a farewell to Manu

Yesterday was the thirteenth day after Manu's demise. This is the day of the final send off, according to Hindu rites. I presume his family must have done the needful, but his project why family did it their way. A little table was set in a corner of the special section with his photograph, flowers, incense, bananas, his favourite food and of course a packet of biscuits Manu's peche mignon! An oil lamp was then lit and would remain lit for the entire day. His classmates and three roomies sat in silence in front of his smiling picture. When all was ready, we observed a minute of silence. The room was filled with wondrous energies and we all felt Manu was with us.

After the minute of silence it was time for his friends to say a few words in his honour. The first one to do so was Umesh, our spastic child who speaks with difficulty, but he rose to the occasion and floored us all. He remembered Manu's love for food and sense of humour: my dear brother I will miss you was how he ended his little speech. Anjali his roomie was next: I forgive you for all the times you made fun of me dear Manu, be happy wherever you are were her words. Raju who had looked after Manu for years, helping him in more ways than one simply said: I will be lost without you. You were very special, you liked your puzzles and loved to draw. I will miss you. Champa remembered his love for food as she said in her simple way: I use to be the one to give you your dinner every night and little Radha prayed for his soul wherever it rested. Preeti was the last one to render homage. She said: Manu may your soul rest in peace and may you always find biscuits wherever you are. Needless to say we all cracked up and wept. This simple and heartfelt homage to this special child of God was moving and touched us all. Every word spoken was from the heart and true. There was no artifice or pretense.

It made us also realise how much Manu was loved by his friends and classmates. Some like Umesh had known him for years. Some had come into his life more recently like little Radha or young Sohil. But he had touched them deeply. True he had his moods and his bouts of temper but no one ever minded them. He was above all the big brother everyone cared for and loved and today every one was lost. The classroom seemed strangely empty reminding me of Lamartine words: You miss one person and the whole world is deserted.

I sat on a little stool in a corner watching all these children of a lesser God bidding farewell to their dear friend and was filled with a range of emotions I am unable to decipher fully: sadness, love, tenderness, compassion, wonder, awe. It was as if God himself had descended in this tiny room to bless this farewell to Manu. I did not want it to end as I held on to my tears and watched these very special children do what we supposedly rational adults have forgotten: see and speak with our hearts unabashedly.

Manu had once again woven his magic and I realised how bless we were to have stumbled upon him and made him ours.

May he rest in peace.