Saturday, November 17, 2012

Encounters with a dead man

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming! I really really wanted to talk to you. The matter is a serious matter, of grave concern. Grave! Huh! (smirks) Grave. Grave is serious. The man who coined this synonym, this allegorical synonym must have been a morbid man. Have you ever thought about it? Why would he choose, of all words, the word ‘grave’ to mean to be something very, very serious. Give it a thought. (Thinks)

Come to think of it, and you know, it makes sense. You can’t dismiss a grave. You can’t just laugh about death. Can you? And hence the word does make sense, after all. But I am getting increasingly curious about this origin, this man, and how it must have occurred to him. May be he was a child, and... well, not a child, a grown-up, a grown-up of say age around 25, or let’s just say my age, (grins) and he was talking to his parents. They were talking about something, well anything, and he happened to say kind of kidding, “Mom, blah blah blah blah blah blah, but what if I die before that? What if I go to the grave, and you are laying flowers on it..” “Oh stop!” The mom’s reaction-pretty easy to guess. “Oh come on, what are you saying?” She was totally disturbed, fretting more than ever, “Don’t say such a thing ever again, my boy. Why should you die? If anyone has to die, God take me, but you are talking in front of a mother about her son’s death. Why should you die?” And with this snubbing, he realized that man, never ever mention death, leave alone joking about it. Death is damn serious. Grave is damn serious. So whenever, he would have to say that this is a damn serious matter, he started to say, it’s a grave matter, requiring grave concern. What! Did this man have this inherent ability to be funny; to bring this morbid word into a common everyday usage and thus mock at the teaching of his mother. Or, was he trying to tell us something? May be he was trying to tell us that it’s..... no wait, let me not say it right now. I pretty well have digressed from what I was going to tell you about, happened to get into this word, but on a second thought, I’ve not really digressed that much as you would think. You would think much more, because this is not what you would have imagined. That when I said that please come, I got to tell you something important, it was death that I wanted to speak to you about. Did you? Is death important? Or money is important? Huh! Which one is more important? Or is there something more important than that? The Saturday night party, planning for the upcoming birthday celebration, office work, business, what? Whatever it be, now you’ll have to bear with me, because indeed it’s death that I want to shove into your ears; and (pause) your mind.

Many of you would be thinking that oh God! when we could have been enjoying an ice-cream among the (shouting this one word) over-bored, mundane (whispering) - pardon me! I’m not feeling well - enjoying ice-cream with the big happy crowd at India Gate this evening, we are listening to this morbid man. I treated that man with the same pathos. We made a point to stay away from him. We, I mean, my siblings, my friends, (quick recollection) even my family and I. When I met him for the first time, he was sitting in this park where I used to go for evening walks. He was sitting there on the bench. I was exercising. I had sweated a good deal. There were other benches in the park, but I don’t know why I chose to sit along with him. Actually this was queer of me taking into account my otherwise covert, I mean introvert, nature. I would rather avoid than talk to someone if it was optional. But (pause, thinking) I don’t know, I am not sure actually, May be that’s where I finished my sprinting shoot, and, and that was the nearest bench. (Irritated with the confusion) Well, whatever it be, I sat on that bench where he was sitting. I was resuming my breath. A few silent moments, before he asked me, “Who are you?”


“I asked who are you?”

“Who am I?” Now, this question, “Who are you?” three words ‘who’ ‘are’ ‘you’ None of these words were foreign to me, or to any of you. These are elementary words. Yet the question formed out of these was in a way peculiar. No one had asked me that before. Generally people would ask, “What do you do?” or “What is your name?” But “Who I am?” But it wasn’t so peculiar after all, even though unheard to the ears. “Who I am?” that’s a relevant question. Well, well, I didn’t know then what to say. It was so ambiguous. I was a lot of things. I was a son to someone, someone’s brother, someone’s friend, student. I was a resident of so-and-so place, student of XYZ school. But was I really any of that? I mean, just that? Did the answer have to be an essay like that? Couldn’t it be something more definite? So, I wished not to go about elucidating my whole history, my stats, because I feared an awkward moment. I thought I would rather keep quiet. But the man pressed again.

“Who are you?”

“I don’t know.... I don’t know.”

I turned my face away. Then, suddenly, as if by instinct, I turned back towards him. “Who are you?”

