Looking at myself in the mirror I sigh once again at my awkward posture and unpleasant new haircut. Like a typical pubescent boy, I want to shave off my thick eyebrows and hideous, patchy stubble.
I will one day, I know that, but I’m too scared that something will go wrong and Tara will laugh at me. Or worse, father will laugh at me.
So I go on about my day, and continue to capture the monotony of life. Standing under the sun, Tara will smile at the camera, lilies in her hair as I squat and stumble to take pictures of her with my dodgy film camera. Then we go about, taking photographs of the grass, the shops, and the setting sky, as Tara accompanies me under the excuse of going for a walk.
Once in a while, we would open up this wooden box that was buried under piles of blankets and pillow covers. It contained more than ten thousand pictures that I had taken with my camera, and we looked back and laughed at everything we had managed to capture.
That little box meant the world to me. It had pictures in it of my mother, which was the only thing I had left of her, apart from vivid, almost haunting memories.
Father, Tara and I became very close after losing her. Tara was my best friend since I can even remember, and father thought of her as nothing less than a daughter.
People would often say we looked like siblings, then proceed to tease us for being ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’. Many a time the thought would occur to me- did I think of Tara as more than a friend, more than a sister? But I’d shake it off as soon the idea even popped into my head.
Sometimes father would tell me that my dreams were bigger than my head, but he supported me more than anyone ever did. Our house was as big as a palace, but he never let the distance get in between our bond.
I have an evocative, almost lifelike memory of the day he bought me my first ‘big boy camera’ as he called it. I remember kissing him and squeezing him. I wish that when I took my first ever picture on that camera, I couldn’t see the loneliness in his doe-like eyes, the hidden pain of a lost love in his cheeky smile.
That feels like ages ago; it seems as though an entire lifetime has passed by, but in reality, it hasn’t been that long. I was accepted into one of the most prestigious photography school in the States; and after a silent car ride, and bone-crushing hug goodbye at the airport, I bid farewell to my world, to the two people I would have to learn to live without.
I was sent to Paris, Istanbul, Beijing and Colombo for photography expeditions. I learnt that the more exotic and expensive a city is, the more foreign and lonely it is.
Right now I’m in a room that is the size of a shoe-box here in Tokyo, and I’m scrolling through pictures that I took on my phone of all the beautiful things I had seen in these beautiful cities.
A romantic night under the stars, a packed bus with people carrying bananas on their head; there was even one of a sea-food market, with bodies of fish rotting away, bringing glee and excitement to the eyes of the beholder.
I’ve been interviewed by some of the biggest magazines globally, and clicked for channels that has made me an important person not only back home, but also to agencies abroad, here there, all across the world.
Despite having travelled the world, I never went back home. The timing was never right, and even if it was, something didn’t feel right. Father and I shared messages almost everyday, but somewhere along the lines, I lost contact with Tara. I thought of her everyday but somehow, she too, become a distinct memory, someone I could never forget, but someone, I somehow couldn’t remember.
I received a call this morning, and now I’m on a flight back home. Funny how life works; when you think of something, it comes true. Like Déjà vu. Father had a heart attack and passed away in the ghostly hours of the night. The house help found his body the next day, but by then, it was too late.
Coming back to your old life after finding yourself a new one felt like an out-of-body experience of sorts. I felt like a foreigner standing amongst these people, who continue to live the same life I once did. Did I move on, or did they move on from me?
After all the ceremonies had been completed, I finally got a moment to breathe and let it all soak in. The house felt too big suddenly, and something felt missing. Perhaps now, the missing piece was lost forever.
Two days later, I got an unexpected visit from what felt like a familiar stranger. It was Tara. She had finally grown into her features, and she looked more beautiful than ever. A ring shone on her finger, and she told me she had two kids now.
We took a visit to the old wooden box and laughed at my hideous moustache and flat hair. It felt like nothing had changed between us, after all these years.
Meeting her was a surreal experience, and it got over in a flash. She thrust an envelope into my hand and was in a hurry to leave.
“What’s this?” I pointed at the letter.
“Your father wanted me to give you this after…”, she looked embarrassed, and almost ran out of the house.
I though it weird that she left in such a hurry, but was also surprised to discover that my father was sappy enough to leave behind a letter addressed to his son, only to be read after his demise.
It was a long letter and read mostly over-protective father instructions. But then something caught my eye- he said he was leaving now to meet my mother and be with her again.
I’ll take care of ma, but you care for Tara. She loves you very much, and you love her too; your eyes shine for her, like stars in the sky. Give her the world, give her all your love. After all, you have only one sister left in this big, mad world.