Death becomes them

I have been thinking a lot about death since Raj passed away last year. I have been hesitant to write about him because sharing such personal details feels like distributing emotional pornography. And what sort of meaningful closure would involve sharing its most intimate parts on a content distribution platform?

I feel sick, but I want don’t want the world to forget him.

Raj died by suicide on May 23, 2015. He was 25 years old, a brilliant filmmaker, and a close friend whom I had treated like a younger brother.

He was also a very selfless human being. We first met when his brother had asked to talk some sense into him regarding his reluctance to release a documentary about homelessness. He had already won a national award for his animated short film by then. So, few digital distributors were ready to market his documentary. But Raj was stubborn about shelving it because he felt that he was exploiting the subject. Much to my chagrin. he gently shut down my attempts to convince him with a smiling face and instead – asked me to watch it.

An hour later, I wiped the tears from my eyes and told him, “I get it.” 

“On The Streets” – a documentary by Raj Kumar

Two weeks later, we decided to write a film script, along with his brother. We were sure that it would have been the first of our many creative collaborations. Eventually, he wanted to travel the world and document people’s lives. And I wanted to move to a hill station and spend more time with birds than I do with people.

But things didn’t work out. Within a few months, we had completed the script – but we had other problems that indefinitely stalled the movie production. And Raj and I decided to go our separate ways, professionally, for the time being. It was such a rude awakening that we barely had any time to stay in touch. He had to find a new career, and I had to return – kicking and screaming – to my old one.

Two days before the incident, Raj had called me out of the blue. We had not been in touch for two months. He said he wanted to meet me, sounding like he always did – polite, affectionate, and excited. But I had to go to the office early the next morning. I told him that we could meet during the weekend. He insisted that we should catch up just for a few minutes, given how long it was since we had met. I kept telling him that we could, in a few days, at the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary.

He laughed and said that he looked forward to it.

The next evening his brother texted me, saying that Raj was no more. My immediate reaction was to pick up the phone and call a few mutual friends. I told them about what happened in a calm tone, even adding, “Yeah, he was so young,” as though his friends did not know how old he was.

Then, I visited my parent’s house for an unplanned dinner. I told them about what had happened too, even though they had no idea who he was. Nevertheless, they empathized with my loss, and I told them what a wonderful and talented person he was.

As I was driving back home, I started profusely sweating. A dull ache swept through my lower back. A bit startled, I reached the front door. I pulled out the house keys from my pocket with some difficulty. As I was trying to unlock the door, it kept slipping out of my sweaty palms. It was incredibly frustrating. I just wanted to lie down, with a pillow over my head.

But I just couldn’t fit the key in. I tried a few more times in vain.

Then suddenly, it hit me.

I was never going to see Raj again. I could have – just 48 hours before. All I had to do was take a 15-minute drive. Perhaps I would have sensed something was wrong with him. And I would have said the right thing. At the very least, he could have said goodbye.

Unable to gather these thoughts, I sat down in front of the door. I broke down in a way that I had never before. I spent the rest of the night, trembling and listening to songs that used to make me cry in college.

I took off from work the next day and went birding early in the morning. Apart from the regulars – Black Drongos, Red-Whiskered Bulbuls, a few Pelicans, and Openbill Storks – there were hardly any birds in Vedanthangal.

Maybe they were lamenting his loss too.

Raj Kumar (1992-2015)

55 thoughts on “Death becomes them

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  1. A sad story that I can relate to. One of my best friends as a child killed himself a couple of years ago, he had been in care for a while but I just never got around to trying to get back in touch with him. Unfortunately, I procrastinated to too long and paid the price. Whilst I doubt that I could have done anything to help prevent his suicide, you’re never really sure and it sits there in the back of your mind.

    Wish you well for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hug I’m still mourning my grandma’s passing 2014, so it’s okay you feel the way you do. Writing may bring some healing to you, at least a way to work through thoughts. I’m praying God comforts you and you know I’m here if you need a listening ear. You’re not alone ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s with a heavy heart that such things make you realize that nothing is meant to last forever. I think about death sometimes too – and then, I don’t want to think about it. It’s something that can’t be evaded, just that some choose to make it happen for themselves.

    A very powerful read that brings out the depth of humans and humanity – brought a tear to my eye.

    And hey, like they say – idhuvum kadainthu pogum 🙂
    Cheers, hugs and prayers

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If you’re a believer of closure, you must also believe in a telltale sign – a gesture that will lead you to it. And thereby, peace be bestowed upon us.