“I am a dead man.”

“Fuck you!”

Was that a joke or something? What was that supposed to mean? (Caricaturing the imitation) “I - am - a - dead – man.”

“What are you talking about? You are some sleazy ghost or something? Damn you!” I got up instantly and walked briskly towards the exit of the park grumbling, blabbering. I could hear him rip-roaring with laughter. He shouted from behind,

“No, I am not a ghost. I am a dead man.”

“You know what? I don’t care. I don’t give a damn.”

I came home, had dinner, I didn’t talk much during dinner, then I changed into my overalls, and went to bed to retire for the night. As I closed my eyes, I had a sensation that he is sitting in a corner of the room, and he is looking at me. I knew this was idiotic, but still for some reason, no, not for any reason, just like that, I opened my eyes and looked into the corner. The study-table. It was all the more foolish, but I even bent low to have a peek below the table. The corner. Empty corner. I closed my eyes again. He had occupied my thoughts. I had to struggle really hard to catch on some sleep that night. The following morning my eyes were red because of lack of sleep. As I sat in the classroom with the teacher explaining some rocket science, I had a surreal moment. A sense of isolation. A sense of isolation. A sense of being removed from the surroundings. I could see the teacher scribbling something on the blackboard, I could see him speaking, but what I heard! “I I I I I I I ammmmmmm A (crisp) dead maaaaaaaan” I shook myself.

“So, to start any lucrative business, you have to look into certain things. Are you going to run it alone? Or do you need a partner? A trustworthy partner.”

“Dead maaaaaaan”


“Then comes the analysis. A structured analysis is very important primarily because there are so many things to look into, any of which can’t be ignored. If you happen to overlook any of these important aspects, leave alone the business attaining those heights, even before it starts to bloom, it would be dead.”

“So, we have here this 10-point analysis. The first part is the location analysis. Then comes the market. And so on. But before that, know your constraints. In order to survive, know well what can kill you.”

Was he saying all this or was I hearing things. Nonsense. Well, the class ended. I had some water. (Drinks water) Amar went about telling me his everyday bullshit. No, sorry, it was not bullshit. I used to enjoy it actually. I used to talk very much the same. About some or other girl having had responded to our distant gestures. Or so we imagined. Complaining of the idiotic syllabus. A complaint of all ages. Calling the teachers several names. Ha! Dreaming about the future. Talking of placements. Or sometimes, simply picking onto something trivial and going about it endlessly. But that day, my mind was occupied with something that had broken this routine. That was something out of the ordinary. A new man. A dead man. Why couldn’t I dismiss it as a joke? I don’t know. Somehow I knew that he was not joking. But if he was not joking, then what? I mean, Who talks in that manner? Let me admit that the man had become an enigma for me. Batman – the man who was afraid of bats since the time he was thrown into that well full of bats, and eventually he overcame it as a final fear, and donned that garb to become batman. Spiderman – the man stung by some rare species of spider, and getting the power to spread a web and go about jumping, crawling on walls like a spider. But this one was a big puzzle. What could it mean? It didn’t mean a ghost. Then what? Oh God! I wish I could stop thinking. But he had become kind of my unholy secret.    

The following evening, I went back to the park. I argued with myself that it was nonsensical of me to go there. But I counter-argued that why should an idiot matter to me enough to prevent me from going to the park for exercise in the usual manner. But all the time that I was exercising, my eyes were looking around. But he was not there. I slept rather peacefully that night. I smiled for no reason. I felt strangely....liberated. The morning after that, I shared this with my father. But my father didn’t take it as calmly or as enigmatically as I did. He was rather upset. He demanded in a way, as the king orders his servant to procure someone before him.

“Who is he?”

“He is the dead man.” I replied instinctively.

“What nonsense? I mean, who is he? Where does he live?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him ever before. I don’t know who – “

“Well, I’ll walk with you to the park in the evening. You show him to me. Let me see who goes about raving in this manner.”

“Come on dad. Don’t be so upset. I didn’t mean it in the way of complaining about him. I was just sharing it with you.”

My mother, who’d already stopped her household chores to listen with careful attention, joined in at this moment.

“He must be all mad.”

“Come on mom, it’s fine.”

