I recently heard she had lost her mother, but despite our school-day intimacy, I could not find the nerve to meet her and offer my condolences... I’ve always had a tough time facing death and the relatives of the deceased. Be it one of my junior college-mates who drowned in a freak accident, or a school-mate who hung himself, or another college-mate who expired due to cancer...
Death is the final reality, the ultimate victor. No living thing can say it has evaded vanquishment coz none can elude this destiny. Yet we shun the topic, and the moment someone near talks about it, we are filled with a sense of dread and annoyance. Like when my mum talks about making a will and donating her body/eyes, the men in my familysnap at her and change the subject. WHY? If a person wants something to be done some way after he/she is no more, then why don’t we respect their wishes? Why do we consider talking about death ghastly and distasteful? It IS a reality after all. And it is going to happen to everyone. You, me, our neighbors, colleagues, everyone...
Yet we behave like we’re gona live forever. We accumulate wealth and luxuries, we hurt people and exploit opportunities as if we shall always govern them. As if we have an eternity to make things right that we ruin today, and as if we shall always be in control of things/people around us...
Death comes without warning; people in their mid-20s receive no notification as they run head-first into its arms, while those on their deathbed continue to live for many more decades... All we can do, is wait... And watch... And hope for the best.
I skirt going to funerals and death ceremonies for two reasons. One, because I feel very inadequate and at a loss for words. Two, coz I want the bereaved to get over the incident. Which they will not be able to do if people from all over come at different intervals of time and talk about the same episode again and again.
Society expects that people will cry forever. That each time someone mentions death or the departed, people will mourn. Lets be candid, it doesn’t happen. People cry once, twice, thrice maybe, and then tears dry up. Memories remain, as does grief, but that does not necessitate loud bawling and visible lamenting. Genuine anguish is discernible even in the absence of a single sound. And haven’t we all seen that the ones who cry the loudest are often the ones who are least bothered about the event and most concerned about making an impression?
(Note : No offence meant. I completely agree there maybe exceptions. Just cited an observation of some of us who have encountered a demise in the orthodox and conservative areas in India.)
I remember seeing my grand-dad’s dead body laid out for all to see when I was barely 4-5 summers old. I wasn’t sure what was happening, though I think I understood that he was not alive anymore and people were grieving for him. He was a good man, a famous chap, and he even has one of the main streets in the village named after him. But how did that affect us kids? Me and my cousins played a merry game of pakda-pakdi (Tag!) in the backyard as the ceremonies went on in the front.
I now know that someone who really loves and cares for you will be by your side when you suffer a calamity. And that I need to be with those I know when they undergo a tragedy. Be it joy or sorrow, one must stand by those he/she deems important in any way. It is OK if you don’t say a word, it is OK if you don’t do the most thoughtful things. Just be there. That is THE right thing to do. Avoiding that person or trying to spurn the issue only makes both feel worse.
I apologize to all those who I did not meet or talk to, when there was a mishap. Please forgive me, I was weaker than you, unaware coz I did not comprehend how much it means when people stand by you in times of trouble.
And thanks, Bhabhi, for helping me come to this realization. Had we not had that conversation the other day, I would still be grappling with the dilemma of how to get back on talking terms with the old friend...
I’m with you, people.