I open my eyes to the scattered sun rays entering my room through the giant windows. I get up lazily and look around and my gaze falls on the date marked on my calendar. “24th June” is encircled with a red marker. I suddenly recall that it’s Bhaiya’s birthday today!
I hurriedly get out of bed, take a bath, and get dressed.
I come out of my bedroom to find Maa and Papa chanting the morning prayers. Maa then puts a red mark on Bhaiya’s forehead. Bhaiya smiles back like he always has. I smile looking at his charming smile that never fades. After all, pictures never change, do they?
I still remember the war to which I lost my most prized possession – my Bhaiya. It has been 2 years since his death, and I still can’t believe that he’s no longer with us in person. Maa says that he’s with us in every smile, every laugh, every joy. He had always had this passion to protect his country from all the harm there could be. He always stood for having peace in the country. He wanted to spend his life defending the country that had given him so much to live for, so much to die for. He believed in peace, he believed in bringing people together with love.
I have grown up under the shade of his selfless love and maybe that is why I have come to see people beyond societal divisions. Thinking about Bhaiya unknowingly brings a smile on my face.
I go out for my afternoon walk, and when I roam around on the street, my smile fades away. I see people fighting with each other over issues that don’t matter so much. On one side of the street I see a girl being made fun of just because she is oversized, on the other I see a kid being looked down upon just because he cleans tables at a local restaurant. I hear about racism still clawing at the fabric of our society, about people fighting over lands that aren’t theirs, about religious disputes that take away so many innocent lives, and it just breaks my heart to know that the things Bhaiya fought for are the things that are no longer valued by the people he fought for. He defended the borders day and night from outsiders that intended to cause bloodshed; what he couldn’t realize was that it is the country’s own people who are poisoning rivers with each other’s blood, and are most responsible for conflicts just because they can’t make peace with the differences between people. His ideals, his values, even his existence has been forgotten by his very own people. Now he just exists as a picture of a smiling young man hung on the wall with a garland around it.
I sigh with disappointment and head back home. It is a camping night so I grab the necessities and drive with Maa Papa to our ancestral fields on the outskirts of town. It gives me some peace to drive away from this cluttered town for a while and chase shooting stars on a moonless night. Tonight, the stars are shining a little brighter than usual. It is Bhaiya’s birthday after all, how could he not make it special just because he cannot be physically present here?
I park the car in the fields while Maa cooks for us. The whiff that escapes from the kitchen’s window waters my mouth. I climb onto the hood of my car and lie on it, blank. I gaze at the beauty of the sky, so effortlessly magnificent. Its vastness makes me stare at it in awe. It has no starting, no ending, it just holds our little world in its womb. In that moment, I realize, that it doesn’t matter how many wars we wage against each other, or the number of boundaries we build to bring distance between countries, or the divisions in society we create to discriminate against those originally cut from the same cloth as us. It really doesn’t matter.
Because when the sun sets, and the world plunges into the pool of darkness, we all share the same blanket of a starry night sky that covers each one of us, equally.