But dad just wasn’t in a mood to let it go. It was a Saturday. You know, what I did. I was checking my e-mail. (sudden hurry) No, nothing special about that. I checked the e-mail. Just the usual mails. After that, I searched for death on Google. It was in abundance. Articles, stories, images, everything. Bizzare. Spooky. In childhood, how talking about sex was such an adventure. The adventure with death reached far beyond childhood. I was enjoying it. Not exactly an adrenaline rush, but yeah, an excitement. Probably it was not about death. It was something out of my ordinary routine life. Something new to set my thoughts on. And probably that’s why it was enticing. Or... I am not sure though. Next, I thought to google ‘dead man’, but for some reason, I refrained. I knew the reason. I didn’t want any explanation from any such source. Anyways, it had to be a figurative one, because literally speaking, a dead man means someone who has died. I thought I would better leave it to myself. Or say, to myself and the man. I found some poems on death. But strangely, no! Not so strangely. I mean, it was strange to me that they were not in the least bit spooky. Because that’s what I associated death with. They were kind of philosophical. Death and philosophy! Oh yeah? Really? Well, here was Emily Dickinson. Frankly speaking, I couldn’t make much out of those poems, but I liked them. Ironical, isn’t it? (laughs) But.... How do I say it? Man, I was reading something, something different. It was not a Stephen King thing. The murder, mystery, blood, death, ghost. Nor it was a local Ved Prakash novel kind of stuff. Revenge, bloody knife, thirsty for blood. Or the laying life for country, parents, lover etc etc. with the white cloth for burial tied on one’s head, martyrdom, sacrifice.

No! This poem said a different thing altogether. Quite similar to listening to a middle-aged man in a park saying without the least bit of animated expression that he is a dead man. I could grasp the meaning of neither the statement nor any of these poems, but tell you what! Don’t mock at me, but I was almost feeling like an intellectual. You know, reading stuff. Different stuff. Forbidden stuff. Indecipherable, puzzling, philosophical.

Well, it came to an end. Or let’s say a new beginning. My father went with me to the park. And we did find the man. I wished to go to him by myself, sit with him, and ask him,

“Who are you?”

Upon his reply, I would ask him to elucidate, thus listening to something new. A break from the usual words and sentences of everyday life. I couldn’t say it to my father this way. A break? What break? Why break? Why think? And think death? Are you gone mad? (sighs) So, I put it across another way. 

“Dad, you wait here. Or you take a walk. Exercise. Relax and let me handle it by myself.”

But he wouldn’t let me.

“Why? Come. Come with me.” He said walking. “Or wait, you wait here. I’ll handle it.”

At this point, I realized something. It was not just about his son being infested with anything morbid or unholy; not about someone cracking a nonsense joke in front of his son. I felt that it was a mild shock for him too. Words different from his daily dose of words as well. But for him, it was not an enigma. For him, it was a disturbance, an anxiety. What kind of anxiety? Why? I don’t know.

“Excuse me.”

“Yes?” He looked towards us. He identified me.

“Hey, you!” He smiled at me. A friendly smile. A warm, reassuring smile. “Come on, sit,” he said, offering me the vacant space on the bench. And then, as if suddenly remembering that there was someone with me, and inferring that it meant something, yes, a propaganda, he again looked up at my dad and said nonchalantly, “Yes?”

“I am his father.” My father said in a tone of assertion.

“Ok, great.”

“Why would you speak any such nonsense to my boy?”

“Liberate him, will you?” He said fixedly with an intent gaze at dad.

“What? What are you talking? Speaking all kind of nonsense. What did you say – you are a dead man? What nonsense is it?”

He didn’t retort. He didn’t defend himself. He spoke matter-of-factly,

“You want to know what does it mean, or you want to tell me that it’s nonsense?”

His rational manner of talking caught my father unawares.

“I don’t want to know anything. I want you to know better than talking such foolish things in front of my son, or anyone for that matter.”

“Your son meets hundreds of people every day. They talk to him thousands of things. How can you screen everything he hears? Why not rather make him screen it himself by the simple process of thinking? Well anyways, I would take it no further. And - ,” He shifted his gaze at me, “If I upset you, I am really sorry boy, though I had not the slightest intention to do so. You see, I am a poet. That time I happened to harbour some thoughts on death. And that new identity was just a manifestation of those thoughts. Just then you came and sat near me, and it came out rather spontaneously. But I meant it to be a silent – “

Dad was too impatient to let him continue or to let me revert.

