Leaf Thief

I was into eating leaves as a kid. Not leafy vegetables. Mostly tulasi chedi and begonia. I would visit my relatives and eat their begonias. This was also the time I started digging a tunnel to China in my yard and burning cotton with a magnifying lens. No, I did not burn ants. But these are beside the point.

It was my grandfather’s funeral. Achachan’s. I do not remember being very curious about death even though I must have been hardly 3 and this could have been my first funeral as a conscious attendee (being specific). I do not/cannot remember a lot of things. In fact I walked into a glass door the other day and couldn’t remember my ATM pin afterwards. But that is also beside the point and ahead in time.

The rituals and the white clad people fascinated me. People were placing tulasi leaves on Achachan’s forehead as a sign of paying last respects. Rituals and relatives blurred into the background. All I could see were the leaves. As the last person placed leaves and left, some elderly person called out to the silent crowd asking if anyone else wished to do so. I mustered all my lung-power and answered, ‘Jnan undeyy!’

The crowd parted to reveal a micro-me in the centre. People were amused. I remember someone congratulating me. It could be my imagination as well. But I did receive a few pats on my shoulder. Someone guided me to where Achachan was resting. I was handed a few tulasi leaves. They were cold. Just taken out of water. I placed my hand on Achachan’s forehead and returned to join the crowd. As everyone else moved on I opened my hand and started munching on the leaves I had held on to. I ate my last respects.

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