A mesmerizing story of Death, Love and Life.....of afterlife and profound love....
How would I know how had I died? Someone owed me an explanation. I had to know what had happened to me. Had I lost my memory? Not altogether, as I remembered everything except for the part when I died. The effort I put on reminiscence was weighing heavy on my mind. I had been sleeping, I guess, when I met this fate. Oh! I died in my sleep. Painless death, I suppose, taking abruptly the life out of me. There was nothing I could be more desperate to know all through my life than this. The situation, however, overwhelmed me and helplessness often gives way to calmness. I was calm as I was tired now. I wished I could sleep. It was the only thing I felt I could do. Sleeping over my tragedy would provide me the much needed respite from the quandary I found myself in.
Things began to unfold when I happened to see a newspaper on the table. “Youth killed in car-truck collision”, was a bold caption in the right corner of the paper. It carried an image of a mangled car and beside that I saw a beautiful, smiling face of mine. I was killed in a car accident on the highway and the truck driver who had fled the spot was apparently drunk when he hit my car from the front. My beloved car was badly crushed in the accident. The newspaper said I was returning from a friend’s success party. His business had gone global and he was also getting engaged to his long-time love. ‘Love’, the term brings such strong emotions to my head but it was not the right time to think of the amorous part of my being. Things had started coming to my head. The impact had probably wiped out that memory from my brain. My brain must have ended up with some damaged tissues thereby causing me to forget my last moments. But I was now recollecting them.
I had dashed off from work to attend the ‘double celebration’ party organised with pomp by my rich friend. His farmhouse was a symbol of splendour and big names had arrived to bless the couple. I too wished the couple a happy future. Some of our common friends were there and we had a great time together. Food and music were good but booze is what attracts you the most in such occasions. And all the premium brands were freely available. All of my friends and their girlfriends and wives ended up drunk. Although a connoisseur of drinks, I did not drink at the party as I knew I had to drive back home. I had promised to Mom that I would never drink and drive. My friend was certainly not pleased at my refusing to drink at his special party. He relented though because it was my promise to Mom. He knew there was no one on the planet I loved more than I did her. My safety was also a concern for him. His fiancée however scoffed at my ‘lack of interest’. Thankfully I did not drink. My death would then have been attributed to my being drunk. I would have hated that. I recollected my college days when we would go biking after a drinking session. I had only one fear then and often used to tell my friends, “In case we meet with an accident now and something happens to us, how hurt will our parents be when they get to know that their son died because he was drunk?” Drinking is still a taboo in many parts of the country. That’s not without reasons because it leads to many ills. Nothing can be worse than dying because of what is meant for celebration. Drunk driving is a despicable act and a scourge for the society. Even the most considerate of the people abuse you when they get to know that. You would obviously despise being abused that way after you die. Some of the ugliest people are eulogised after death as if they belonged to the most virtuous class on planet earth. You don’t want to be treated otherwise. It was a relief that I had not drunk that night. I would otherwise be a suitable example for the proponents of “Don’t drink and drive. You meet a deadly end otherwise.” You do not want such blots on your name, more so when you cannot answer anyone.
The last things that I could remember were my writhing in pain when the truck suddenly swerved from its path and hit my car head-on from the right side. I saw it rushing at me with a deadly speed and tried my best to turn the car. That was not enough though and the collision could not be avoided. I had too little time to react. And the tragedy had struck. That vehicle had death written all over it. Profanities flowed from my lips when I knew the hit was imminent. The driver had apparently dozed off. A drunk driver of a heavy vehicle is one of the easiest means of sending you prematurely to God. I remember I was losing consciousness and that was it probably. That must have sunk me. Mom’s angelic face was the picture that crossed my brains towards the end of my journey of life and the picture was blurring fast, very fast. I realise that I passed off and then passed away. I read that I was taken to the hospital where they declared me ‘brought dead’ and it said I could be saved had I reached the hospital faster. I reached the hospital two hours after I had met with the accident and that probably ended my slightest chances of survival. It was a shame that the staff reacted so slowly, a testimony to the poor accident assistance mechanism on the highways of a metro of a rising nation. But that was my fate which I had no control over and which had been sealed by a truant driver. My body was then taken to my ancestral village for the last rites.
