I once had this dream. It was a chilly afternoon in the season of fall, I was in this local cemetery, all by myself, sitting on a bench. I started wandering from tombstone to tombstone reading epitaphs when I stumbled onto a rather interesting one which read: “Here lies the body of a tramp who gave up on a lavish lifestyle and lived an ascetic life because he believed in connections more than he believed in materialistic stuff.” The intriguing thing about it was that from the time I’d known about the existence of that cemetery, there was not a single person I’d seen who visited this particular grave. No maintenance ever done, no flowers, nothing. Just an abandoned old grave. I always wondered who put it there.
Anyway, as I’d moved on to read the name on the tombstone, an old lady without a face, out of nowhere, came up to me and asked me to help her pick some flowers up which she seemed to have dropped. So I helped her out to which she kept her hand over my head and said “God bless you, beta.” I got a good but weird vibe from that and I forgot that I was yet to read the name.
I went to the bench under the cherry blossom tree which was at one corner of the cemetery and sat there. Okay, fact time before I go further into the dream – Cherry blossoms are known as sakura in Japan and they signify “Life, Death and Renewal” to people there because of the way they take birth, live a beautiful short-lived life, die and fall off and then have a rebirth. There is this ritual of Hanami which is followed there wherein people gather under cherry blossom trees every April to wring the beauty out of life. Ultimately, the meaning of cherry blossoms teaches the Japanese they are ‘sakura’. We all are. And because of this, cherry blossoms are one of those trees you’ll always find in cemeteries apart from Yews, Cedars, Oaks, Pines, Poplars, Roses and Willows which each hold a meaning of their own – Anyway, getting back to the dream. I sat there contemplating about how wasteful my life was as I was unwillingly entangled in the strings created by society and about how I could turn my life around if I could just give up on everyone and everything around me and runaway… but I wasn’t brave enough.
While I was deep into my thoughts, my phone rang to my mom calling me to ask me when I will be back home, and I told her that I was going to be home before dinner-time. And then it hit me that I’d forgotten to read the name on that tombstone. So I walked up to it and as I reached there, as I looked at the name, the ground under my feet started shaking. I started sweating, my heart started beating fast and my head started hurting. Everything that I’d witnessed from the time I’d entered the cemetery started flashing at the back of my head as I constantly blinked and rubbed my eyes in shock just to check if what I was witnessing was true. The tombstone had my name on it. I looked around and saw that not just that tombstone, but every tombstone in that cemetery had my name on it. It was basically a yard full of different endings to my life. And amidst the traffic of chaotically arranged thoughts in my mind at that moment, one thought suddenly popped out: “The lady. The one you picked up the flowers for. That was your mom.” And it all started to make sense. Why it had felt weird when she’d called me beta, why she was faceless, what she was doing in a cemetery where all the graves were mine, all these questions suddenly started to answer themselves.
My thoughts started getting heavy on me, started voicing themselves loudly inside my head when the voice of that lady, my mom, saying “beta” repeatedly started getting more and more perceptible. I open my eyes and see my mom trying to wake me up for college, calling me “beta” repeatedly.
I have had a weird hiraeth for cemeteries ever since. I do not look at them as a yard full of dead bodies ever since.
PS: I have not talked about what I interpreted from my dream. It’s because there are many ways that people could interpret it and I want no one to think that what they’re interpreting is not appropriate. I want everyone to have their own conclusions from their own interpretations.
-Tanuj Mehta (T.E, Chemical)