A PEACEMAKER

A peacemaker’s life isn’t easy. Nah. It never is. Yet, a peacemaker is always the solution. Someone who could sing harmony in a room of conflict or who could stand and deliver a statesman in the Gaza strip – that, of course, is beyond our means. We all search for a peacemaker never realising ‘peace comes from within’. And this is a phrase we have heard since our teens. A peacemaker needn’t necessarily be a middle man or someone who connects estranged hands. You and I can be peacemakers too. Anyone who tries and succeeds in conquering one’s own conflict and controls lust is also a peacemaker.

But more often than not we need a peacemaker to help us reap value of that hidden peace within us. Like James and Jenny needed one to help solve their inner conflicts and hate for each other. Jenny and James are part of a five-sibling family brought up by a single mother. Their mother, Lima, lost her husband when her youngest was two days old. James and Jenny are just five years apart neither is the oldest or the youngest. 

Her five kids were Lima’s only family. She was their mother and their father. It was obvious that they were all affectionate and caring for each other, but James and Jenny were special. They shared a strange and sweet connection. Both looked out for each other. They were partners in crime – like sharing stolen fried fish from the kitchen or running away with jelly gums from a shop. They were each other’s protector when required. Jenny would often take blame for James’ ‘mischiefs’ and when James found out Jenny had committed some wrongdoing, he would hurry to clean it up.

Things though aren’t the same any more. 26 years have passed and James and Jenny haven’t spoken in the last 4 years. No, the right sentence is ‘they don’t talk to each other’. Their connection of childhood is now a tale for the memory. James got married and has two kids. Jenny the same. But Jenny is also divorced or as she calls it ‘free from a meaningless relationship.’

Her husband was a middle-class man with a government job. They lived happily for six years but it was at the start of the final five that things turned sour. An 11-year marriage eventually ended in a court room. Now, Jenny’s husband was a friend of James. They had worked together in the same company for some time in the past. Jenny loathed her brother for not telling her about the affair.

But James had always tried to save the marriage. Was he aware of any affair? He didn’t think he knew of any such thing. To him his friend was a ‘just man’. But Jenny scorned at him for that too. “You sided with him when I needed you most,” she once shouted at her brother. James now felt Jenny was too dominating and stubborn. He married two years after his younger sister. And for a year, he had rented a room in Jenny’s house where she earlier lived with her husband. Her two kids are her only company now.

James left the house after a year with his sister’s marriage in disarray. He never tried to reconcile his sister’s failing marriage. “She’s too stubborn. Always wants a ‘yes man’,” he would tell his wife Cathy whenever they talked about Jenny and the divorce. During that year in Jenny’s house, he would often hear Jenny and Selaman (Jenny’s husband) arguing through the night. Selaman came late night on most days and he was drunk. But he wasn’t a regular drunkard when James had first met him. A fine young man with so much talent the world could be at his feet.

They bonded well and Selaman confided in James, his best friend. Even after his divorce Selaman and James remained friends. His sister’s husband spent after office hours at the pub. He didn’t want to go home that early. Curious, James once asked “why?” Selman told him there was no love at home. Jenny would shout at him over silly things. They argued more than talking. The kids weren’t allowed to meet if he came home late. This was when the marriage was still living – slowly cracking but still remediable. 

Today the marriage is a thing of the past. Jenny’s kids often visit the house. But she doesn’t. James does the same when he takes his family over. Usually, he returns back home after dropping them. One day, Jenny’s son dragged him to the house. Jenny forced a sweet on his mouth that day. Their eyes had lighted with tears (no this isn’t a melodrama). But that was it. The relationship looked beyond repair.

But he missed his little sister. You bet, she did too. They both found a good communicator in Cathy (James’s wife). Every time she visited Jenny, James would warn her: “don’t get into any argument just hear and nod. Please do not react she will get angry.” He thought Jenny was still stubborn. 

Cathy once asked Jenny “why don’t you reconcile with James?” “Why should I,” Jenny had said. “He is the big brother he should.” James thought something similar – She’s younger, she should first. This fight wasn’t just for Selaman but for things beyond it. Jenny thought her brother knew about an affair. That he knew Selaman drank before the wedding and above all James knew that he wasn’t the right man for her. But he didn’t…

James knew more. He knew why Selaman drank. He knew why Jenny hated her ex-husband and he knew why they separated. But he wished he never knew Selaman. Perhaps Jenny shouldn’t have married Selaman. A broken marriage then wouldn’t have resulted in a strained brother-sister relationship.

Neither were willing to stretch the hand of reconciliation. They needed a peacemaker. What they didn’t know was the peacemaker was already at work. Cathy didn’t want her husband to regret a friendship, regret one decision and live with a broken relationship with his dear sister. She didn’t want her children deprived of their aunt’s love ,- an aunt, who made the best kheer (rice pudding). She would often call Jenny and ask about her childhood memories with James.

At bed, James would often discuss Jenny and the happy times the siblings shared growing up – something that seemed a distant memory now. Both James and Jenny regretted not talking to each other. But neither would take the first step. Cathy knew she couldn’t force nor could she intervene. Time is a healer. No one realised when phone conversations with Jenny became group conversations with James and Jenny. Sometimes the kids would join. Of course, their other siblings did too. 

One day, Cathy was at Jenny’s place and suddenly the phone rang. Ohh, Jenny’s phone it was. The caller name said ‘mischief’. Cathy recognised the number, Jenny did too. That was the first call James had made to Jenny in four years and 23 days. Cathy remembers it well. James hadn’t called to apologise to his little sister. The call was on Jenny’s phone because Cathy’s number was unreachable. 

That was the first step, Cathy believes. She notes down “No one forced, yet it happened.” Cathy is writing a book sitting in a coffee shop. Her friend asks “why ‘mischief’?” Because James was always mischievous. “So were you the peacemaker, then,” her friend continued. Cathy said ‘no!’ “I was just the person both needed to realise their importance in each other’s life.”

Just then James called her to remind she had to reach his office in an hour with the children. They were going home to celebrate Jenny’s 36th birthday. She bid her friend goodbye and got into the cab. As she shut the door, a thought hit her mind. Cathy takes out a diary and writes “A Peacemaker.” 

(Author: Joseph Biswas)