Tuesday, August 6, 2013

May You Rest In Peace

 
Courtesy - CartoonStock.com


I am not afraid of dying. I mean what’s the big deal in dying? You are too dead to care if the Rupee will rise again, if you’ll fit into those jeans again, if Rahul Gandhi becomes our PM, why everyone is so concerned that you invest in a flat in Noida’s Sector 3456….

In fact, it’s your friends and family you leave behind, who have to deal with grief or relief depending on what a good/bad job you did of not annoying / annoying them.

Unfortunately for all of us, death is an inevitable that we cannot escape. The final must-do in our bucket list. Besides giving up on the tax refund you claimed in 2002.

For someone who loves writing and opining, words fail me when it comes to expressing my condolences. I guess it stems from the knowledge that whatever I say to express my regret and sympathy will sound hollow when compared with what s/he is going through. And the last thing a person in grief wants is sympathy.

Some of us are so tongue-tied that when a friend or acquaintance shares the news of demise of their beloved Dadajee on Facebook, we simply click the “like” button. I mean that’s what Facebook is, a communion of like-minded individuals who spend 80% of their online time complimenting each other, sharing motivational quotes and feeling relieved that there is a “like” icon when there is nothing to say.

Dadajee could have been 90, miserly, cranky and a chronic bed-wetter and you’re sure that his family and especially his wife cum tea maker cum cook cum temper absorber cum diaper changer of 70 years are secretly rejoicing. Why, you even saw them bursting crackers last Diwali!


What does one say, tongue in cheek, during these times of bereavement?

May he rest in peace! – Are you suggesting, life was World War III for him?

I’m sure he’s in a better place now – Excuse me, have you been there!

This too shall pass – What if she turns around and says - Sure, I’ll be too happy to pass it on to you! 

 
By the time you start typing, “I’m so sorry for your loss”, you discover 97 of her friends have already said it.

At times like these, it’s best to keep your honesty and poetry under wraps. So, refrain from saying - Roses are red, violets are blue, I am so glad it wasn't you! Or I am sorry for your loss. I'm really happy that you are still here. Life would not been the same without your annoying daily phone calls. Mwah, I love you.

At condolence meetings, it gets even more awkward watching old ladies beat their chest and howl in anguish and then turning around to ask for a cup of tea in a perfectly normal voice! How long can you stare at your toes and imagine yourself sitting for a Math exam so that you look appropriately sombre!

Even for instances when truly a loved one has departed, I do not get the point in visiting the grieving family, only to make them repeat their harrowing ordeal again and again for the sake of guests. I doubt if sharing your pain with your neigbours, colleagues and acquaintances does much to lessen it. Instead of shedding tears and making them more miserable, I’d rather offer to take care of the kids, pick up grocery, get hot meals for the family or any other gesture to make the bereaved family feel loved and wanted.

Fact is, we take life too lightly and death too seriously. Death is but a reboot button – an opportunity to restart life as a cockroach, lizard, ostrich or a Russian stripper! If you lived a life of piousness, you might even be waitlisted for heaven (the one without the 72 virgins – by the way, what do pious women hope to get?)!

Just make sure you don’t die with a bunch of regrets and if you do, please don’t annoy everyone with your tears and your long list of could-have-beens! Big deal that you made a mess of your life and chased all the wrong things! All you have to do is make sure you don’t repeat those mistakes when you are born the next time. After all, history repeats itself because no one paid attention the first time!

Now go, start living before it’s too late! That, at least, is in your hands. 


80 comments:

  1. For me, silence works best! Just hold a person's hand or just go and be there, quiet and in the shadows. And you are right; no one else knows what the pain or joy is actually like :). A delightful post really. Had me guffawing on such a serious topic :D!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Grief is such a personal thing. And at times of bereavement silence works best.

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  2. I will solemnly try to keep my thoughts to myself.....but that is one reason I don't do condolences. I feel it is absolutely fine to say "Let's meet for coffee after a month or so". No pressure that way.

    And oh the FB likes........Do people even read or they just have the left click itch?

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    1. Expressing grief should not be a formality that you must do for the sake of appearances.

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  3. Be Alive while You live. Life is too short to waste on things not worth grieving about! Purba,you truly deserve accolades to make death a laughing matter:)

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    1. Let's just say I took it as a challenge and was expecting brickbats.

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  4. Amazing how you can be witty while writing on such a topic and also end up making so much sense.Dada ji departing at 90 is inevitable but when a young life departs words become truly meaningless.

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    1. It is Alka, but life doesn't stop for anybody. You still carry on.

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  5. I am tongue-tied - as tongue-tied as I am normally in the situation you have described. With amazement, let me hasten to add, that someone can actually be good enough at humor to be witty about this topic and still write in good taste.

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    1. The hypocrisy of it all gets to me. And doesn't humour work better than anger?

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  6. All I can say is that as I get older my fuck it list is longer than my bucket list..

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  7. "Instead of shedding tears and making them more miserable, I’d rather offer to take care of the kids, pick up grocery, get hot meals for the family or any other gesture to make the bereaved family feel loved and wanted."