        PS: Missed mentioning, the captured snapshots are beautiful King Kong style. If only, they add to the overall meaning and essence.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 😦 I am happy I got to meet Raj. He was very kind to me. I remember how much that news had affected you. I suppose that some of us find a closure in death that we don’t find in living. I hope he got what he wanted, peace, warmth and love too. Hug..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So sorry for your loss. One never knows, does one? Of the moment when something gives way and the ocean lands up at your feet. A vast blue trips you up and you can’t breathe. Felt your helplessness and frustration in those lines but perhaps he is free to soar, with none of the weights tying him down anymore. Somewhere among those bird wings that carry a bit of the sky on them. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. it is irony that when the seed sprouts, along with it, the death of the same is also born! After an years death, we celebrate it as the first birthday, you see the irony there! Life is a package sans expiry date stamped! Take care pal!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t know Christy – death is a very strange thing to relate to or write about.
    On one side we have people who take up their own lives – rejection, failure, pain, monetary loss, misguided youth. On the other we see struggling old people who battle a barrage of elements and keep huffing and puffing; then there are the young ones born with ailments that cannot be cured for no fault of their own. It is a strange mystery 😦

    For someone who has battled a lot of demons with three years lost from the dark recess of the troubled mind. I have always wondered what drives us to take our own lives? Is it the mask that we so easily wear everyday that slips down and we are found wanting and emotionally vulnerable?

    What could be the answer?? Death by suicide is definitely not one of them!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As is the case with most universal matters, there are more questions than even suggestions, nanba. I suppose, it is a mystery, one that we simply don’t have the acumen to process, let alone – find peace in. Maybe it’s a matter of access to knowledge, given how much we invest emotionally in it.

      About suicide, when caused by depression – I can’t question the person’s motive. Depression is a clinical condition, it isn’t a frame of mind. It’s a matter of responsibility too. If we ask people to live, should we teach them how not to suffer?

      I have decided that it’s just one of those things that adults do that I don’t understand.


    1. Yeah Kate, they do hide in deep corners. Writing, I think, is a submarine that can fish-hook you to half-hearted truths. Even if I get lost in the void sometimes, or most of the time, the light seems apparent.

      Thank you, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. thanks for writing this and helping those of us who are not articulate enough to write so poetically, or brave enough to dig through the memories so honestly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am humbled, Madhu! I am glad you found some solace in it. If you have unresolved issues, I suggest that you pen it down. Putting it up for display is a different matter. Do try though to give structure to sentiments through language. It could help, comrade. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a sad story. I remembered when my grandma died. she had called me few days before I was so hesitant to pick her call. I was living abroad then and I was going to be home in few days and I wanted to be a surprise. I picked her call reluctantly and told her I was busy but she was so persistent. She asked me why I haven’t been calling her like I used to and I told her I’ve been busy with no much conviction. She died the day I got home, I was at the airport…all excited when I got the call. I died and died all over again… Only if I had spoken to her like she wanted me too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing those moments, it sounds heart-breaking, soul-flinching almost, when we don’t get to say goodbye. I am sorry to hear that you didn’t get to see her, but we can’t judge ourselves for too long based on what we did not know. I hope you find your peace. Hugs.


  10. There is no way to console somebody over a death. As we learn to know about each other someone else becomes a part of us, a sector of our nervous system that is alive. It lives within us and the more we learn the more of us becomes someone else. I have lived long enough to have lost quite a few people but they are alive within me and we converse frequently in dreams and quiet thoughts. Death somehow signals us that they have reached a sort of completion within us and can grow no more in what we deceive ourselves is the real world but each of us has a world that is internal and, in a sense, is more real than anything outside. It takes me about ten years to accept the loss of contact. I hope it may be easier for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I think when someone we care about commits suicide there is a tendency to assume that they were desperate for our help and that we failed them in some way. Many look as suicide as an act of tragedy inspired by other tragic incidences, a response that could have been consoled away. Perhaps, of course there is always the possibility, but suicide requires a tremendous amount of willpower and bravery. We could also entertain the thought that their decision was one chosen for themselves with careful consideration and knowledge of the finality of their actions. Are we reducing the complexity and intelligence of our loved ones by saying that there was anything we could do? Death is a mystery… those of us left living are the ones who suffer from it. I give you a lot of credit for writing openly about your friend, Raj.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Are we reducing the complexity and intelligence of our loved ones by saying that there was anything we could do? ” I never saw it from this perspective until I read your comment. Perhaps you are right, I have been ignoring another’s willfulness based on my personal sentiments.

      Thank you for this, Rachel. This gives me some amount of closure, believe it or not.


      1. Glad to hear it. After having certain loved ones teeter on the brink for years, I’ve come to think of death in a somewhat different light. It’s an incredibly difficult conversation to start, but I think a very necessary one. So, thank you, as well.

        Liked by 1 person

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