We were lying down. Him on my right and Aditi on my left.
The darkness of the night almost absolute, only the faint blue glow of the alarm system giving a faint bit of light.
I was caught unawares, a bit startled. Normally our bedtime conversations revolved around firetrucks and paw patrol.
"That is mean", said Aditi.
"How old are you Acha?" Shyam asked.
"You are old and you are going to die", he said, a bit of panic creeping into his voice.
Now, I knew that his idea of time and numbers is a bit skewed, even then, this was a bit odd.
"People only die when they are a hundred years old, Shyam", I tried to console him.
"Acha, I am five now, and then I will be six, and seven and soon I will be a hundred", his voice had started to crack a bit now.
"That is a long way to go monu, don't worry".
"I don't want to die", he whimpered.
And then, he started to cry.
Shyam is generally a very happy person, and even when he cries these days, he pretends that he is not crying, tears flowing down from those big eyes, lips curled down in sadness, but at the same time insisting that he is not sad. It sometimes is heartbreaking and at times funny.
Now was one of those heartbreaking times.
I was at a loss. Should I delve into a philosophical reflection about life and death? Or try to joke about it?
He was sobbing loudly now, but then, all of a sudden slowed down.
"I have an idea", he managed to say in between his sobs. "After I turn six, maybe I can go back to being five again, and then four...".
I was ready to grasp at anything now. And at that hour, agreeing with him did seem to be the best idea to quiet him down.
"That is a good idea", I said.
He stopped crying all of a sudden, like turning off a switch.
"Thank you Acha, you are the best".
He gave me a tight hug. Made it all worthwhile.
PS: I could feel Aditi's knowing smile on the other side.