Let The Dead Stay Dead

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“There's a story behind every person. There's a reason why they're the way they are. Think about that before you judge someone.” Anonymous. 


Kundah: The Nilgiris, South India

The strange noises set her teeth on edge. Alone at home, Sneha jumped from her chair and rushed to the window. There it was again, a tinny clattering that stood out above the sound of the rain and the howling winds. She next recognized the jingle of the long chains. Someone was using the swing on the verandah. “Heck! Is Mummy here again?” she asked herself. This had happened the day before too.

“I would wish I could flee,” thought Sneha, “but there is no place to hide.” She was used to such a feeling. Taking a deep breath she forced herself to peer outside. The noisy clatter was from an old beer can lifted in the air by the wind which set it down again and again on the concreted road. The swing on the verandah stood still, unoccupied. This calmed her pounding heart. She was getting uptight about nothing. She had to relax.

The winds this evening were exceptionally strong. She saw the tall eucalyptus trees bend and sway. Streams of rain water fell off the roof’s eaves like many small waterfalls. She shivered as the chill crept into the house through small crevices and gaps in the windows.

To keep warm, Sneha tugged the sweater more tightly around her and walked briskly from room to room swinging her arms. The cold could not diminish the brightness in her brown eyes. They sparkled under the round framed spectacles she cleaned carefully and put on again. Tall and slender, she moved with a swimmer’s grace. Her dark hair caught up in a pony tail danced saucily behind her. At 23, she was in perfect health, or so it would seem on looking at her.

Her husband Sridhar had reluctantly gone for the groceries after lunch and a nap. Unlike in a city where you called for home delivery or went to the nearest departmental store, things were different in the hills. If you didn’t stock all that you needed, you had to drive 25 kilometers to Ooty, the nearest town, taking almost an hour each way.

Sneha remembered her grandfather’s old trunk in the garage which she had seen on reaching Kundah two days ago. Her aunt, Asha, had told her, “As per your grandma's will an old trunk of Papa’s has been left for you in the garage at ‘Nathu La.’ Have a look sometime. I have no idea what it contains. Mummy used to say it would be given to you after her death.”

Sneha watched the red tail lights of the Jeep fade into the afternoon fog when Sridhar drove off. The Voice in her mind was back, whispering, “This is something you have always yearned to see. Wouldn’t you like to know who you really are?” She had been curious for years to find out what the trunk contained but the last few days had been hectic. This was as good a time as any to find out. She had time to kill till Sridhar returned from Ooty.

Opening the garage door from the dining area, she switched on the light. The garage had space enough to park two cars. Sridhar had taken the estate Jeep leaving their car outside in the rain. Her grandpa’s ancient blue Fiat with the peeling paint stood forlorn in a corner. “No one could get rid of this car. Grandma would never allow us to sell it while she was alive even if it was a piece of junk,” thought Sneha. But it had meant so much to her grandparents. They and their children had used it, her mom had learnt driving in it and Sneha herself had ridden in it many times over the years.

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