The Little Brother
Ruchi looked around at the hall full of people, all sitting there with folded hands. Some were chanting softly, some seemed to be meditating. She had come there at the insistence of her friend Prachi, to attend one of her Swami ji’s satsang. Prachi was an ardent follower of Swami ji and she always kept talking of the transformation in her life due to Swami ji’s blessings. Ruchi and Prachi were sitting at the front row from the stage, courtesy Prachi being a senior member of Swami ji’s group.
Suddenly there was a hushed silence. Everyone stood up. Swami ji walked in, on the stage and took his seat at the centre. He was dressed completely in white. He was followed by about a dozen, white clad disciples, who settled around him. Some had musical instruments with them. After a beautiful chant of ‘OM’, they broke into chanting of some mantra. A rhythmic clapping started with the music accompanying them. Ruchi was watching everyone on the stage with curiosity. She was trying to read the expressions on each face one by one when suddenly she froze. Her gaze got transfixed at the disciple playing the tabla. He had short beard and was playing the table, completely lost into a world of his own. His eyes were shut and his lips were moving, chanting. Ruchi wanted to scream, but she couldn’t find her voice. She wanted to move but her legs failed her. She somehow clutched Prachi’s hand so hard that Prachi turned to look at her.
“Ruchi, what is it? What has happened? Tell me Ruchi, why is your face so white? Are you o.k.? Ruchi! Ruchi!” Prachi was scared now.
Ruchi could just lift her hand and point at that bearded man on the stage. Prachi could make out nothing. She barely had pulled Ruchi out of the hall that she fainted.
Four children; three sisters and the youngest, their brother were playing in the garden. Ruchi, Ruhi, Riya and Raunak were playing hide n seek at the back yard of their house. Ruchi was hiding on a big Jack fruit tree. The other girls were also hiding behind the bushes. Raunak was the den. In no time he came to find them and on spotting Ruchi on the tree, ran towards her trying to climb.
“Ruchi, are you crazy? How can you be so careless that you let Raunak try climb a tree? What if he falls?”came their mother screaming from inside.
“Mother, it’s ok. I have also climbed the tree. Nothing will happen,”cried Ruchi in Raunak’s defence.
“No, you are a tom boy, the daring one. You can do anything but Raunak is small.” overruled mother.
“Mother, he is eight years, not that small,”tried Ruchi.
“Stop arguing Ruchi,” said mother and that was that.
Another day at the dining table, the four siblings were having dinner,
“Ruchi , can’t you feed your little brother? He has hardly eaten anything,” said mother.
“Mother, he is old enough to eat by himself,” Ruchi would try.
“Oh my little son, no one is feeding you. Don’t worry, mamma will help her prince,” and oblivious to others, mother would sit there, lovingly feeding him.
“Raunak, have you taken the application from Dad, for the exemption from drill? You turn so red in the Sun.” mother would remind her darling before going to school.
Raunak, the precious one, was growing up under all this over protection, pampering from his parents and grand parents. Ruchi loved her brother very dearly and would try her best to roughen him up a bit by letting him be with her. He had no friends. He adored his Didi, Ruchi and her world had become his world too. Ruchi kept him with her as much as possible, to keep him out of his hugely protective circle of family. Their parents were relieved with this arrangement for their precious one would be under the older sister’s protection and his presence would have a restricting effect on the young adult.
Time flew and one day, Ruchi got married. The bride left her home with her groom and his family. Her father, uncles, cousins went to send her off at the railway station. Raunak had also come with them. There was a tearful farewell and the train started to move. Ruchi, in bridal finery, sat there near the window, with tears streaming down her eyes, leaving her loved ones waving at her. The train was leaving the platform when suddenly she saw Raunak, waving, running and calling out to her, “Didi!Didi!” He ran as fast as he could till the end of the platform. Ruchi could see him no more. Neither could anyone else.
Everyone returned home after the send off with a heavy heart to discover to their horror that Raunak was not with them. Alarms! Cries! Police!Search everything happened but all in vain. Since then, no one saw Raunak again.
That was five years ago. Flashes of childhood kept on passing in front of Ruchi’s eyes.
“Didi!Didi” he was calling out to her.
“Raunak” screamed Ruchi and she opened her eyes. She looked around. It seemed to be a hospital room.Her husband, Nitin, was by her side looking at her with love and care.
Ruchi started crying. She cried louder and louder. She just couldn’t stop crying.
The man with the beard, playing the tabla with eyes closed…he was her little brother, Raunak.