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About Death


Death is such an easy thing to happen. At times, I feel, it isn’t death which is accidental; rather it is life, which is. It is strange not to have written about it. Death has been a consistent thought hovering over my mind like an ominous vampire clouding over a meek moon. While two of my stories, “The Death of  A Soldier” and “Betrayed by Time” dealt with death as a kneel over which they revolved; on my blog, I never have written about death. To think of it, it seems a rather strange  thing.  Not to have written about death. Any blog about life had to stray somewhere into the dark realms of death.

It is rather coincidental that in last few months, I have read several books which dealt with death, the most recent being “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion. The book traces a period of intense grief through which she survived post the death of her husband and her daughter. While reading it, I found it rather strange that having had so closely been touched by death, I had steered off the subject almost like being in an adamant denial. Before I was so closely visited by death in my own life, I would boisterously conclude any discussion about death with a solemn one step sideways argument. But that was before 17th of August, 2001 fell on that long balcony of that house on the fourth floor. Hit by a sudden uneasiness in the chest, which quickly turned into a pain which found me doubled on the balcony, I, on a later thought, was driven by a unique kind of stubborn stupidity to have walked three stories into a hospital next door. The visit to the hospital coincided with the daily round of senior doctor who was a heart specialist. Once coincident led to another, and I survived and woke up on this side of the world. Those three days which had the door opening in both the directions proved what I always said in my youthful sagacity- Death is nothing but one step sideways. I survived, and I continue living, in dark shadows of death still hovering over the brightest sun. Nothing came close to that feeling than what Joan Didion wrote about her husband when she wrote- John lived with a bad heart which will someday kill him. One only needs to replace John with my name to understand my usual day.

There is nothing sanguine about death. It walks lonely in the dark alleys with its head held down. It doesn’t ever look up, it doesn’t smile at you, it promises nothing but an eternal silence in the end. It doesn’t even have to take you along, a brief embrace hangs over your soul forever and your whole life thereafter becomes a struggle against it, against death, against the futility of life and against the eternal silence in which all the noises are to eventually fade. I survived death but had since been living with the feeling of a borrowed time. It gnaws my soul, feeds on the innards of my being. Didion’s husband inherited a bad heart. I didn’t. My father had a cardiac episode, but that was later than me. I had it at twenty eight, he at sixty two. Maybe, at some metaphysical level, he inherited it from me, something like the magician whose life was in a bird, I being that bird. Maybe, inheritance of a bad heart is a flawed idea in itself and we both embraced our own frailties through our own accidental turn of fate.

At the end of it, a fractured heart beats inside me which like Didion’s husband will eventually kill me. The knowledge of that damaged heart struggling hard to keep me alive does strange thing to my mind. I want to respond to minor kindness with wholehearted gratitude. I read my obituaries in my dreams. It makes me realize my own existence as an idea, extending beyond mere physicality of existence. I recognize myself as an idea, a though, a confluence of values. I do  not want much from the world. I want my six year old to delve deeper into her heart and derive her own value, spring-boarding from the foundation that I have built. She has a good heart and she need to be rescued from the vagaries of intemperate thoughts. She doesn’t inherit a bad heart and she needs to learn the deeper meaning of life without having to encounter the painful intimacy with death like her father. I need to teach her that before I someday take that one step sideways. I look forward for a good obituary on the day that happens and in the meantime, I want to prepare my daughter for the inheritance of a good heart and a kindled mind.  And of course, in this borrowed life of mine, I want to be pampered and loved, for I am the pampered prince of pathos.
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