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Paddling into the sunset. I

Neurotron | 5 August 2004, 12:13pm

This is a common way, among certain tribal cultures inhabiting islands, of accepting the inevitability of death.

And it is usually a self-made decision by the elderly. I imagine one knows when one is at the end of one rope and needs to hold onto the next. So he announces his decision, people grieve, and say their goodbyes while the person is still alive and well. Maybe it makes the transition easier on everybody. But this way sure seems way better than our ‘civilised’ methods of dealing with death.

If you live till old age, you will certainly have to face the deaths of people born years before you were. I was just thinking this morning that one day, I will wake up to hear that people who we believe to be ‘ours’ in a collective sense, like say Amitabh Bachchan, or Sachin Tendulkar, are no more. But why do we insist on believing that they have been ‘snatched’ from us, or that ‘it’s a great loss’? Did you honestly think it would never happen? Did you just assume that they would be around forever, to entertain you and justify your illusions? I have been hearing similar things on television channels about the passing of Mehmood, or Brando, or others. But such is life. The less oil you have left, the more you realize how you wasted it when the lamp was full, and the quicker you reconcile yourself to the fact that the light will go out soon. And then, you start living more happily. But as Tagore said, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” Those left grieve, and move on in search of their own dawns.

Grief. Another side effect of evolution, of our species. I have always thought, or wanted to believe, that I am pragmatic about grief. I can look at the situation from a logical point of view, understand my emotions, and grieve. But there is an indescribable sadness at a crematorium. Inescapable. It just seeps into your being. I wonder if I would feel the same if I just walked into a crematorium one day and just sat there.

Within a year, I’ve faced 3 deaths. One was an elderly relative, soon after I returned from London. Not that we had much contact or we were especially close, but I still have the one letter she wrote to me when I was about 12. I don’t know why. I was the only person of my age at the last rites, though there were other people of my generation who could have come, but didn’t. I was told I needn’t go, but I realized I wanted to. My mother later told me she was happy I did. The lady was old, ailing and thus, in essence, it was her time. I always feel there is not as much sadness in the passing of an old person.

But it all changed at the crematorium. I have no idea why I cried. Looking at it practically, there was no overwhelming reason for me to. But I quietly walked away, found a quiet spot, and completely broke down. For a person I hardly knew. And I could almost feel the sadness just hanging about the place. It was like an unremovable stain that I knew my clothes would stink of for days afterward. But it was not one of those things you feel disgusted about.

I allowed it to sink in. There was no sense in trying to stop it. I let it gradually take control. The sobs came in spurts initially, but flowed freely soon. I let the tears wash my face, and my soul clean. Even while I cried, I was conscious of my brain trying to analyse why. It didn’t matter anyway. It was healing me inside, filling in all the wounds I accumulated since the last time I cried. No wonder it took so long.

Everybody hurts...
Everybody cries...

Current Mood: Thoughtful
Current Music: REM

Posted in General | Next | Previous | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)


  1. 1. By Anil  |  5 Aug 2004, 1:13pm

    I liked the quote from Tagore. It is so poignant yet beautiful. I shall refrain from commenting about the rest of the post because in the end grief is a very personal thing and no amount of sympathy or even empathy can make you understand what the person is going through....

  2. 2. By doesitmatter  |  5 Aug 2004, 2:58pm

    I'll be silent, acknowledge my own grief at the inevitability of death. I dont know if others feel this way, but every time i think of death (let me add, its often) and its inevitability, i am awed by the vanity of mankind (includes me).

  3. 3. By JLU  |  5 Aug 2004, 5:31pm

    That was well written.... not sure if I can articulate my innermost feelings so well.

    The bereavement just served as an emotional trigger. It could very well have been something else - say, listening to a sad tune while under 'influence', that could have triggered off the grief. I guess it's for good, that the safety valve is thrown open once in a while....

  4. 4. By Neurotron  |  5 Aug 2004, 5:52pm

    ~Anil: yes, the quote is beautiful. And it was weird that people I know have been writing on this topic for the past week or so, I wake up with similar thoughts, AND I come across this quote today!

  5. 5. By Neurotron  |  5 Aug 2004, 5:57pm

    ~doesitmatter: ah yes, the vanity of mankind...

    ~JLU: Thanks man. You are quite right about the 'emotional trigger' part.

  6. 6. By aloque  |  5 Aug 2004, 7:44pm

    worai, what are you trying to do to me....sniff sob...damn you

  7. 7. By rainmaker  |  6 Aug 2004, 4:23am

    oil in a lamp... interesting example!

    i wonder if its a Good thing that the old lady died. death at a certain age is a boon... after 70-80 years of age the human body is not much fun to live with. my granny's elder sister doesnt enjoy life... she's plagued by a multitude of problems.. physical pain thats too much to bear at times.

  8. 8. By malakpetmasala  |  6 Aug 2004, 10:19am

    yes, that was santu.
    who is this?

  9. 9. By whg  |  6 Aug 2004, 5:22pm

    ive seen 5 deaths in a row nothing in life is worse than someone dying anyone in any way....

  10. 10. By PSD  |  7 Aug 2004, 11:16am

    Now its time for my fav jingle -
    "Death is a religion, Death is a priest, Death is the truth, embracing me..."

    dei macha, wosup?

  11. 11. By Neurotron  |  9 Aug 2004, 10:41am

    ~Rainmaker: I know what you mean...

    ~PSD: Dei macha...lots of things up. :-) But who you re?

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