Death waits for no one
On February 22nd, I was happy as it was my son’s birthday, yet I felt uneasy and I didn’t know why. My son was away from me in a different city. He even wished me “happy birthday” as I had taught both my children that a child’s birth means a mother’s rebirth. So we have been celebrating birthdays together even if we happen to be at distant places. Moreover, I had read somewhere that with each child’s birth a new mother is born. His wish on phone made me smile and feel proud. However, with the passage of time, my mind did not become calm. I felt unease and irritation and I felt intuitively that something went wrong somewhere. By late evening I checked my WhatsApp and found the sad news of the demise of my maternal cousin, Suresh Jain.
I was taken aback. I had met him five months ago exactly on 22nd September at the prayer meeting of his eldest sister’s kriya (last rights after death). I could not meet my cousin sister though I had an ardent desire to do so as she had shifted to a new home and I didn’t have her address or phone number. She was sick and lived in the same city. She had lost her son-in-law a few months ago and I wished to meet her personally to be able to console her. For the last few days before I got the news of my cousin’s death, I was thinking of inviting him also over lunch/dinner to my place. He had recently moved from Kuwait after staying there for more than three decades and I was curious to know what made him come back at this age. Unfortunately I could not invite him though we had exchanged our phone numbers! I thought what if he expressed his inability to come. Many childhood memories came to my mind during past few days just before his death.
Meet people when they are still alive
It has happened so many times before also. I was flying from Bergen to Helsinki and suddenly I thought of my sister-in-law’s father, an astrologer. He had predicted that I would visit many countries and travel a lot. Reading, writing and travelling have been the main passions of my life and I was wondering how his prediction had come true. When I came back to India after a few days, I was told that this astrologer had died the same day when I was flying and thinking about him! It reminded me of a beautiful poem written by Gulzar pleading each one of us to visit our near and dear ones whenever possible instead of waiting for some day in distant future, when it might become futile. These days, in the era of digitalization, we have lost personal touch. Most of us feel very lonely and alienated yet we shy away from meeting people in person when they are alive. It is of no use if we go for cremation or prayer meetings under social pressure or as part of an obligation. Here I quote Gulzar:
“चलो कुछ पुराने दोस्तों के, दरवाजे खटखटाते हैं │
देखते हैं उनके पंख थक चुके हैं, या अभी भी फड़फड़ाते हैं │
हँसते हैं खिलखिलाकर, या होंठ बंद कर मुस्कुराते हैं │
वो बता देते हैं सारी आपबीती, या सिर्फ सफलताएं सुनाते हैँ │
हमारा चेहरा देख वो, अपनेपन से मुस्कुराते हैं │
या घडी की और देखकर, हमे जानें का वक़्त बताते हैं │
चलो कुछ पुराने दोस्तों के, दरवाजे खटखटाते हैं│”
When translated into English, it implies:
“Let’s go and meet some old friends, knock their doors;
See if their wings are already tired, or they still flutter;
Whether they laugh freely, or smile with their lips closed;
Whether they tell you their past stories, or just boast about their successes;
After seeing our faces, do they smile on their own;
Or start watching the clock, to remind us that it’s time to go;
Let’s go and meet some old friends, knock their doors”.