It’s a Metaphor
As the guide leads me inside the Sheesh Mahal- the Palace of Mirrors at the Taj Mahal, I clutch the letter in my hand tighter. It is a letter from my brother. His last letter to me. I wander to the corner of the room as the guide leaves and look up towards the ceiling. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”, I ask the shards of glass. There comes no reply. Just deafening resounding silence. My eyes are brimming with tears, glistening as brightly as the reflected light from the thousands of mirrors. There is still no answer. It’s quiet. My brother, unlike always, isn’t here to say, “You, idiot.”- and he never will be. He is gone; forever. As an invisible force seems to choke my already choked windpipe, I fall on my knees and cry like I have never before.
Made by Esther Larisa David
The letter arrived two days ago, while I was still in the hospital. The words play in my head like an old record put on repeat:
If you’re reading this, know that I am gone. I died yesterday in the ICU, of the same degenerative disease that Maa suffered from all her life. However, you, Kahini- you have your vision- you have my eyes. I don’t wish to lie to you anymore. You deserve to know the truth. You deserve to know the true story of our lives.
Let’s go back to the 3rd of November, 1996. The day it all began. The day it all ended. It was a week before your fifth birthday. I was ten. All four of us were in the living room of our childhood home- Maa, Baba, me and you. You remember the house, don’t you? We were listening to the commentary on the Indo-Pak match. However, you, as oblivious to everything, as oblivion itself, were running around, screaming at the top of your lungs, ‘It’s my birthday next week! Hurrah!”, as we looked on. Suddenly, there was a dramatic static on the radio and you said, “I want to go to the Taj Mahal! Our teacher told us today in school that it is the Seventh Wonder of the world! I want to go see it, Maa, Baba!”, and then you tripped on the Kashmiri rug that Maa was so fond of, laughed your innocent laughter, and added, “But I can’t see, of course, I was only kidding. But Rohan bhaiya can click a picture of me in front of the Taj Mahal so that I can see that at least, when we are rich enough to get me an eye transplant!”, and began giggling hysterically once again.
This, perhaps, was the single most important speech that time had recorded in all its history, for your words pierced the two adult hearts seated in the room, like poisoned arrows. So it was decided. We were to leave for Agra on the 9th for a two-day trip to see the Taj Mahal. Baba’s business wasn’t doing very well and neither was Maa’s health. They couldn’t even afford train tickets for ourselves, but all they wanted was to see your toothless smile plastered on forever, and so, a Maruti 800 was borrowed from the neighbouring Guptas. Maa packed us a picnic lunch and my camera, which Chachaji had sent me for my birthday last year. We set out as the sun set and the hues of red leaked across the palette of the sky. The sun was setting, Kahini. It was setting.
What followed, has forever been a blur in my memory. The police told me the next day that a drunk truck driver had rammed our car. They had died on the spot- Maa and Baba. I know this is a lot to take in, but stay strong, Kahini, please do. Somehow, the two of us managed to escape the accident unscathed, except for the two scars. A small one on your forehead- a cut from a broken piece of the rear-view mirror and another, deeper one, on my soul, that bled everyday for the rest of my life. You see, you were sleeping, snuggled up to me that night, as I wrapped my hands around your tiny wrist, and a Tom-and-Jerry rakhi smiled on mine.
I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. I couldn’t bring myself up to it. All those years in foster care at the Gupta’s, I could have told you. But I chose to lie- only to protect you, to shield your happiness. I could have told you when I said that Maa and Baba had to immediately go to Mumbai to get Maa treated and that they couldn’t return until she was fully cured. I could have told you while I faked all those telephone calls from our parents, when I read out the made-up letters from them, while I brought you gifts on your birthday and on Diwali, telling you that they were from them. I could have told you as you read your favourite fairy tales in Braille, when you read Snow White and asked the wall, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”, and I would whisper from behind your back, “You, idiot”, then run away. I could have told you every time I reassured you that everything would be okay and we would soon all be together. I could have told you a year ago, when I found out that I was dying. But I could not. I didn’t have the strength to. Sometimes, it’s just easier to lie, I guess. It would have broken you, and I couldn’t afford to lose you as well. You were all I had.
I looked into the mirror everyday and cried. It was so hard for me. Because every time I looked up, I didn’t see myself crying. I saw you. My reflection. An inseparable part of me. Something that I saw, but you couldn’t. And I would do anything for you. You gave me courage when I most needed it. You were my mirror. So I got up and braved each day. For you.
Please be strong, Kahini. My pension from the Chief Minister’s Office will give you enough to lead a decent life. Go out and work hard. Take back all that your childhood had deprived you of. The moment the doctors told me that I had reached a point of no-return, I donated all my vital organs to the hospital, and you, my sister, you have my eyes. So even though I might not always be with you, a part of me always will- like it was meant to be. I love you, Kahini. Take care.
11th August, 2016
P.S. There is a plane ticket to Agra attached to this letter. Go, see the Taj Mahal. For all four of us. Go, get your picture clicked.
Maa and Baba send you their love from Heaven. We love you, so much, little one.
As despair and helplessness ungrip the letter from my quivering hands, it falls to the ground and tastes the dust. I look up one last time at the infinity of mirrors shining all around me, and whisper from between chattering teeth, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
“You, idiot,” my brother’s voice echoes in my head as I catch a glimpse of my tear-stained face on the nearest reflector. No wonder Rohan used to say that I was his mirror. I looked just like him.
It's a Metaphor
Fiza Khan: a poetess, a musician, a debater, a MUNner, an actress, a national level vocabulary champion, a school topper, and a beautiful human being. None of the following things can be detected if you happen to meet her in person. She is a rebel- a quirky tumblr kid.
Fiza, like every other human is a complex being, but what makes her unique is the way in which she embraces her complexity. Her romance with literature is very evident: plays and poems that drive the adolescents away, are the ones that Fiza adores. She's the person who searches the dusty dark corners of the library. You name it, she's read every other book.
Before engaging in a conversation with her you know that you might end up questioning your existence, because the casual way she inserts deadly metaphors is in fact, quite deadly!
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