Shubha got up with a start and checked the time at her bedside clock. It was 3 a.m. it was a very weird dream. She felt as if Shravan was calling her for help and though she could hear his voice, she couldn’t find him. She kept calling out for him and he kept doing the same but neither of them could see each other and suddenly there were no more cries for help. There was a deathly silence as if Shravan’s voice had been silenced forever. This was very weird because Shravan was peacefully sleeping in the next room.
He had just returned last night from a road trip to Shimla. He had retired to bed early. Shubha tried to go back to sleep and after some time she did manage to go off to sleep. When the morning alarm rang and Shubha woke up, the dream was back in her mind. She ignored it, thinking that it might just be because of her extra concern for her kid brother that she had such a dream. She started off with her morning chores. While she was making tea, she heard Shravan coming down from his room.
‘Good morning Di’ he said. ‘Good morning’, she replied. ‘Green tea or normal tea?’ she asked. ‘It’s been so long since I drank tea made by you Di, so no green tea today’ he said. She just smiled and started making tea for herself and her younger brother Shravan. Shravan was a flight purser, who worked with one of the leading airlines of the country. Owing to his work, he was forever traveling. But Shubha was happy that he had chosen this profession because Shravan was very fond of traveling and photography. He just loved seeing new places, meeting new people and clicking photos. He was always clicking pictures, and if someone commented about it, he would say ‘I am creating memories’.
Shubha was back with two mugs of tea and some biscuits. While having tea, Shravan started chatting away about his trip to Shimla. Shubha’s mind drifted away to their past. Both Shubha and Shravan were born and brought up in Delhi. Their family consisted of them and their parents. When she was 17 years old their mom had passed away after a brief illness. They had barely come to terms with their mom’s death and three years later their dad has passed away in an accident. Shubha was 20 and Shravan was just 15. She had been very protective of him since then. Finances were not really a problem, thanks to her dad’s savings and thoughtful investments. But still Shubha had taken up a job as a teacher, Shravan, on the other hand had completed his graduation, done his flight purser’s course and later joined a reputed airline.
Shubha had never stopped Shravan from pursuing the things that he liked per se traveling and photography. Every now and then he would take off with his group of college friends, on a road trip to places like Almora, Kasauli, Shimla or Dharamshala. He had plans to go on a road trip to the southern part of India but since that would take a lot of days; he had yet to put this plan into action. Shravan was talking excitedly about the trip that he had just completed and the one that was the next on agenda. He and his friends planned to go to Rishikesh and Mussoorie because they wanted to take part in river rafting. Kayaking, waterfall trekking and so on. Shubha just picked up the empty cups and headed towards the kitchen as she had to get ready for her school. Shravan had to report to work only the next day so he had ample time to work on the photos that he had clicked and the videos that he had recorded.
Shubha didn’t really have to bother about cooking for Shravan because he could manage to cook a decent meal for them. The only thing was, when Shravan was at home the house would be in a mess. Either the TV would be on or there would be loud music playing on in the house. He would always be around her, chatting away nonstop, Di this and Di that. He would indulge in antics and keep her laughing all the time. She would never ever feel stressed when he was at home. It was totally the opposite when he was out on duty or one of his trips. There would be an eerie silence in the house; it would be totally neat and clean but devoid of any fun or laughter.
Shubha and Shravan were God fearing people. Their parents had instilled a lot of values in them. They both were very soft-spoken, kind hearted and always ready to help others. Sometimes even at the cost of their comfort. The brother sister duo was very well respected in their neighborhood. While Shravan had lot of friends because of his traveling groups, Abhay was his best friend. He had been with Shravan right from the school days and he also had equal passion for traveling, adventure and photography. On the other hand Shubha had very few friends, more of colleagues actually. Her best friend was Neeru, who stayed in their neighborhood. On Rakhi day, the house would be busy with activity as both Neeru and Shubha would tie Rakhi to Shravan and additionally Shubha would tie a rakhi to Abhay too. Shravan had a special way of giving his gift to his sister. He would first give a common gift to Neeru and Shubha and for Shubha’s special gift, he would make a map and give her. She would have to search her way to the gift and each year the gift would be something adorable. During Diwali, he would help his Di light up lamps in the house and during Holi, all the friends would take off to a farm house.
But for the past 3 years, there had been no rakhis, no treasure hunts, no festivals and no Shravan. His trip to Rishikesh had been his last one. He and his friends were on a trip to Rishikesh and Mussoorie in June’2013. They were to reach Rishikesh, stay there for 3 days, go on to Mussoorie, stay there for another 3 days and back home. Out of the blue, the boys decided to make an impromptu trip to Kedarnath to seek blessings of Lord Shiva. This impromptu trip had proved fatal for them. Due to a cloudburst and heavy rains, the temple town of Kedarnath had got flooded and there was severe devastation all around. In a matter of minutes, things had gone out of control and shops, buildings, vehicles, people, everything was washed away. Only those who took shelter in the temple had been saved.
It was a harrowing time for Shubha. Shravan had called her on June 15 and told her that they would be making a quick visit to Kedarnath and then return back home. The next day, there was news all over about the devastating floods. In spite of repeated attempts, Shubha could not get in touch with Shravan because the cell phones were not working. There was no way out except waiting. Abhay, who was to go with Shravan on this trip had to back out at the last- minute because of a relative’s hospitalization.
