Some stories, they are always met with tragic endings no matter how many hopeful turns we take. Is it because we only learn to remember sad things and people worth remembering are thus tied to sad stories?
Shorihor Rungsung, he was the jolliest boy with the widest smile in the village; wacky on the outside, soft on the inside. He was good looking with a raspy voice, and I am told, he had a fair share of girls hitting on him. He was my cousin, one who I always saw walking about with a wide smile, and now it kind of makes me wonder if he knew his time on earth was short? It’d be impossible to always hone that type of smile all the time, no? In the course of my growing years and as I hear the last of him, I would learn that sad souls wear the warmest smile because they know the comfort it brings to the weary ones.
Shorihor grew up with his younger sister, but without a father or a mother figure. After his father passed on, his mother remarried and left him and his sister in the care of their paternal uncle. He grew up in my village, Talui. He frequented my place in Ukhrul during his 10th and 12th exams. He barely buttoned his school uniform collar, he’d always let loose. He loved his spiky hairdo, it was very popular back then. He’d always smile crooked and look up, his head tilted. He was often nonchalant, like nothing in the world could dampen his good mood. I imagined him to be like one of the cool guys from Crows Zero.
I was told he was a good footballer, although he never pursued it further. Before I left town for my graduation, he was then a school teacher in one of the neighboring villages. When I asked him for a treat for his job, he lamented on how his salary was more in terms of ration- rice, vegetables and lodging, and a meager amount. He wanted to save money and move to bigger dreams. Two years later, I learned that he was in Dehradun. Then he moved to Delhi. My memory fails me and I am ashamed of how little I can recollect. I hope he forgives me for how recklessly he is left unattended in my mind.
By the time I moved to Delhi, he was a grownup in my own standard, a 25-year-old charming brother. I supposed he was working in a hotel by then. He would visit us sometimes and sleep over at times. One day he came home looking excited. He was planning a trip to Bangalore- to which I would later learn that he wanted to visit his then-girlfriend. He was supposed to receive a money order from home so had come home to us for that. He had booked a train ticket- sleeper class and was to travel with few other friends from our village.
Excited like a child, donning his mellow smile, he left for Bangalore on 12th June 2012. They were scheduled to arrive in Bangalore on the evening of 13th June. On 14th June, we were notified that Shorihor was missing. The frantic search began, from family to friends to police to student unions. Many people spent hours at train stations and police stations, traveling states, retracing the journey, hoping to find him wandering somewhere. We had hoped to find him even in morgues, obituaries, hospitals, if at all in any of these sad corners. In the initial days of the search, we expected to find him alive. Weeks into it, we were frantic, hopeful to find even his lifeless body, somewhere.
On 13th June 2012 around 3:00 am, Shorihor had left his compartment in the search for a plug point to charge his phone. And just like that, he became one of the sad stories.
It was only after a month, on 17th July 2012, his death was confirmed. Around 6:00 am on 13th June 2012, his body was found on the railway tracks, without his phone or chappal. He was taken to the hospital alive but unable to speak. He was confirmed dead after two hours. The hospital kept him in the morgue until 20th June 2012 but as the body was unclaimed, his body was sent for post-mortem and buried him. He was identified by the clothes that he wore on the day he last walked out.
As family, friends, and well-wishers were hysterically looking for him, he had already walked out of his body. While we were having sweet dreams and whispering sweet nothings, he was lying cold on the tracks in the dark, bleeding. Did he cry out for anyone? God, did you even hear him crying? Did he leave after hours of staying alive because he felt no one would care to come look for him because the only one who would care was too far away? Or was he relieved to have finally stopped all his worldly struggles?
While we soaked in teary prayers, hoping any wanderer was him, his lifeless body laid unclaimed on a cold metal bed, in a sea of strangers. While we ran to the supposed psychics who claimed to see him in flesh and blood, he was already buried in a foreign land- unmarked, unnamed, undated; neglected even in death.
I hope that the earth has already embraced him as he returns to it. I hope that he no longer has to call himself an orphan. I hope he can see how his nephew has grown up to be just like him and remind us of his soulfulness once again. I hope he smiles to himself knowing that we never gave up on him.
If at all, I hope he heaves a sigh of relief knowing that we still remember him, we always will until we meet again.
Your storyteller from Ukhrul-Manipur. Hello from the cold mountains 🙂