A drop of tear fell from Bipin’s eyes. Bipin was only 12 years old. Yet he was a sensitive boy. He saw his uncle’s dead body being carried away. It was covered in a white shroud. Bipin tagged along with his mourning family as they moved up the mountainous lanes. There were trees on the both sides of the road. But the soothing breeze provided little comfort to those who were on their way to the cremation ground which was located on the hilltop.
After completion of the last rites, the family members silently walked down the same hilly lanes. They were on their way back home. Bipin stopped mid-way. He stopped by a pile of stones. He noticed a rock cairn and walked up to it. No one noticed that the little boy had disappeared from the crowd.
Bipin stood by the stack of pebbles for a long time. He stared at it fixedly. After a while he picked up a broken fragment of stone which was lying on the rugged ground. He placed it on top of the rock pile.
A tourist was observing Bipin for some time from afar. He came up to Bipin and inquired, “Are you playing with these stone pieces?”
“No.” Bipin answered firmly.
“Do you know this type of natural structures or pile of pebbles is known as cairn? Cairn is a type of balancing rock. It is a surprising creation of nature.” The tourist explained the details of a cairn from his knowledge of Geography.
Bipin nodded his head in understanding but remained silent.
“But why are you placing a piece of rock on top of the cairn?” The tourist asked with a raised eyebrow. He was still curious to know the workings of a child’s brain.
“I do it every time a dear one leaves us. Whenever someone dies, I come here and place a stone on top of this stack of pebbles. I keep them in loving memory of my dead relatives.” Bipin pointed out one by one the rock pieces he had placed on the heap when his grandparents had passed away. He also pointed out the stones he had placed on death of some neighbours and distant relatives.
With time the pieces of rock Bipin had piled up got transformed into a heap of stones. They got glued up and took the form of a cairn. The tourist realised that it was not a natural cairn as he had thought earlier. It was partially man-made.
“Why do you pile up pebbles in memory of your relatives?” The tourist asked.
“I don’t have a camera to capture the beautiful moments spent with my loved ones. We are very poor. We can’t afford to buy one. So, these rock pieces are my memory, my mental image of the lost one.” Bipin answered in a low tone.
Another drop of tear slipped down Bipin’s cheek as the tourist stared at him in amazement.
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