“Ok enough. Stop it.”

Dad was embarrassing me with being so rude when he was talking so gently. Making a mountain of a mole hill. I regretted having discussed it with him. As we walked away from him, I turned to look at him. He was looking in my direction smiling. Catching hold of my eye brought no change in his smile. I smiled back as if to say it was ok. And he winked in return.

All hell broke loose when my dad discovered the death poems on my desktop.

“It’s the effect of that old goon. What magic he has done over him!” He shouted at me in front of my mother.

My mother said to me calmly, “What all you are reading, my son! Concentrate on your studies.”

I said ok.

“No, it’s not ok. You won’t go to that park again.”

“Alright, calm down. I won’t.”

But he didn’t calm down. He told it to the neighbours. They took heed like responsible parents and instructed their children to play in the other park. God! Dad had made a big scandal out of it.

I discussed it with Amar as well the following Monday. The guy was excited as he used to be excited about almost each and everything. Then it waned when the man didn’t show up for many days. After around two weeks, I found him yet again walking to and fro.

“Hello dead man!”

He turned around to look at me.

“Ah! Hello! How are you doing?”

“I am doing good, dead man.” I spoke in a way a child does, with the resurgence of my lost interest in the topic. He laughed in a manner quite responsive to it.

“Well, well, well.... so?”

“So what?”

“Who are you?” He asked with the undertone being that you can’t evade the question any more. And I still didn’t have any answer good enough.

“I’m more interested in who you are, hoping that you still are what you were that day. A dead man.”

“All of us are lot of things. It’s the role that we reinforce ourselves into which creates the difference. You know, the priorities, the preoccupations. Now stop bothering yourself too much over all that. As I said, it was a spontaneous remark.”

“Whatever. Now don’t go about beating the bush.”

“Oh my! Alright boy, but I am afraid that it might disturb your dad all the more.”

“Come on now, I won’t tell him.”

The unholy secret was losing its covert nature. So I felt as I drew him into every other sentence of conversation. Spontaneous remark in a poetic mood. Well, some of it lingered though.

“Well, what do you want to know?”

“How are you a dead man? Were you into despair?”

“Oh no! Not that. Look, I am bound to death, and so are you. We can’t evade it. Whichever path we take, wherever we go, death is the ultimate destination. It’s certain. And it’s around the corner. It could come to us anytime. And it’s this fact of the imminence of death which, in a way, is the precursor of life. Hence, I am a dead man who is bound to die sooner or later. We were born from an absence and we’ll die into an absence. Before birth and after death is an absence. The same absence. It’s a round journey.”

He looked at me expecting me to say something in turn. But at this point, my eyes caught sight of a funeral procession through the bars of the gate. They carried the deceased on the arthi (a wooden bed made of bamboo spokes used to carry the dead to the cremation ground) which four men held onto their shoulders. Behind it a large procession of men mostly in white clothes followed. The young guys wore t-shirt and jeans though. I kept gazing. He had his back towards it. He traced my gaze and looked behind.

“See.” He said so nonchalantly as if he himself had done some magic to create that scene as a demonstration. A moment later, he was disturbed though, probably on seeing me disturbed.

“It’s a coincidence.” I said without looking at him, more to myself, with my intent gaze still in that direction.

“Yes dear, of course. Just a coincidence. Nothing more.”

I looked on until the last man had disappeared from my sight. Then I looked at him. I had lost onto the string of words. Even he said nothing more. He pressed my shoulder softly with a touch of reassurance. Yes, I knew for sure that it was nothing but a mere coincidence. This is how coincidences are.

“Are you okay?” He asked me with genuine concern.

“Yeah, I am cool.”

Actually, whenever I would happen to watch a funeral procession, I was never cool. I would feel that some morbidity hovered in the air, which I would first try to pacify by praying to God to bless the soul of the dead and rest it in peace. And then, I would try to dispel it by whistling a song. But here, I was caught in a different situation. My natural habitual discomfort might be misconstrued as one appearing from the current situation. I did not want to present a weak picture of myself. I am mature. I know what death is. Why should it affect me? I resumed my exercise, while he lay down on the grass and closed his eyes.

