The memory of my first death is cucumber. Loud sobs emanated from my throat; my eyes and heart were dry. A relative’s old neighbour had died. I remember her face even today. I would help her up the stairs that led to the porch-like entrance; there were no railings and she would wait on every step and nudge her feet. If I was around, I’d run to assist her. I did not think I was doing something noble; I just liked running up and down stairs.
I wasn’t mourning her death because I did not know what death was. Her grand-daughter who never helped her even when she saw her from the balcony was crying. Loud sobs, dry eyes. I could not see her heart. I thought it was mandatory, to weep, so I did. We were the only female children around. For a reason I still cannot fathom, someone brought us cucumbers. She took one, I took one too.
Today I wonder whether when we eat something we kill it. Did not that cucumber too die? Or did it die when it was harvested? Or even grown? Why were its seeds put to bed if not to be taken out and later used?
Rather unusually for me, the memory of the cucumber does not make me cringe. In this terrible summer in Mumbai, I love to eat it, thick long slices. They are sold in carts where the hawker sprinkles salt and a dash of dried mango or chilli powder over it. I prefer it bland, just as it is. It may be tasteless but biting into it, its juice dripping in the mouth, has an amazingly cooling effect.
Is this about cucumbers? Is anything about anything? I ate a cucumber this afternoon. I also remembered death.