i remember: partition

I remember the shouting,
And the whispering.
I remember someone giving me a sweet.
I remember darkness.
The weight of numerous bodies pressing down on me.
I remember the smell.
The smell of sweat and blood and vomit.
Mostly, I remember the smell of that sweet.

I remember the warmth of those arms.
The lady who carried me.
I remember her voice.
I remember the sweetness of it.
The assurance in it that let me sleep in peace.
I remember the long days spent walking under the harsh sun.
I remember the cool nights. And the small meals.
I remember the strangers offering me water.
I remember all of it.
The smells, the sights, the people, the journey.
But, I don’t remember them.

I don’t remember the ones I lost.

The ones I dreamt of all my life.
I don’t remember the ones I miss the most.
I don’t remember their faces.
I don’t remember their voices.
Their touch, their smell, their presence.
I don’t remember any of it.
Their pictures are as familiar as a stranger’s.

I don’t know whether she was sweet.
Whether she sang me a lullaby at night.
Or woke me up with a warm glass of milk every morning.
Did she make my favourite dessert for me on my birthday?
Did she make me eat till my stomach was full every mealtime?

I don’t know.

I don’t remember the gruffness of his voice.
I don’t know if he was strict with me,
if he scolded me or caned me for being bad.
Did he sometimes take me on his cycle to his fields?
Did we share lunch together while he told me stories of his father?
I don’t know.

Some have stories to tell me about them.
How he was brave but kind.
And she was gentle but fierce.
How much I meant to them.
How much the country meant to them.
They were shook by the divide.

Some are sympathetic, pitiful even.
They look at me with pain in their eyes,
Offering help, advice, kind words.
They look at what I do and shake their heads wisely.
They whisper and stop when I come near.
These people, these well-wishers,
who worry about the hours I spend poring over those books,
Those accounts, histories, narratives.

Whose fault was it?
Who could have stopped it?
Who saw it coming?
Who were the killers?
Who were the instigators?
How did it become so catastrophic?
Why wasn’t it stopped?
What could have been done?
Who? What? How? When?

So many questions to ask,
So many books to read,
So many accounts to hear.
And yet, not one of them brings me closer.
Not one of them brings me any resolution.
Not a single one makes them easier to remember.

They are nothing to me.
They are nowhere.
I can’t see them, touch them, feel them.
I can’t talk to them.
I don’t know them.
I don’t know them.

Yet, they are everything.
They haunt my every waking thought.
They are present in my dreams.
They are my driving force.
My never-ending pursuit,
My lifelong mission,
They are my unsolved mystery.
They are everything.
My parents.