Let’s talk about death

What if you could bring back to life
a loved one in small portions?
Would you pick a nose hair
or a toenail or saliva stains
on a glass of chai?
Or would you need something
more wholesome to remember them by?

Kodaikanal

Many people die, without leaving a trace that they once lived and loved. Even when they do, there is a chance that the world will remember them for the wrong reasons. Like everyone else, I know very little about death.

And like so many of you, I have lost friends, family members and colleagues to diseases, accidents and stupidity. Grandparents to old age. Parrots to a parliament of crows; dogs to reckless car drivers.

I have often wondered though of it were because someone had lost his/her life or since I had lost someone from mine.

Kodaikanal

A few years ago, while I was stuck at a traffic signal in a noisy part of my city, I saw two old men, clad in graying dhotis, begging for alms. It is a common sight to see people do that in India. However begging is no longer a by-product of nationwide disparities in income. It is an organized racket run by gangsters and businessmen. A cold reminder that unscrupulous NGOs aren’t the only ones milking the Indian poverty brigade for loose change.

One of the old men, taller than the other, seemed upset. He wore a visible scowl on his face. But he looked like he was in charge. He held the other by his hand and took him around, appealing to people’s mercies. His eyes shot daggers whenever they walked away from vehicles.

Mahabalipuram

His companion looked broken. As though he had waved the white flag at the world a long time ago.  Before they could approach me, the signal turned green. And I drove away.

I wondered what death might have meant to them. Whether their lives had already given them so much joy and strength that they could easily fight through these bad times. Or if they were merely biding their time, having been crushed by abandonment, until their bodies give up too.

For some reason, they stayed in my head for a long time. At least a few years had gone by, but still I think about them whenever I see old people begging in the streets.

Kodaikanal

A few months ago, I saw them in the same part of my city. They were trying to cross a busy road. They were dressed a little better, as the rays of the matinee sun bounced off their pale-white dhotis. The tall man looked stoic this time. And the other fellow had a huge smile on his face.

I convinced myself then that their lives were better than ever; that they neither had the reason nor the time to worry about death. Or how are they might be remembered by.

I might have been kidding myself, but don’t we all as far as death is concerned?

This scene is from an utterly brilliant Tamil film called Veedu (House).  It was directed by the late Balu Mahendra and featured Chokkalinga Bhagavathar, an unbelievable actor, as its protagonist. It is stunning because of how impeccably simple its treatment of death is. The script, the co-stars and the music are spell-binding too. 

(Photographs – Chennai)

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34 comments

    1. laughing so hard at this comment, what an earth?

      “But I wonder if it were because someone had lost their life or since I had lost someone from mine.” – well said, beautiful

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have always thought about death. And I have always concluded that I would want to see them once a year. It would be painful. Waiting for an entire year to see or talk to them. Yet it would be worth the wait & the pain.
    But then I think, death wouldn’t be so dreadful, the dead wouldn’t be so valuable if they would return and tell us what happens after life. Right?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That is as accurate as anything else I have heard, comrade. i am sure if there is a way of dealing with death without letting go, matter of fact i am not sure if life itself would be manageable without the ability to let go of.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Parrots to a parliament of crows

    I was going to suggest the alternate collective noun ‘murder of crows’, but on reflection parliaments probably kill far more people (and birds) than murderers do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s like you witnessed some sort of metaphysical atonement beneath the surface of camaraderie. I really, really love how you connect to your sights and sites. You make me envious of the magic, but you deliver the moment so well that I’m just happy for your experience (usually happy ha). Thank you for sharing your life, and your amazing talents.
    Once again, a perfect poem to set it all off. Take care 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’ve been reflecting and posting about death since recently learning of a loved one passing on. I am at peace with death and accept it as part of the cycle of life, but it touches on so many areas, it always gives me pause and the opportunity to take stock and really reflect on life and my inner emotional world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For me Death is a only a part of life,since life continues its journey in another form.That is the way of life. Your article is brutally true. Though we think our life is eternal ( when we see obituary photos in news paper) and go on doing our mundane activities, thinking that our end is going to be far away. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts about death.
    Your article also reminded me of the poetic expressions of ‘Death is nothing at all’ by Canon Henry Scott-Holland

    Death is nothing at all

    I have only slipped away into the next room

    I am I and you are you

    Whatever we were to each other

    That we are still

    Call me by my old familiar name

    Speak to me in the easy way you always used

    Put no difference into your tone

    Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

    Laugh as we always laughed

    At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

    Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

    Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

    Let it be spoken without effort

    Without the ghost of a shadow in it

    Life means all that it ever meant

    It is the same as it ever was

    There is absolute unbroken continuity

    What is death but a negligible accident?

    Why should I be out of mind

    Because I am out of sight?

    I am waiting for you for an interval

    Somewhere very near

    Just around the corner

    All is well.

    Nothing is past; nothing is lost

    One brief moment and all will be as it was before

    How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

    Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral

    ‘The King of Terrors’, a sermon on death delivered in St Paul’s Cathedral on Whitsunday 1910, while the body of King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster:

    published in Facts of the Faith, 1919

    THIS IS THE MOST VISITED PAGE ON http://WWW.POETICEXPRESSIONS.CO.UK

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To die without telling the world the qay they looked towards it, is like a book written with all love and might but never was taken out to get published! Eventually people may not come to know bout it and the pleasure of sharing views remains incomplete.

    Liked by 1 person

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