A Plea for Celebration of Deathday



Right now, I am coming from Kailash Hospital after visiting a friend, admitted there. Aged over eighty, he had already a limp in his right leg. Still, he goes for walk in the morning. He lives singly; an atheist – though a born Sikh -- very strong willed, active, plays chess, and teaches chess to youngsters. He has a flare for writing as well – contributing to the neighbourhood news letters.


About a month back, he had a fall and got his femur broken into two. The thigh was opened lengthwise to introduce a rod -- and other accessories -- through the bone, followed by a plethora of antibiotics and other injections. It resulted in excessive swelling of the thigh accompanied with severe pain. He had total loss of appetite for so many days, and frequent diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever. He had bouts of depression in between. Totally bedridden, with assisted bowel and bladder movements.


Now, he is reduced to his skeletons; eyes are sunken in the sockets, face pale, voice muted, but, not without the lust for life. He didn’t miss to ask if his latest piece was published.  He expects another two months to spend in the hospital. And then, he will be at home. He is optimistic. He looks forward how he will pass the days when back home. I give thumbs up to his optimism.


But, I got tangled in my personal pessimism – digressing to general old-age infirmities, and prolonged suffering witnessed in the same hospital and in the neighbouthood. It’s not going to be a satisfied living – constantly plagued by numerous inadequacies. Longevity is welcome, but, what about the quality of life? His case is rather simple.  There are many depressing cases out there. Living like a vegetable, should we say? No, it’s far worse than that.   There are many more serious cases of total invalids in the country – some are terminally ill, though all are not. None can lead normal life. Despite all the modern medical facilities available, their existence is abominable.  They are burden on themselves, besides, being a torture to others. Quite a number are on life support systems. It is interesting, that despite physical and mental suffering, none wants to die, knowing full well that escaping death is impossible. It is the normal tendency of all living beings. But, men are different. Don’t we say, “It’s how we live and not how long we breathe?”  Man can think critically and find a suitable way to live and die. Why can’t we adopt a dignified and cheerful death? It goes against my earlier assertion to welcome any situation life brings forth. That still stands there but with a difference. We need to intervene proactively. Now, I am in for choosing voluntarily my date of death.


C.A. Thomas, a retired teacher from Thrissur, was the first Indian to seek an elegant and serene death at the age of 86. But the Supreme Court didn’t permit it. It is surely a hangover of the age-long tradition, we couldn’t shake off. Religion also comes in the way, opposing voluntary death vehemently. For Hinduism and other religions believing in the immortality of the soul, there is no scope for any ambiguity – it is just like changing an abode. You leave the current body on death and enter another on rebirth – just like changing residences temporarily. Lord Ram and Lord Mahavira opted for ending life voluntarily. Then, why should there be objection from religious point of view? All terminally ill cases should invariably be allowed to terminate life willfully. Others, above 80 should have an option to choose to die before they become invalid and decrepit. We should live life cheerfully and die also equally joyfully. We celebrate birthday and why not deathday? I don’t mean death anniversary, which should be done away with. We should celebrate the day of actual death. And the organs – if not the whole body -- should be donated to the competent agency, for the benefit of those who are left behind. It is still better, if we can donate the entire body like Jyoti Basu and S.L.Kirloskar did. On the day of dying all loved ones and friends should be invited and after a grand feast with pomp and show, according to one’s ability, one should say sayonara to this beautiful life and the world. Death should be painless. Those cannot overcome the fear of death or even -- otherwise -- unwilling, may be spared.


I am dead serious. Why not change the law and build up mindset favourably in that direction? I have crossed 75 now, and it won’t be any wonder, if my Spartan lifestyle push me through another fifteen or more – though, imponderables not ruled out. After eighty, I should be allowed to exercise my option. I want to bid farewell to this loving life and beautiful world, not just with a sweet smile, but with a bombastic guffaw. I want you to be a witness.


Amused or startled? You!!!???



More By  :  Nalinaksha Mutsuddi

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