Wasn't it yesterday that I met you at Kovalam beach? You looked very handsome and so full of life. Your spouses were dazzling and gorgeous . Children were sparkling around you with joy. I see you all tomorrow as a bundle of bones mixed with a few wedding rings and gold toppings of decayed teeth!
Are you scared Boloji readers?
Like it or not, the sound of the coffin in the earth is an utterly serious thing. “Life at its best” said Mark Twain “is a losing proposition. Nobody ever came out of it alive”. Sometimes, some lucky ones get some extra hours to stay and complete a century. If you are lucky, you should complete it. However, the end of the game is a forgone conclusion. In a way, our whole life is a long preparation for death. Each day we build a new foundation for death. Ultimately, it comes as an event as ordinary as the fall of rain drops or the arrival of an unwelcome guest. Death is the black camel that kneels before every door.
Poet W. H. Auden said, “The grave proves the child ephemeral”.
Death is something that has disturbed me since my first close encounter with it as an eight year old boy. I was standing along with my parents at my grandmother’s death bed. I can vividly remember her vacant eyes and the receding cadences in her breath until her last sigh. My grandfather didn’t want to witness those solemn moments. Even when the news of the final departure was conveyed to him, his body didn’t show any movement, neither did his eyes well up in tears. May be he was in deep rumination about his beloved. When I reached twenty, I had seen two more deaths in my family. My gentle grandfather and my beloved mother sailed in the boat of charon. In 1999, it was my father's turn to board that eternal flight. Events, for me, have reinforced the meaning of Elias Cannetti’s words “Every breath you take, is someone else’s last”.
As a child, one of the most dreadful sounds that haunted me for years was the slow and sepulchral band music played during Christian funeral marches. Each beat of that band would echo a thousand times in my heart throwing it into a violent rhythm. I could never close my eyes at night without the warm, gentle and protective hug of my father. As I grew up, I found it more and more disquieting to reconcile with death. I am now an inveterate hater of death. I am there to wage a war against death, hunt down into its very last hiding place to kill its false charisma, well, may be until my last sigh!
Everyday events in nature teach us that seeding, birthing, maturing and finally withering is an inevitable part of the living kingdom. The cycle of our life is a cycle in time itself. We are all creatures of a day. As a character mourns in the great drama “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Becket “They give us birth astride the grave. The light gleams for an instant. Then it is night once more”. It conveys the hopeless vision of life as a brilliant moment between the womb and the tomb.
This absurdity pervading our life is again brilliantly evoked in the words of the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. I quote, “Remind yourself constantly of all the physicians, now dead, who used to knit their brows over their ailing patients; of all the astrologers who so silently predicted their client’s doom, the great commanders who slew their thousands, as if they themselves were gods who could never die. Recall one by one each of your acquaintances; how one buried another, only to be laid low himself and buried in turn by a third, and all in so brief a span of time. Observe, in short, how transient and trivial is all mortal life; yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of ashes.”
Yet, unmindful of the malady of death, man continues his barren conquests for power and glory. Some people measure their lives by the number of pennies they have earned; others by the years they toiled and many men map or condense their life story in the wrinkles on their faces. Each day we bravely march forward chanting our tomorrows while looking back we see a parade of fools called yesterdays lighting up the trodden path of our follies. When we reach the end of our path, we shudder to face the precipice in front of us as death has acquired more solidity. Overcoming this fear of death is the greatest strain in our life. As Woody Allen said, “It is not that I am afraid to die, I just don’t want to be around when it happens”.
But, we have to live with this certainty, though, living with a certainty is more disconcerting than living with an uncertainty. To live is to build a ship and a harbor at the same time. And to complete the harbor long after the ship was drowned.
I march forward taking solace in the words of Dag Hammarskjold “Do not seek death, death will find you. But seek the road that makes death a fulfillment.“
Khana Pina Rona Hansna
Visar Gaya Hai Marna
Khasam Visaar Khuwari Keeni
Dhrig Jivan Nahin Rehna – The Adi Granth
Eating Drinking Cries and Laughs
Forgotten Have You the Death
Neglecting the Lord thou has gone astray
This Life* isn't going to stay
*Life here implies 'Body'.
While working on the above article by PGR I couldn't help but remember these beautiful lines from the Adi Granth. – Editor