My Tragic Story of Loss- Chon Thokchom
My father was an alcoholic and the headmaster of our local government primary school. The day he was killed in an accident along with my sister, he had just gotten out of rehab after six months.
One day while I was right in the middle of my 8th standard mid-term math exam, a teacher informed me that someone had come to visit me. I got a bit curious and confused too about who the person could be visiting me at this hour. I left the exam hall to find out that it was a brother from my neighboring house. His face looked stiff, and with narrowed eyes that refused eye contact, he instructed me in a low and terse voice – “Get on the scooty. I came to pick you up.” I got on the black Honda Activa behind him.
When I reached home, I saw people in white traditional clothes that we see in Meetei rituals and ceremonies. They all gathered in the courtyard and the veranda. Then I thought about my mother who had visited me in my hostel a few days before. I had told her to get me a table lamp as my exam was starting. Almost every hostel mate had one.
The next moment, I saw my eldest sister, Che Abem. From a distance, I saw that her eyes were flooded with tears, and her face reddened. She ran up to me, hugged me, and let out a loud cry. Then I saw my mother in the bed clad in white, surrounded by her friends. I turned around and saw my elder brother sitting on the floor leaning his back on the wall. With both hands on his lifted knees, he remained bowed down. I couldn’t see his face. It was then that I realized that my father and Che Khoibi weren’t there with us. They had died the previous day, their bodies still at the morgue.
Our relatives went to the hospital to get the bodies. It was two vans - a truck trailed behind us. When we reached the hospital, only the men, my brother, and his friends went inside the morgue. When they came out carrying two coffins on their shoulders, all I could hear was people yelling and crying, and the dhuk-dhuk sound of women thumping at their hearts. I watched and listened to everything and was surprised that there were no tears in my eyes. I wanted to cry. It was the tears that refused to accompany me. The more I thought about shedding tears, the more my thoughts drifted elsewhere. It was as if my thoughts belonged to someone else entirely.
At home, I learned two things – first, my father and sister died on their way to get the lamp I asked for. They were on their way to Thoubal bazaar when the auto they were in collided with a tractor that carried logs of wood. A log slid off the carrier and hit both of them. They lay bloodied on the road for hours before they were taken to the hospital.
My uncle saw the bodies lying on the road but failed to recognize that it was his brother and his niece, all because of the bloody faces. Second, the day my father was killed, my mother had gone back to her maternal home because of a fight with him, her first in their marriage.
The people around went on to say that they could be saved if they were taken to the hospital earlier. The people just didn’t because they thought they were “haos” (tribals) from the facial appearance of my sister. The hospital was only zero kilometres from where they were left bleeding and dying.
That day, my sister wore her favorite white shirt, and she left us with her shirt bathed in red, her favorite color.
When we reached home, they laid the coffins in the courtyard. That’s when I could see those two faces. It’s a grotesque feeling to see the face of the dead. It’s like you are being sucked into a deep hole from where you are taken into another world – the world where all the dead lived a whole new life. Their faces were cold, stiff, and pale. The lips were dry and dark. I tried to concentrate on the faces because it was the last time I was going to see those.
But it felt weird because, at the back of my head, the images that appeared were always the ones from where they were alive and smiling and talking to me.
Then someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned to the side. It was my aunt. From amongst a weeping muffled voice, she instructed me to cry. And I tried. I just couldn’t. I had never cried in front of people in my life.
When the ceremony was over, I searched for a quiet place. That’s when I started to cry. I cried and cried, and cried like it was the first and the last time I would ever get to cry in life. Then, for the first time in my life, the thought of harming myself entered my world.
Days passed, and the longing to see them in my dream started to ache me. Every night when I went to bed, I thought of them just so that they would appear in my dream. When they didn’t visit, my day would start with sharp pain, and deep loneliness. It was a feeling of being abandoned by those you love.
Months later, one night, my sister visited me in my dream. I didn’t think of her before I went to sleep. The day was dark and stormy. From amongst the gloomy surroundings, she got out of a black and shiny car. Four men accompanied her. All of them were in black. I looked at her – her fair skin, her smooth and long hair. She gave me a faint smile and walked toward me. Before she could reach me, she disappeared. I woke up and was glad about the dream and thanked it. From that day onward, I stopped thinking about her before bed. This way, I thought, she would visit me again.
When I was very little, I and my sister used to go to the same school – The Yanaki Peace Academy, Khangabok. She was the only one in the family with whom I was closest too. In her company, I felt loved, cared for, and protected. It was the best feeling a boy could get from his elder sister. I always felt that I never received the kind of love I got from her from anyone in the family. I was in 3 rd and she was in 6th standard. We had just one bicycle, a Ladybird. It had a basket in the front and no carrier at the back. She and her friend from the next house would walk to school. And I carried their bags in the basket and rode to school every day.
In 2015 we were sent to different schools. Me to Wisdom Foundation and she to The New Public Higher Secondary School. That was when we were separated for the first time in life. I started to stay in the boarding school, and the distance between us became farther and farther apart.
I live with depression today. I have been in and out of a mental asylum and was once chained to the hospital bed for days because I started assaulting the hospital staff. A lot of things have contributed to the state of my mental health today, and I believe that it was the loss of my father and sister on the same day that affected me the most.
I am fighting today. I believe that I can do better and be better. People have the right to be better whatever the circumstance is.
NB: The story is narrated by Chon Thokcom and written by Veewom Thokchom