candle, glowing serenely. And my, what did I catch in the light of that candle? It was the photograph of a sweet, chubby face, with such innocent eyes, the photograph of a boy with lovely curls.
I saw Siddarth for the first time in my life, heard of him for the first time during his 20th birthday, 20th if he had been around, with mom, dad, with me. My mom spoke of a brother that I had, a child they had till five years before I was born, a precious child they lost in an accident when they sent him with his grandparents for a vacation.
Somehow, I didn’t pester my mom for details. But I burned with curiosity to know more about my brother, who had drifted away like a beautiful feather, back to God, who wanted him back so badly. How would he have looked? How would he have handled his little sister when she got all the attention that he had received by all means, earlier, exclusively for himself? Would he have flung her new doll to the corner, scribbled with a sketch pen all over its face? Or would he have kissed her gently, stealthily, when mom put her to sleep and disappeared into the kitchen? Would he have run away to grab his share of mom’s lap when the princess slept in her cradle?
What are these questions that remain answered even today? Tormenting figments of imagination, that’s what they are – when one remains clueless about what would have happened, if what happened hadn’t happened.
Siddarth was all but five when he left my parents. I think of my mom now. How many times I would have nagged her as to why I didn’t have a sibling! Why should I be the only one? Oh, how many times I have bothered her! Where would she have buried her face and cried then? My heart feels heavy, like a rock tied to the end of a thread; so heavy with guilt. Don’t give me reasons – you were afterall a kid and anyway, you didn’t know what happened. I tell you, this feeling is beyond any human reasoning.
My brother I hear, was so naughty, that his eyes forever sparkled with innocent mischief – like those of khannaiyah. My aunts tell me that he was one among them, more than belonging to his generation. He used to claim to be Lord Krishna himself and talked all sorts of things, like what big men do, for he declared that he was a big boy when he was four! Another of my aunts fondly recollects that he said he would marry her, when he finished college. The many beautiful facets of a small child that never saw light.
These are like pieces of a puzzle for me. I gather them all together to get the bigger picture, of a brother whom I have grown to love more with every passing day, a brother with whom I wish I could spend at least one day. Sometimes, I sit by the sea, smiling to myself as I let my imagination run loose. How we would have built a castle out of sand, together; how we would have taken sides with mom and dad, and laughed a great deal in the end, together; how we would have shared secrets and sealed our mouths and fooled her, together; together, together, together. I am a lonely dreamer who dreams of us being together. I am Ammu, who became Amritavarshini because Siddarth once said his baby sister would be called Amritavarshini, years before I was born. He lives no more to see it, and I live as an impression of what my brother once uttered – as a fragment of memory called Siddarth.