I was kept on the verandah outside my house. They would not allow a dead body inside. I was not supposed to be taken inside the house which was still mine but one I could no longer stake a claim to. The loved one of the place was not permitted into his playground. A dead body is considered inauspicious. You suddenly become untouchable to people. You get associated with misery and pain. Everyone knows they will die too but no one wants to and people would rather not be reminded of anything close. People avoid you. They fear you. That is the irony of life and the curse of death. When you were alive, people would show all affection to you. But they despise the same face after you die. Your true loved ones however still love you. They want to embrace you. But the rules of society have to be followed. Your dead body is of no use to nature and hence must be obliterated. These rules of society are good in a sense. They convey that you must get on with life and one who has been kissed by death is of no meaning to you. People clean their houses after someone dies inside and they paint them. They want to purify the place and absolve themselves of the sin that death associates with. Fortunately in my case, I had met the fate outside and there was no need to repaint the house. I was glad that I did not inconvenience my family after death. I had not really been a source of joy to them when I lived. Hopefully I would not cause them undue pain after I died. I understand that family members love you even after death. But they have to abide by rules which have been laid out clearly and followed since ages. They never fail to flummox me, however. Why this change of behaviour when your loved one leaves you for his permanent abode? How can your own suddenly become an untouchable? What big difference does it make after you die? A lot, perhaps!
I saw my beloved dog inside the house, sulking. He could understand that I was no more. He had been refusing to eat even before he saw my body. That is the strange thing with your pets. They happen to realise your misery without your making them understand that. How could animals do that? The only plausible explanation could be love. The loved ones always get to know when you are in trouble. That is the power of love. It transcends everything and your pets love you unconditionally. Not without reasons are dogs the most adorable pets of so many people. They love you so much. Bruno, the most adorable of all German shepherds, was in no mood to eat. I sensed he was crying in pain, the pain my death had brought upon him. I wanted to hug him but I had no way of doing that. I thought why he had to suffer this pain too when he would himself hardly live for about a decade. Bruno used to be my companion when I was most distressed and he could always cheer me up with his antics. I was going to miss him in the new world and he already appeared to be missing me a lot.
Hardly had I ever experienced fear when I was alive. I was always a fearless sort of child and friends would approach me when they were afraid to go to the washroom in the dark. I never felt this fear and would laugh at all stories of ghosts. That was unlike others in my age group. As a grown up too, nothing seemed to frighten me. I had this unflinching faith in myself that lest something happened, I would give a fight and try to do something about it. My faith lied in my ability to defend myself and withstand the assault. So the only pangs of fear would be when I came to realise that I would not be able to fight. Helplessness of mine was the only thing that I feared. I would shudder at the thought of a situation where I would have nothing in control and when I would not be competent enough to try to salvage the situation. I feared flights for this reason. I thought I could jump and save myself if a train derailed or was to collide with another. The same was simply impossible in a flight. My safety was completely in the hands of the pilot and the crew. I could not help myself. That was beyond my capabilities and this state of witnessing what was beyond me was a source of fear to me. I feared being left to someone’s ability to protect me. I would rather protect myself and any situation where this was not possible would frighten me. Not having a control over my fate is what I feared. And here I was, left completely helpless. My fears were being realised by me after my death. Could a dead man fear? Yes, I was one who could and I actually did.
But you are compelled to leave everything to others at times. Trust is important more so when there is no other way that it can be done. You trust a doctor when you undergo a surgery. When you are made unconscious for an operation, you can only hope to get back up on your feet. You leave yourself at the mercy of others. Not that I did not fear that, but you are so often left to others. However much would I like to believe myself to be the master of my destiny, there are so many of them who decide at every moment whether I would see another day. There are the police, the army and the doctors always protecting us. I understand I could never do that job of protecting myself. Above all else, there is nature always protecting us. Human destiny is based on reliance upon others for survival. You tend to get overconfident, actually arrogant, of your abilities when you trust yourself to protect you always. When you are born, you are completely at the mercy of your parents and it is so for a number of years. Human child is probably the most helpless of the youngs of all species. It is strange then that we start feeling so powerful with time. Being independent is good but you can’t help being dependent on others at times. When you die, everything that mattered to you so much all your life and whatever happens to whatever remains of you is totally upon someone else.
Many people had assembled in my house. That gathering reminded me of the pujas that my parents organised. And they did many of those. Many a time, such acts of worship are meant to please a God or to ward off evil. The religious people do believe that God is always happy with his children. But such pujas in his name and the offerings could make him happier or get his attention to your problems which he can then address. He has after all so many people to look after. I have never believed in that though. I believe they are often ways for people to make money, a la duping people in the name of God and religion. That amounts to exploiting the faith that someone has. Dogma and blindness have often plagued humanity and it’s a pity that we are yet to overcome that when the world, we feel, has progressed a lot. People fear and so believe in what helps them overcome that. But I still enjoyed those occasions. The biggest reason for that being, it gave my family a chance to come together at a place. We could get to meet one another from our big, extended family. They are rare opportunities when everyone gets to spend time with others. Busy lives of people rarely allow them to see one another. Nothing could beat my joy when I got to see all my cousins, uncles and aunties and their children. The second reason for liking those occasions was their involving kind acts of distribution to poor. The pujas would often be accompanied by acts of feeding the poor. There is sometimes a need to feed a given number of hungry people in order for your puja to succeed. Huge money went into that but it at least ended up feeding some hungry souls for a day or two. On the day of the Sraddh that would come after 12 days, people from all over the village would be there to have a feast. The message being conveyed here, you need to get on with life after the period of mourning is over. You must mourn for a period because you have just lost your dear one. But you cannot be doing that forever. In a big puja once organised by my parents, people who we did not know had come from far to have satisfying meals. There are many who still go without having one full meal in a day. Many like them had their stomachs full on one of such occasions. A sense of satisfaction you get when people bless you and pray for you.
