And the world endedMy grandfather told me that the world would end in two years, and in many ways, he was right.
“In his prime, your grandfather could lift a house, my little boy. You even struggle to carry a gas cylinder,” my grandmother teased me with adoration as I sat on the dining table, breathing heavily. Sitting at the other end of the table, my grandfather produced a rare smile.
“Climbing three storeys carrying a full gas cylinder is no joke; only my contemporaries will appreciate this,” I thought to myself.
“Your grandfather was so strong that he built the village’s house almost all by himself. He carried all those heavy rocks, wooden pillars, columns, and logs on his shoulders,” said my grandmother. “It is due to your grandfather’s courage that we have managed some fortune today. You should be proud of him.”
My grandmother, as always, was lavish in praising her husband. At every opportunity she got, she would go on about how his undaunting work ethic had lifted the family from poverty.
“I am proud of my grandfather,” I said as I looked towards my grandfather, hoping that he saw the respect in my eyes.
I always wished I had been born a few years earlier. That would have allowed me to see the kind of economic background my family came from. I would have known the hardships my family faced; I would have known how it felt to get up before dawn and work late into the night and then go to bed on a half-empty stomach.
But by the time I was born, my family was no longer poor, and there was always enough to eat in the house.
“Life’s so much easier now. You can wake up at 8 in the morning and still miss nothing. Back then, if you slightly miscalculated the stars, the cattle would already be starving by the time you cooked khole and collected fodder after fetching water from a distant padhero. However, sometimes, you may finish every single task like fetching water, doing dhiki-jaato, and cooking khole before dawn and foolishly wonder why it is still not morning,” said my grandmother, getting lost in her own thoughts.
“Your city!” grandfather finally spoke softly with some bitterness. He gave grandmother a slightly contemptuous look. He never liked the fact that he had to leave Thoklung, our ancestral village. Our parents taught at a school in Thoklung, but they sent my sister and me to live in Kathmandu under the care of our grandparents. Even though my grandfather didn’t quite like staying in the city, he did it so that his grandchildren could have better access to quality education and, thus, a better future.
“By the way, nothing will matter now,” said grandfather and took a deep breath and continued, “the world will be over within two years. Mark my words.”
I was quite surprised why he said what he said, but I didn't think too much about it.
Two years later
Wearing my favourite jacket and jeans, I looked in the mirror and said, "Ridiculously cheap, but they still suit me just fine.”
It was my first day of engineering class, and I was so happy to be going to college finally.
Suddenly, I heard someone walk into our house and tell my grandmother to immediately head to the nearby hospital. Before leaving for the hospital, she told me, “Have your lunch now and come see me at the hospital.”
Just fifteen minutes after she left for the hospital, I received a call from a relative. In the background, I could hear my grandmother wailing in grief.
My little sister and I rushed to the hospital emergency ward. We saw our grandmother wailing beside the lifeless body of our grandfather. He had passed away an hour ago in a horrific road accident. The sight left my sister and me in shock. I gathered myself and went and hugged my grandmother.
I looked around and saw that my sister was still in shock. I held her hand and instructed her to take our grandmother home while I did the necessary paperwork.
After they left, someone from the hospital came and handed me two small packages wrapped in handkerchiefs.
"We found them in your grandfather’s pockets," she said.
The hospital administration instructed me to transfer the dead body to TU Teaching Hospital for postmortem immediately. I was told that I first needed to go to the nearby police station to get all the necessary paperwork done. Once I had completed all the necessary paperwork, I was allowed to take my grandfather's dead body for postmortem.
On my way to the hospital, I decided to unwrap the two tiny packages they found in my grandfather’s pockets. I was startled to find that both those packages were full of money. It made me wonder what my grandfather was doing carrying around that much money. Seeing his money reminded me of how fiercely independent he was and how he never relied on anyone for money. Even though he was entitled to the government’s elderly allowance, he never registered for it.
My thoughts then started drifting. I started wondering what my grandfather's final thoughts were. Did he think about his family? Did he think about me? Or did he think about the house in the village that he built on his own? There’s no way I’ll ever know the answers. He took the answers with him, never to be revealed.
The ambulance stopped in front of the hospital, and a staff helped me carry the body to the autopsy room. The sight of several lifeless bodies lying in the autopsy room shocked me. The sight made me realise how fragile our human life is.
“The postmortem report will only be available the following day,” a nurse told me.
After completing all the necessary paperwork, I boarded a bus home. I looked around and saw that all the passengers were lost in their own worlds. I mumbled to myself, “They have no idea how near death can be and how unpredictable this human life is.”
Back home, I, for the first time, realised how depressing an environment could be even with many people around. I went straight to my grandmother. She was still crying on someone’s shoulder.
I hugged her and looked into her grief-stricken eyes, and it suddenly dawned on me what my grandfather had said two years ago, "The world will be over within two years. Mark my words.”
Parajuli is a student of aerospace engineering at IOE, Pulchowk Campus.