As I retired for the night, the words kept coming back to me. Bound to death. Death is the ultimate destination. Round the corner. I stuck earphones into my ears and played some music on my music player so as to rid myself of the thoughts and lull myself to sleep. Bound to death. So? What’s new about that? Even I knew that I am going to die. I never thought that I would live forever. Everyone knows that they are going to die. Who doesn’t? What’s the big deal? What’s so philosophical about it? What’s there to be talked about? I dismissed the whole affair. I shuffled the tracks on my player, and started listening to a new song.

The morning paper carried news of a road accident. A truck had smashed into a car, and all four members of a family had been killed. It was sad, but it was not uncommon. The papers carried such news almost every day. People murdered. Trains derailed. Buildings on fire. Road accidents. I would hardly ever read those news articles. What was there to read about? A stranger, who I didn’t know, who I didn’t have any connection with, died. How could it make me feel sad! The sound of it is rather blunt but I had nothing whatsoever to do with them. It didn’t affect me even remotely. Only at the end of the day, I would pray to God to bless peace to the souls of the people who died that day, and bless the new-borns with a good life ahead. That was it. That did it. There was nothing more to think about.

But now, I did think. I would suddenly find myself ruminating about death. Random thoughts. The enigma had disappeared. The puzzle had been solved. Only the unholiness of the secret still remained. No one is supposed to ponder over death. Least of all, a youngster like me. I was gripped by blues. Sometimes I would sit ruefully thinking of death in conscious thoughts. I would shake myself. I would call Amar. Sometimes, I would skip my exercise routine and roam around with him in the malls. I would hang out with my girlfriend on the weekend. I would try to immerse myself in the nuances of modern life. We would eat pizzas, and drink coke. We would watch films in theatre. I would try to keep my mind off the uprising topic which went on inside my head. I would talk non-stop with desperate urgency about several other things. But once, I happened to mention my death to her. No, actually I did it quite deliberately.

“What if I die, will you be able to live without me?”

She pressed her fingers to my lips. “Don’t ever say such a thing again. Promise me, you won’t say it again.”

“What? What have I said? I was merely – “

“I can’t ever bear to listen about your – “ She wouldn’t even say ‘your death’. She suggested that there was something wrong with me. Why was I talking in such a sadistic manner! But was something wrong with me? What about how hysterical all these people suddenly became! Did they not know what death is? Was there nothing wrong with them? After that, I never mentioned death in front of her.

When I would return home, I would start reading poems. I would think of reading poems in general, but eventually it came about to poems on death. I had started fancying it to be a meditation, or a path to self-development or to exaggerate it, enlightenment. I was getting closer to Emily Dickinson. And there were some other people who had joined in. Osho, the man who taught death. I loved the way he had phrased his sentences. His similes, his seeming comfort rather relishing while talking about it. And some, rather several others who spoke of it, death, as beautiful. Sometimes I experienced spurts of frustration. Why was I undergoing all this turmoil? May be I was advancing on the path of maturity. May be it was an important lesson that needed to be learnt. I wasn’t clear what lesson. But I had realized that there was more to what the dead man had said than what I had understood. It couldn’t be all dismissed just like that.

I had realized at least something. The understanding of inevitability of death, which although is a definite, unambiguous fact, has some levels to it. Knowing. Actually knowing. And may be something furthermore. Are you getting the point? Everyone knew it on an outer level, but they never really admitted it. They never discussed it. They went hysterical over it. They couldn’t imagine themselves dying. As having left forever. If at all, the topic came up, especially the question how would you like to die, they would say they would prefer to die sleeping. They attributed it to being a painless form of death, but I felt it was more because of the ignorance involved. That way they wouldn’t have to face it. But I had come to imagine my death. With comfort. Which cremation would be better? Or shall I make use of my dead body by having it thrown to the vultures, as in the Parsi culture. Or shall I donate it to a hospital so that students could experiment upon it and learn new things. Shall I donate my body parts? Also, I had thoughts about the mourning sessions. I wouldn’t like people to sit around my family members with their sombre pretentious faces and thus deject them all the more while also contrastingly not allowing them to express their grief openly. I liked what they showed in some western films. People drinking, talking about the dead person, sharing their moments with him, praying together, even singing songs for him. A celebration of death. How dreary and how romantic! Slowly, my discomfort was ebbing. I could think about death without fretting. It was no more an obnoxious morbid obsession. I was seeing death and hence life in a different vein.  

