The Tragedy

A short story on the enigma of dreams

Note — Bhaiya in Hindi means ‘big brother’, and Paa is informal for ‘Father’

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“The Tragedy” by Pablo Picasso (1903)

Paa had a weird habit of reminding us each day that this world ran on money.

At that point, bhaiya’s eyes would have a pale staleness which signified longing. One meal per day was enough for us.

You see, Paa had directed all his savings to bhaiya’s school utilities.

He wanted bhaiya to grow up and make something of himself, that something being a doctor. Like most parents. But we also needed it desperately, economically speaking.

But bhaiya never wanted to. He knew he had to. But never wanted to. He was obsessed with truly living his life. He wanted to sing. He had a stereo, which he would listen to every single day.

He was beginning to get good, when one day, the stereo disappeared — and we all knew where it had gone.

Sometimes, I would wake up at night to hear bhaiya sniffling. The stress was squeezing the tears out of him.

At such times, I would lay there, paralyzed, not knowing whether to go and talk to him or to leave him alone. The next day, bhaiya would go to school and I would go and play with the other boys.

The other boys bullied me. Put my head in gutter water and all that.

Until, one day, bhaiya saw them pulling my hair and beat them black and blue. And red.

That day, bhaiya, his eyes red with rage, knelt down, held me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Don’t let anyone ever fuck with you. Ever.”

Paa worked at a factory. He had already lost three of his fingers, but he kept going, for the sake of the family.

Somedays, he would come home, drunk. No, this is not another domestic violence cliché. But just as bad.

He would grab bhaiya by the arm, make him sit down by the books and learn. He would ask him questions he himself didn’t understand and hit bhaiya every time he would fumble.

As the house would be filled with his screams and bhaiya’s sobs, my mother would stroke my head in fear, telling me it will be alright.

Bhaiya committed suicide on a Tuesday morning, and all his note said was, “Don’t do this with Aarav.”

We held the funeral at the beach, and after the fake condolences were passed, we collected his ashes in a bottle and threw the bottle in the sea.

I hugged Paa’s knees and hoped bhaiya would find a stereo in heaven.

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