Once the news of the floods came in, he offered to personally go to Rishikesh and try to get some news. While Abhay was running from pillar to post to seek information about his best friend, Shubha was clinging on to the hope that Shravan would be back home safely. She would be glued to the television to check if there was any news about Shravan. She would pick up the phone at the first ring itself. In the middle of the night she would check her phone for messages and missed calls. But there would be none. She suddenly was reminded of nightmare she had, when Shravan had just returned from his Shimla. She had seen Shravan pleading for help and suddenly his cries had stopped. She shuddered at the thought and her anxiety knew no end. What if this nightmare had been an indication of times to come? What if? And she dismissed the thought, praying hard for her brother’s return.
Abhay, on his side was trying to get with his friends, to check if they had any news about Shravan. But he was unable to contact any of the friends who were on this trip. There was no arrangement on the part of the administration to get information about any particular person as such. Of course, with a calamity of this size, things were bound to be chaotic. But the anxiety for information about Shravan was too much for Abhay to handle. He would visit the bus stops and check the buses that were coming, to see if he could find Shravan. He would make a trip to the airport and check if his name was among the list of people rescued. Simultaneously he would also be looking at the news to see if there was anything on it about Shravan or his group of friends.
After 9 days of unbearable waiting, Abhay finally was able to get through to some of Shravan’s group friends. He had managed to get some information about Shravan. Apparently, people had to resort to walking to reach safer destinations, since all the vehicles had been washed away,. Choppers were being plied to rescue people who had been stuck at various places, due to the floods. But these were rescuing women, children and old people. The men and younger people were trying to walk their way through jungles and whatever path that was available. At one such point, due to a landslide, several people had died. Abhay was told that Shravan too had slipped into a deep gorge and lost his life.
Shubha was in a state of shock when she heard this. She could not fathom the fact that Shravan would never be back with her beloved Di again. He had been so young and so full of life. She felt that God had been most cruel in cutting short Shravan’s life. There was so much more that Shravan had wanted to do in his life. And everything was destroyed in just a matter of minutes.
Shubha was inconsolable at her brother’s loss. Most of her day, she would be sitting in Shravan’s room. She would pick up his t-shirt and cry over it. She would keep flipping through his photos. Neeru would try to spend as much time with her as possible. But whenever she would be alone, she would be engulfed in the grief. With the loss of Shravan, she had lost her childhood. She had not only lost her brother, she had lost her best friend, her confidante, her son and her family. The rakhis of the world didn’t mean anything to her anymore. She just lit two lamps on Diwali, for the sake of it. There were no more festivals in her life. She had started wearing only white, off white, and black outfits. Most of the times she would be walking around in a daze. She preferred to spend as much time in school as possible. Because once she was home, she missed Shravan terribly. She missed his nonstop chatter, his antics, his photo clicking sessions and his laughter. Neeru and Abhay would come around and spend time with her, but their conversation would eventually veer towards Shravan and she would start crying. Life had come to a standstill for her. It was as if just the dates of the calendar were changing. She had nothing to look forward to.
After almost 6 months of Shravan’s death, Shubha decided to move out of this house. There were too many memories of Shravan here and she was unable to come to terms with his death. Even a simple task of making tea would bring back memories of her kid brother. Finally, with much reluctance she moved into a small flat close to her school. She had immersed herself into her school. After serious consideration and lot of inputs from Neeru and Abhay, she had decided to form a trust in the name of Shravan, to help provide education to the underprivileged children. In due course of time, many kids were provided financial aid and the Trust helped them pursue the education. When any child came back with a mark sheet or a certificate and addressed her as ‘Didi’, she felt as if Shravan was the one smiling at her accomplishments. Shravan had been the sole reason for her living and now it was his Trust.
After 3 years, she had come back to her old home again. Since she didn’t have the heart to come and start living in this house, she only thought it sensible to sell the house. She had come to collect all the memories that Shravan had created and a few other important things. But she was so engrossed in sorting out the things that she didn’t realize that it was dark. She didn’t feel like going back to her apartment and so she stayed back the night. Since she had got the basic things with her, staying overnight was not a problem.
She was awake for most part of the night. Memories of her birthdays came to the fore. Shravan would ensure that they had a fabulous party at home with a few close friends, including Abhay and Neeru. That day he would take charge of the kitchen, cook for her, sometimes even feed her himself and the day would end with her favorite cake and some unusual gifts. He would pamper her to the core and make her feel like the luckiest woman in the world. She had indeed been lucky, she thought to have a kid brother like Shravan. She only wished that the luck had lasted longer.
Sipping her morning tea, she thought how strange life had become, Shravan was gone. Soon this house would be gone, only the memories would stay. If she hadn’t formed the Trust and if there were not so many kids to take care of, she wouldn’t know what to do with her life.
Shravan had always believed in creating memories while he was alive. As if, he knew that his Di would need them after he was gone. Now his Di was trying to create and change lives. Coming back to their old house had infused new strength into her. Suddenly it seemed like she had turned out stronger overnight. She made a firm resolve now that though her beloved kid brother was gone, his memories would always be there with her. They would be her strength in times of her weakness and they would bring a smile on her face, in times of despair. He wasn’t there physically but the memories that he had created were etched in her heart forever and in all those pictures he smiled back from.