I was four when I died for the first time. The village pond had beckoned me into its brown waters, promising me a gallant win in a game of hide-and-seek. I held my breath, only a fool wouldn’t have, before slipping into a murky slumber. They found me floating like a paper boat, ignorant and carefree. No pulse, no breath, gone from this world to another, goodbye baby Savi.
They told me my mother beat her breasts and my father pulled his hair, their tears adding to the water that had betrayed me. The pyre had been built and the rituals completed when I returned from the dead.
‘Ma, I’m hungry.’
These words still haunt the villagers. I was carried home, my father’s arms trembling, his steps clumsy and unsure. My mother fed me and bathed me, a single question stitched to her lips, ‘My darling Savi, where have you been?’ I saw the fear, I smelled it, yet couldn’t displace it from my mother’s heart. She knew I was incomplete; no one ever came back whole from the land of the dead.
I was thirteen when death took me a second time. A messy complication of typhoid. The fever burnt my insides, it might have scraped my soul. The tears, the cries, the farewell, all in vain, I, Savi had returned again. I sat in a corner, my parents’ whispers and glances the only welcome, their nervous faces avoiding my gaze.
‘Ma, Papa, I will never leave you again.’
But death is stronger than words. It has come for me, three years later, draped in a mother’s love and led by a father’s sturdy hand. Poisoned milk. It hurts, the froth fills my mouth, soft lips caress my cheek.
‘Sleep, darling Savi. I pray that you be whole again.’