Wednesday, 24 November 2010

One Difficult Question

The curious toddler has now grown into a thinking young man. From the time he wakes up, to the the time he falls asleep, Adiv has questions. "What? Why? How? When?" Despite ocassionally feigning irritation, I'm mostly fascinated by how his mind works. He now wonders about the clouds and who filled them with water, if Elmo was born without teeth (ahem...and a peepee), if some dogs can talk, how batteries work, if he can flatten dough with tongs, if the plant really cries when he plucks a flower etc etc. The questions are neverending, and I try as patiently as I can, to answer all of them, even if it means I have to read up on the sharks and dinosaurs, among other things.
Nonetheless, every now and then, you encounter a question that you need to answer cautiously. Luckily he never asked me how babies were born. I guess Ice Age 3 took care of that. With rapt attention he watched the mammoth Ellie strain, scream, and push out her baby. He then declared that babies came from legs, in a tone that suggested no doubt. However, the trip to Hyderabad a week ago, brought along questions that were more difficult to answer; questions about death.
It was Rohit's dad's first death anniversary, and the family gathered for a small, but beautiful prayer meeting. Rohit took the week off, and we stayed in his house in Hyderabad, where Adiv had a blast with his cousins. From the time we got there, he began calling out to Rohit's dad. "Big Dada, where are you?" He knew we were going to Big Dada's house, but he was confused about why we had the keys to the house. "Where is everyone", he asked me, wearing a puzzled expression on his face.
I explained Rohit's mom and sister would arrive the next day, and that Big Dada was now with Jesus. He seemed temporarily satisfied, and the old cars on the shelf served as a distraction. When Rohit's sister's children arrived, he was ecstatic. He explained to them that Big Dada was with Jesus now, and then went on to show them his toys.
Then on the day of the anniversary, we went to pay our respects at the cemetry. The kids were given bouquets to place over the tombstone, when one of the older kids asked if this is where her grandfather was buried. Adiv who was listening, seemed unnerved when Rohit's mom said "Yes."
"What place is this", he asked me.
I didn't know what to say. "Big Dada is resting here and then his soul went to be with Jesus", I said sounding rather lame. I knew he didn't understand "soul", and I hoped he'd stop thinking about it. He didn't. He stood beside the grave and said, "Big Dada, get up and come here". The other kids began distracting him and soon they were chasing after a puppy, and running from a row of beggars who called out loudly for our attention. The priest was late, and soon the kids were bored and hot. Luckily, I'd come armed with water. Then one of the kids began reading from the other tombstones. She read out verses, names, ages, and began telling us about them. I walked with them, slightly unnerved by those graves that had pictures of the people who'd died. I looked respectfully at faces that stared back at me, and followed Adiv who'd begun to understand perhaps that he was in a place where lots of people lay beneath tombstones. He was getting cranky, and he insisted he wanted to leave. "We'll go", I assured him, hoping the priest would arrive quickly. Luckily, the priest arrived, and after a small prayer, we were ready to leave.
As we were leaving, we encountered a group of mourners who'd come to bury a loved one. Ro steered Adiv away from the crowd, and got him outside.
Adiv never mentioned that trip to the graveyard again. The rest of that week was filled with memorable games with his cousins, rides on the scooter, trips to the terrace where he drew faces on the floor with chalk, and several dance performances to the tunes of popular Bollywood songs.
I'm relieved for now, but I bracing myself for more questions. Even though I believe he is too young to be told about death, I know I'll have to handle the question when it comes again!