I said, “There is nothing wrong. We are enjoying the silence. Nana wants us to be silent.” That was a lie because Nana was dead, but in a way it was true. He was silent, that was a message for us to be silent.
I finally said, “Bhoora, everything is okay; only Nana is gone.” He could not believe it. He said, “Then how can everything be okay? Without him I cannot live.” And within twenty-four hours he died. Just as if a flower had closed…refusing to remain open in the sun and the moon, of his own accord. We tried everything to save him, because now we were in a bigger town, my father’s town.
My father’s town was, for India of course, just a small town; the population was only twenty thousand. It had a hospital and a school. We tried everything possible to save Bhoora. The doctor in the hospital was amazed because he could not believe that this man was Indian; he looked so European. He must have been a freak of biology, I don’t know. Something must have gone right. As they say “Something must have gone wrong,” I have coined the phrase “Something must have gone right” – why always wrong?
Bhoora was in a shock because of his master’s death. We had to lie to him until we got to the town. Only when we reached the town and the corpse was taken out of the bullock cart did Bhoora see what had happened. He then closed his eyes and never opened them again. He said, “I cannot see my master dead.” And that was only a master-servant relationship. But there had arisen between them a certain intimacy, a certain closeness which is indefinable. He never opened his eyes again. That much I can vouch for. He lived only a few hours longer, and he went into a coma before dying.
Before my grandfather died, he had told my grandmother, “Take care of Bhoora. I know you will take care of Raja – I do not have to tell you that – but take care of Bhoora. He has served me as nobody else could.”
I told the doctor, “Do you, can you, understand the kind of devotion that must have existed between these two men?”
The doctor asked me, “Is he a European?”
I said, “He looks like one.”
The doctor said, “Don’t be tricky. You are a child, only seven or eight years old, but very tricky. When I asked whether your grandfather was dead, you said no, and that was not true.”
I said, “No, it was true: he is not dead. A man of such love cannot be dead. If love can be dead then there is no hope for the world. I cannot believe that a man who respected my freedom, a small child’s freedom so much, is dead just because he cannot breathe. I cannot equate the two, not breathing and death.”
The European doctor looked at me suspiciously and told my uncle, “This boy will either be a philosopher or else he will go mad.” He was wrong: I am both, together. There is no question of either/or. I am not Soren Kierkegaard; there is no question of either/or. But I wondered why he could not believe me…such a simple thing.