A month later, my teacher’s mother expired. When he was absent for the second day in a row, it was then that I discovered this from another teacher. They had gone to his place the previous day after school The whole staff. I liked that teacher. I wished he were fine. So, I wanted to see him. But what could I say to make him feel better? I didn’t know. Even after all that self-development, I felt nervous even at the thought of having to face him. So, I didn’t want to visit him. But I wanted to console him. I asked Amar if we should go to his place. He said that he would anyways be back to school in a few days.

“Of course, he would come, but that’s a different thing Amar. At this time, he must be sorrowful.”

“But what would we say to make him feel better? It’s rather awkward for me.”

Yeah! What would we say? How would we face him? The awkwardness related to death. But I really wanted to show him that we cared for him. At least, I did. No, in fact, Amar also liked that teacher. But he was unrelenting to go to his place, to the site of death. So, I thought to go to his place by myself.

Earlier as a child, I would never have to go to anyone. Children were spared this horror. Oh sorry, I mean.... Well actually, this is what I mean. My parents would go visiting friends mourning a near and dear one’s death. I would be at home. Then they would return, and initially I expected them to look sad and serious when they returned. But they would be so normal. Sometimes more normal, I mean cheerful, than otherwise. Oh God! so cruel of them. They used to be talking about the most mundane things.  No solemnity, nothing. I would fear myself becoming harder day by day. But then, I gradually got over it. Let’s say I matured. I sensed that they were internally sad about the friend’s loss, but the person who went away wasn’t connected to them. Hence, they didn’t really mourn that death but they were sad about the friend’s loss and consoled him or her by visiting and talking. So when they returned home, it was okay for them to be normal. Until this time, I never had to visit any mourners. In a way, my parents could take us with them just the way they took us to marriage functions but they would have us stay at home in such cases. They never discussed death in front of us. It was a conscious decision on their part. I know.

So, after all I went. I was nervous. I saw my teacher. There were many people sitting around him. Would I go to him, or would I settle here in a corner? Sooner or later, he would see me. What a selfish thought that was! But in a way, that selfishness carried a concern for him. I wanted myself to be seen by him so that he knew that I was there. That I am with him. I wondered how much support seeing me would provide him, but well, maybe it would. Why else would all these people be here? It was so as not to let him and his family feel lonely in such a difficult grievous phase. But then I reconsidered. Let me go to him, I thought. Every step that I took towards him felt so heavy. Finally when I was a few feet away, he looked up and saw me. I stopped there itself. I couldn’t move further. I looked down to avoid the discomfort, in the excuse that I was finding space among the people perched on the ground so as to move forward. Looking down, I moved forward and reached near him. I sat close to him. It was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I bent on my knee towards him.

“Sir, I came to know... But don’t be – “

God! What was I saying! Don’t feel sad? Come on, why won’t he feel sad. He had lost his mother.

“Don’t feel that you are alone.” A big pause. “I am here.”

His lips pressed together into a wry. “Yeah..” he murmured.

He looked so sad. I wished I could hug him tight. I felt that a hug is what he needed rather than so many words. But although I liked him, yet he was my teacher, not a friend. Yeah, it’s fine to hug a teacher, but you know, a kind of barrier... moreover, there were so many people around. I felt shy. I settled down on the ground. Just then, an elderly man called his name. He was inching his way towards us through the gathering. But sir stood up and went to him to avoid him the trouble. I retrenched towards the wall behind, and sat there without talking to anyone. After some time, they brought food for everyone. Sir was there. He put in my plate a roti and daal. Eating at the mourning of a dead man, I mean, dead woman? I felt morbid. Also I didn’t like him taking all this trouble when he was anyways so aggrieved.

“Please eat.” He said to me softly, almost in a whisper.

“Sir, you sit and eat. I’ll help with it.” I said half rising.

“Oh no! It’s ok. Sit. It’s all done. You eat.”

I had to eat. The associations with food and death had always been so contrasting. Holy food, unholy death. I was finding it difficult to chew. But I rebuked myself. Had death entered the food or what? What’s wrong with the food? I felt calmer. I ate. The food was tasty. Oh God! I felt so guilty at this thought of finding the food tasty. I also felt all the more morbid.

