Early on Tuesday morning on 16th August 1988, the sound of a car hooter woke me up outside my house. It was followed by a loud knock at my bedroom window and a man shouting out my name, writes Swithin Haangala
I looked at the clock. It was 3:45am. A feeling of dread swept through me as I recognized the voice. It was my brother in law. We had been together at the hospital at my eldest brother’s bedside till midnight before he dropped me home promising to pick me up early the next day, but definitely not this early. He was married to my young sister who was a nurse and they lived near the hospital.
I don’t remember dressing up, going to open the front door, the drive to the hospital. All I remember is seeing the lifeless body of my eldest brother lying there still, silent. I could see the nurses’ tears in their eyes as they hugged my sister. There was wailing around the room. I looked at my immediate elder brother and he turned away. He was in tears. Just a few hours ago, we had told Smokey that we were going to the UTH club and he jokingly asked that we bring him a beer – or maybe he wasn’t. But there he was – lifeless. I did not cry. I could not shed a tear. I stood there completely numb.
Time stood still and then some one nudged me to follow the body as they wheeled it to the mortuary.
Mortuary! The word kept ringing in my head as we wheeled the trolley. I could hear the sounds from the floor as the trolley went over the uneven cement surface. It was like some sort of rhythm. Clang, clang, clang -till it slowed down like a well drilled orchestra. The body was lifted into a compartment and the door closed with a whoosh. It reminded me of the choir master swishing his baton, bringing the ode to its grand finale.
The type writer had typed its last full stop. The music had been played. The last note had been strummed.
Smokey Haangala, the poet, writer, composer and musician had played his last show.
I know there are lots of us who have experienced this. Not once, not twice, but several times. Some more tragic, others less so, but death is death and the pain always the same. To those who have experienced the pain of losing siblings, parents, children and loved ones, know that what you feel, a lot of others do too. It may not be something that may console us, but knowing that there is some one out there who knows the pain, makes it a little more bearable.
SMOKEY HAANGALA – REST IN PEACE.