“They killed my brother,” Nano says it so softly that I can barely hear her. Her glassy eyes lock into mine and she half-smiles. I cuddle next to her in her cot and the warmth of her body spreads around mine. It’s cold outside and we don’t have a heater. We don’t even have electricity. The only form of light that is illuminating the room is coming from a gas lantern Nano placed on the table so we wouldn’t kick it when we’re running after each other. It’s so cold outside that my fingers become numb and the tip of my nose becomes stiff. The stars twinkle in the night sky, then disappear beneath each other. We usually bury ourselves beneath layers of quilts and blankets and lock ourselves in Nano’s room because it’s the warmest.
Nano is my maternal grandma, and in Urdu, we say Nano Ami- and I call her Nano for short. She’s beautiful and she has long hair which I cut because Mama told me to do so, and Nano never forgave me for that. But she loves me the most out of all her grandkids. She once told me that my features sometimes resemble her brothers.
“He was tall and handsome and he knew how to do almost everything. When he walked people would stop and stare at him.” Nano heaves in a breath and turns around to face me. I’ve heard the story a thousand times before and I can’t seem to take her seriously. But I know one thing for sure, Nano loved her brother more than anything in this world.
Nano’s older brother was young when the British took him to England. He worked there, and he occasionally came back to visit.
When he came to Pakistan one time, he fell in love with a girl, whose family was culturally strict. They refused to get their daughter married outside of their cast. Nano’s older brother didn’t have a choice, so he ran away with her. They got married and moved to England.
The girl’s brother filled with rage came after Nano and her other brothers. Nano was safe because my grandpa wasn’t someone you wanted to mess with. He kept a revolver at home and my mother and her siblings weren’t allowed to leave the house alone.
But unfortunately, Nano’s younger brother got caught in the middle and he was shot in the stomach. He died on the spot. He was married, and he had a daughter, who now lives somewhere in England and I’ve never met her. She could pass me by on the streets of NYC and I wouldn’t know it’s her.
Nano’s older brother and that girl who ran away got a divorce after a year. Nano’s brother later married ten other women. How romantic!
Nano never really let go of her brother. Even when she had Alzheimer’s she would repeat the story again and again as if it happened recently. At times when I would sit with her, I would see thick tears drop from her brown orbs.
“My brother was very caring,” she would say again and again. Nano passed away this year, but while doing so, she transferred all her stories down to me. Unconsciously I think of Nano’s brother I had never seen. I try to imagine what he looked like, but my mind gives up on me. He was killed for no reason. He was trapped in someone else’s love and hate.
That girl’s brother killed Nano’s brother for his pride. He did it with a smile and he had no shame. Did he not realize that by doing so he wasn’t just ruining one life, he was ruining many? There are so many people out there that die because of someone else’s hate and ego. Why? Can human life be measured in terms of love and hate?
That man who killed Nano’s brother is old now, and he’s probably on his deathbed.