There is no need to go on a pilgrimage when you can make people happy and get their blessings. I often felt that I had almost everything in life. One could hardly give me anything. The only thing I ever craved for and needed from others was love and their kind wishes. I felt happy that all this will culminate in poor, hungry people being fed. My munificent parents would obviously do a lot more this time. It was a big, defining moment of their lives. It involved the loss of their only son. I remember so many pujas that were conducted for me and how Mom fasted for a day every year for my well-being. In fact, every prayer that came out of her lips would involve wishes for me. It was now a different matter altogether, since I no longer remained. None of my parents’ future prayers would ask for their son’s success and prosperity. Yes, there would, of course, be some to bring peace to his departed soul. Another reason that I loved those pujas was the purpose they stood directly for. The sacred environ does bring peace to you. That is what religion is all about. It is when you put a stop in your regular life to get a dose of divinity. You love the atmosphere when prayers go about all around and everyone is trying to get blessed in the holiness that worship brings along. I recollected how I used to sit beside my parents to go through the procedures of those pujas. Reluctantly, I would sit there in discomfort because I had to for all elements of the ceremony to complete. Many of them were held only for me. Good world that was!
Time to get over with my deep thoughts of recollection! They were now ready to take my body for the funeral. I saw myself draped in a white cloth. White, a sign of purity, had been my favourite colour and would always look pretty on me. It was fitting then that it graced me after death. That body on the casket was a picture of calm, one that was no longer bothered about the daily fights of life but the person who it belonged to was certainly going through a lot even after death. Chants of “RamNaamSatyahai” filled the air when kind souls carried me on their shoulders. They say they are your biggest supports because they support you in death. Neither was there anyone from the place where I used to work nor were there people I would meet in times of fun. The people who gave me their shoulders were those I was born with. That is why family is so important. They are there when you come into the world and they are there when you are departing from the world. I felt an infusion of energy with those powerful hymns. I was on my way to the ghats (banks) of the holy Ganges which flowed by my ancestral place. I would soon be a part of my ancestors’ world. My family had grown rich and we were a respected bunch. But my grandfather had struggled all his life to see his children reach the heights of success and succeed they did. I had heard from my father the stories of sacrifices of my grandmother whom I unfortunately never got to see, nor did my Mom. I was born in a well-off family but my father wasn’t. My grandparents had their marked graves and no one from the younger generation had yet met the fate of death. I belonged to an even later generation. None of my uncles had died and I would be the first one to get a place beside my grandparents. Untimely death, it was. I would only come to the village occasionally since I had always stayed in cities. But my permanent abode would now be set up here in the tranquil of a neglected place, one which was often forgotten by me. I could imagine how difficult it would be to bear the eerie silence of the place and how frightening could the night get there. The dead need not fear! I suddenly realised.
I got out of my trance inducing thoughts when I heard a group of people whispering about me and my accident. They were my neighbours whom I used to see rarely. A lady amongst them remarked, “How can one meet with such ferocious accident when he is not drunk?” and she had support when a gentleman nodded in acceptance. They said the reports were false. “You know how they can be manipulated so easily these days. You just pay a bribe and get that done. The newsmen can also be bought very easily. They would not allow the family’s reputation to get tarnished.” They were saying that I had met a cruel death and they wished I had not suffered that fate at my age but “why don’t these spoilt children get that?” I was no child but unmarried people are children to them. “The youngsters do anything to enjoy their lives and they indulge in drinks and drugs and then drive. That causes most of the accidents these days. I would never allow my son to do that”, said one amongst them. “Rich people and their unjust ways of living”, said another. I felt terrible at those insinuations. There was not much I could do but I wished they were not so harsh on me for no fault of mine. “Allow my soul the dignity. I have suffered enough”, I cried. There are people who will always doubt you and you have to live with it. It only gets a lot worse when you have to die with it!
Link to Requiem: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A7EFKV8