Thursday, 20 November 2008

To my brother – My Hero

You and I always wanted to soar high on wings, fly to the stars, have adventures galore but you became a sailor, a police inspector and filled your dream by becoming a glider pilot and as was your wont, you became the best.

You married this tiny young beautiful child and you were enraptured for life. Then you both produced three adorable young people, Brenda, Brian and Bev. I am with you all in spirit my darlings through this sad time.

You, my brother, shared your experiences with me, and told me all about the thermals that lifted you ever higher and higher. I was thrilled listening to your hair raising experiences and when you took Mervyn, our jet ace pilot, up in your glider, you told me that he said to you. ‘Where is the b……y engine’ and you said ‘there isn’t one’ and he insisted you get him down quick! Lack of power did not suit him. My own little sky flight was that I flew a Tiger Moth with Manny, did a few loops and flew it upside down and then eventually became a mother which clipped my wings for ever in that direction. I still fly in big planes; they fly but with no help from me. Both of us wanted to be pilots and were crazy about aeroplanes. Merv beat us to it. Our Gwen, she likes her feet on the ground – slow and steady.

What I miss most of all, Der, is the communication we had – that deep sharing of minds, dreams and aspirations from the time we were little.

So few know and understand how much this impending loss is affecting me. I can only bare it by writing what is in my heart – even if you never read it I know you will know about it. I believe this piece of writing with my heart in it will transcend time and space and get to you somehow, somewhere sometime. This belief releases my feelings of total despair because we are so far apart.

When Dad died, you were only 8 or 9 years old, yet you took over and were the ‘man’ of the family. I remember you consoling Mum and singing her this song:

Mother I love you
I will work for you
Don’t let the tears roll down your cheeks
I’ll bring my wages to you every week
Mother I love you
What wouldn’t your loving son do?
You’ve worked for me a long, long time
Now I will work for you.

No one else knows how deep your love was for all of us. I do. I remember when we walked out anywhere you always took the outside position to protect us. You were the only person I held in awe and whose mind I admired - the great depth of it, the understanding and awareness. You were so like our Dad.

You protected me in school when I was 8 and you were 6 - in the Station School in Rawalpindi. You were ready to take on people twice your size to protect me – you were always my protector, my very special friend and my hero.

In Murree when I was in St Deny’s and you in Lawrence College, 5 miles downhill, I will never forget you visiting me once a month. I so longed for those visits and would sit on the school bench gazing up the driveway, waiting for you and then this little figure would appear and I would watch you until you were within ‘seeing’ range and we would beam at each other. I will never forget your smile – it had a twinkle and a sparkle. You grasping that little bar of peanut brittle that I loved and you so lovingly bought for me out of your meagre pocket money. You would never share it with me because you said it was for me.

We used to sit on that school bench, gazing at the valley below and just be happy together, sharing stories and dreams. Until you were about 14 and you ran away from boarding school. Braving the forests, wild animals and avoiding the road (in case you got caught) but keeping it in sight to guide you, you walked all the way to Rawalpindi, the long way round, got chased by a camel and eventually boarded a train without a ticket. You were exhausted and hungry but somehow you managed to make it home to Sialkot hundreds of miles from your school and shocked Mum. You refused to go back to Lawrence College.

You joined the navy and sailed the seas for a couple of years - I can’t remember how long for but for me it was too long. We were all very happy when you left the Navy and came home to us. You were still very young. I don’t remember seeing you in that uniform but our cousin does and she said that you were very smart and handsome.

Then were the happy, tumultuous years of our youth, Noel, you and I. What good times we had and what bad times when you and I were thrown out of the house and you took care of me and found us a place to live. We were so young. It was a Hindu house, deserted with food still on the table just before partition. It was a mansion with many rooms. Noel came and stayed for odd days. Whenever he was in trouble (which was pretty often) you looked after him too, even though he turned on you sometimes because you stopped him doing whatever it was he wanted to, you steadfastly maintained your cool and got him under control. You were such a loyal friend to him.

When Mum and Dad (Walter) barred Noel from seeing me, you were our messenger and ally and when I defied all and married him, it was you who gave me away. I remember that day as if it was yesterday. You were like the proud father of the bride. You were always so gentlemanly and courteous – a shining example to our young brothers. No wonder they are all so sad today. The three little Ducks as you called them.

Only you could teach a young man (Patrick) to drive in a few weeks so that he could accomplish a journey from South Asia to England in a van. He has often told us of your ‘teaching’ methods – encouragement and harsh discipline - till he was often in tears, but you got him proficient enough to make that long arduous journey. He did it and it was all due to you and the example you set him. Patrick will ‘never give in’ – your school motto. You must have taught him that.

You were so smart in your Police Inspector’s uniform, riding your power motor bike. That was always how you looked, Der, in any gear – immaculate. You still look immaculate in your pyjamas – even to the handkerchief in the top pocket! I noticed that in the pictures Brenda sends me by text. You will never look anything but immaculately dressed no matter what you wear. It is all part of you - your incredible exactitude.

I am writing this for me Der, because I can’t stand this empty space, this silence between us; you on the other side of the world suffering and me here suffering in a different way. If only we had our imaginary wings now!

I am remembering when you, Noel and I used to gaze up at the stars and you taught him and me all the constellations and talked astronomy until we were mesmerised. Noel was really more interested in what was in the ground and you and I what was in the heavens yet we three bonded. You were a navigator and a radar expert he was in groundwater exploration – a big thing at that time in Pakistan. I remember you making a radio out of some metal and wires and Gwen and I thinking you were some kind of magician who made music out of a bunch of junk! I remember those days in Kohinoor Buildings.

I have to write because this way you are right here in my heart and not thousands of miles across the world. I can bring you to life in my mind. You are still alive, only just, but in my mind you are very much alive, you are young and vigorous, riding your motor bike like a dare devil. How we three musketeers loved speed – you, Noel and I.

When the two of you had that accident on Doug Viegas’s motor bike and you were thrown yards away, Noel’s concern was for you because he was terrified that he would have to answer to me if you were injured. As it happened it was him who nearly died and you got away with a few scratches. Poor lovely Doug’s motor bike was ruined, but he didn’t even care! He was more concerned about Noel and you. He should never have lent the bike to Noel, but that was him – one really great guy.

Do you remember us riding our bikes up the bridge in Lahore Cantonments, now Defence, where all the rich live? I rode very fast in front of you two uphill and you would catch me up – by then I was breathless and you or Noel would hold my bike and push me the rest of the way. I was still always out in front!

You will meet him again, as Diane said - if he hasn’t been banished from heaven for bad behaviour! But let’s not go there yet, hey? You are still earth bound.

I pray that you are not suffering and that your brilliant mind is still able to function and that you will be there for Brenda when she comes. You and I always had mental telepathy Der. I am willing you now to be there for her. Please stay for her and give her the peace she needs to say goodbye to you. Stay just a while for her. Wait too for Brian – they are travelling the miles to be with you. You must be there for them.

You are so loved my darling brother by so many. It is not fair, you are younger than me – how dare you think of leaving me behind in this world without you. You were always my hero. How can anyone understand the ties that bind us – a life time of togetherness?

I love you my darling brother but I won’t say goodbye – there will never be a goodbye for us because you will live forever in my heart.