I didn’t sleep well at all. I was catching a cold and it made me want tea, but I don’t normally drink tea so late. Then C asked me for money, which was not particularly surprising, but raised all kind of trafficking-money stuff. So I couldn’t fall asleep.
And in the night, I woke up again, around half past midnight, which is what I have done the last three nights. Stuff is bumping around in my head. I must be dreaming about it and after a bit of rest, I wake up to think about it again. But half past midnight is too early to think about anything. I just stayed awake for a while, upset and insomniac, and then after an hour or so slept again.
In the morning, something eventually surfaces. It wasn’t Nata acting alone when she died. It was all of them working together. I think that not because of anything said to me, but because that’s how things worked. Every day, I watch C at assembly and the way she behaves feels very familiar. Today, she was in charge of raising the flag, so she wasn’t standing in her usual place. She went on doing the same thing she always does though. She straightened lines. She organized people. It struck me yesterday it isn’t Nata she reminds me of, but Grusha. I don’t know that Grusha did it in the same way that C does, but it seems to me Grusha organized us. Maybe Grusha organized us in a more subtle way, maybe mostly with eye contact, a shift in gaze, a raised eyebrow. I don’t exactly remember, but it struck me today there is no way that Nata acted alone in what she did. We didn’t do that. But Nata made a big show of taunting Yuri with what she had done—really, what they had done–so that she would be blamed instead of all five of us. She grabbed Yuri’s attention so that it would not stray onto anyone else.
Saving me is something the four of them did for me together, and Nata died not just to save me, but to save all of us. They saved me and she saved all of us. I cannot really fathom that kind of courage or that kind of love. It is beyond me. But that is what is—what was.
My other thought today is about this pressure I feel. I have these memories about what happened after Nata’s death, and I feel this terrible pressure inside. At first, I was seeing it in a general way. This is the pressure I place on myself because of what happened. Then I realized it’s mainly a specific memory from that moment of understanding what had happened. The pressure is from the moment when Grusha held me as I cried, and it’s from knowing what had happened, that they had all risked something for me and that Nata had given me everything she had to give. Because I also think Grusha was talking to me as she held me, she was saying now I have to make it. I think she was giving me the pep talk of my life.
So now I do wonder how you live after someone has died so that you can live. How do you live with the burden of that kind of love? I don’t know, but I was thinking about this more, and I suddenly realized we all do contribute in some way to the world—maybe not quite everyone. Maybe my dad has nothing to offer. Maybe Yuri is a total waste of space and air and energy. But the rest of us. We all do something or we could if we tried to. I was watching a spider in the morning as the students were all in classes. It was spinning a web from one of the gutters to a blade of grass. We all have some kind of place in the world. There is something we can do in the world. Something positive. It might be small or it might be great. We might make a difference to one person or to a million people, but we do.
And I was thinking about this boy I taught many years ago at a non-formal education center in Delhi, just casually. I wasn’t a teacher there. I just helped. Anyway, he knew the letter sounds in Hindi. He couldn’t read. He had never connected up this idea that the letter sounds can be blended to form words. Once you say those words aloud, they make sentences. The sentences make a story. So he learned to because I taught him that. Pintu can read because of me. Maybe he would have anyway. Maybe someone else would have come along. Maybe not. I don’t know. But I was there. I did it. I did the thing I could do. I don’t need to wonder why I am on this planet anymore, or why I am alive but so many people I loved are dead. I have my place just as everyone does.