The teacher rejoined us at school 4-5 days later. Within a week, he was fine. You know, he was fine. I saw him talking and laughing with another teacher. But then, what did I expect of him? To wear mourning costumes, or to wear his grief over his face? To never get over his grief? Moreover, how did laughing on whatever they were laughing about, talking or seeming normal imply that he didn’t feel that sadness inside. He would have been still missing his mother now and then. Of course! Yes, one has to accept death. One has to move on. In fact, life moves on irrespective of anything. The memory fades but the loss remains. And you get to accept it more and more firmly.

That autumn, death showed itself to me at closer quarters. The roles were switched for me. My grandfather passed away one morning. Well, he was old and diseased. He was in the hospital for the past week. And although we hoped against hope, yet we foresaw it as a possibility. It wasn’t shocking for me. Nevertheless, I was aggrieved. It was the first death in my family that I had witnessed. I wouldn’t see my grandfather ever again. He was gone forever. I tried to accept it by thinking of it as the natural course of things, and that given his ill health condition, living longer would mean only suffering for him. Thinking on these lines helped but I couldn’t stop feeling heavy at heart. Amar came to me. As per his usual self, he seemed uncomfortable in saying anything. But he was there. And that was enough. He hugged me, and a tear dropped from my eye. Also I showed traces of guilt of an unknown nature. Someone, i.e. my grandfather had died but I was still alive. Well, I would die too. Some day. I had begun to accept death more closely.

But still, what I didn’t realize that this ‘some day’ could be any day. It needed not be at the age of 70 years, rather it could be any random day. I wish I could be kept away from this realization because it came at the expense of breaking my heart. Nothing has been able to hold my attention for this whole past week. Any moment I slip into a morose mood.

Amar is no more. He died. He met with an accident and died on the spot.

Not just this once, I have repeated these words to myself in my mind over and over again. But it’s too hard to digest. The boy who I met almost every day would meet me never again. The parties and the fun we used to have would occur no more. It’s strange but at times I totally forget this fact. I start to dial his number, and then the grim reality takes hold of me. I wait for him after college to go home with me on my bike, but after waiting for a minute, the reminder of his death suffocates me.

He was not meant to die. That guy who was uncomfortable thinking about death showed no possibility of dying. He was not old. He was not sick. He was humorous. He was filled with life. And yet he died. And so I realize, it could very well have been me.

This realization that death is around the corner has come to me shockingly. It has almost mentally crippled me. But you don’t have to go through it to learn it, because here I am baring my heart and all the pain within it. All of us know it, but we never actually realize it. If we did, then we won’t live our life so carelessly. There are friends whom we have not spoken to for years. We think that we shall meet them some day. There are several dreams inside of us dying a slow death, because we have compromised and put them on hold for a few years or even until the age of our retirement from the earning job. There are unsaid words which are waiting for that unknown day in future to be spoken. There are feelings that have been left unexpressed in the vague hope of being expressed some day.

But my dear people, please understand that that one day might never come. Death doesn’t discriminate. It waits for no one. Whatever you wish to say, do, feel for yourself or others, now is the time.

Don’t forget death, because only this continuous reminder of death could unleash a spurt of life inside you. Not by knowing but by realizing that you or anyone around you could die any fine day, you would be able to shake your inertia, your lethargy and go about doing what you want in this moment. Living in the moment has to be the way to live, because it’s uncertain whether we would see the light of the next day or even the next moment.

Antonyms are tied closely in a thread. If you detest and ignore death, you wouldn’t be able to live. It’s inevitable and imminent, and thus the most powerful stimulant to bring about a surge of life. We are here for a limited amount of time, which again is unknown to us. And it’s this limit posed by death that makes life valuable.

Even if in a figurative sense, that man was right. All of us are dead men. Well, if you don’t like his poetic expression, find out your other answer soon. Find out who you are and even what you are before you are actually reduced, or burnt or buried, to being nothing. So that when anyone asks you in the park who are you, you must be ready to answer it. You can’t lose any more time. Go on, discover your heart. Discover yourself. 

Discover yourself. With that, here I close. Please pray to God to bless peace to Amar’s soul. In a way, I speak through him, and I am feeling a little better now. Thank you for coming. I hope to see you again. Take care!