    The truth is that even to execute the afore-mentioned you may need to visit the grieving family once, share their time and space. And hence let us not get allergic and averse to the notion of visiting the family of the bereaved. We must visit them but without making them recount the entire heart-rending incident. As the crux here be, be helpful in some way or the other.

    So while we must not take life and death a little too seriously, we don't need to desensitise ourselves to the loss of others.

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    1. It's all a matter of perspective :-)

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  8. I go, nod solemnly and then retreat and sit far far away for 15 minutes and depart. Duty done Phew! Good post

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    1. Exactly! that's what it has become. A duty to be dispensed with.

      And thanks :-)

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  9. :) Yes, the awkward moment when you have to express your condolences. What gets worse, is when you lose a friend, and people go berserk on their Facebook Wall. Why would anyone do that?!

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  10. I haven't faced the situation yet. I send mom and dad on my behalf. They are veterans in this field. I completely trust them to share my anguish and grief with the unfortunate family.

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  11. Very Very true. Helping them out genuinely would be the best thing to do.
    I find courtesy talking extremely difficult in all situations - happy or sad. I just cannot do the sugar coated talk either. The world sadly demands it all the time and I get labelled an introvert for not doing it. Yes I am. So what? Its not a sin.
    That's much better than saying a hundred thing that you do not mean one bit. And what's worse? It sounds hollow to the listener and yourself even while you say it.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. That's exactly my point. Hollow words do little to alleviate someone's grief.

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  12. Truer words have never been spoken.
    Everyone has their own regrets which they may carry right down to the end. The important thing is to focus on what comes next and live life the best you can so that the regrets fade away from your memory.

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    1. That's human nature. We spend half our lives bemoaning the past and dreading the future.

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  13. When in grief a shoulder to lean on and cry means more than ' I am sorry ' and 'may his soul rest in peace ' ! When I lost my dad a couple of years ago I realized that one can easily differentiate between those who really care about ones grief and those whose visit and condolence is just a ' ok formality done' ,:) . Was grinning through your responses to the general condolence terms in usage ha ha .

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    1. Yes, a hug, a comforting pat on the shoulder, an I understand nod, can do wonders.

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  14. Okay so would "It could have been much worse!" do? :P

    Not to take death too seriously, but we just can't be too serious with anything now. I am ill suited for giving condolences, I don't know what would be the right thing to say or the wrong thing either. True that we haven't seen what is on the other side of death. So maybe it is appropriate to know this side as well as we can.

    Regards,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. Yep, rather get acquainted with what we have been blessed with :-)

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  15. I am afraid I am finding myself facing this predicament more often than I would ever care for. Many parents, of friends' and rellies', are getting older and falling like ninepins. It is very sad.
    I agree with what you say. Do whatever you can to make those who are left bereaved comfortable. If that means not saying a word when you meet, or getting them a casserole, so be it.
    And, really, get on with striking things off of your own bucket list. You don't want to get to the last item without having exhausted it!
    Fantastic essay, Purba.

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    1. Frankly, I was expecting brickbats. I'm pleasantly surprised with the response this post got :-)

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  16. Yet again a wonderful post. You really have the gift of wit Purba to turn a serious topic like death into something which bought a smile on my face. Hats off to you.
    I too find myself at cross roads when it comes to giving condolenses. At times I have felt , the traditional Indian system which makes the family and friends gather at times of death , a better approach. May be it takes the focus away from berievement for a few moments.
    But yes, certainly watching old ladies beat their chest and howl in anguish is one horrible experience . May be such customs would die their own death.
    Loved the lines - "Fact is, we take life too lightly and death too seriously. Death is but a reboot button – an opportunity to restart life "

    This is wisom disguised as humor.Looking forward to more posts from you.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. We waste so many precious hours of our life imagining death! Women especially excel at the art of imagining worst possible scenarios and twisting themselves into knots!

      Oh, and thank you so much for your kind words.

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  17. True what you said.
    I remember a situation when my Mom's friend's father passed away and she was crying so badly before the funeral. The man was 92. Mom told her "Hello? Your Dad lived upto 92..and he never had any struggle health wise and passed away in his sleep ! How much longer did you expect him to be around? Be happy he was there to see you go through your life, and lived so long when average life expectancy these days is atleast two decades lesser than his age. Be happy God gave him so long to support and love you..and please stop crying. There is nothing you could have done so that he could have lived longer "
    Mummy's words not just soothed her, but everyone who heard her. Including me. In cases as this, death is a inevitable event. We may mourn and miss that person, but drama can definitely be avoided.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Parting is painful but everything we see and feel is transient.

      Admire your Mom for knocking sense into her friend's head!

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  18. After spiderman, khans, sleebless aunties et al, you made fun of death !..Bas etai baki chhilo :)

    Will you please write a post on why do most of the people chase wrong things always ?
    And the posting news of someone's demise and writing about how much adorable he/she was, in FB, is a horrible idea.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I still haven't come to terms with family members wishing each other happy birthday on Facebook!

      P.S I actually read out your "bus etai baki chhilo" comment to my husband :D

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  19. Purba, I take a bow.
    I am speaechless and agree with you 1000% (math can go and hang itself :-Dand get a life for itself)
    Every line that you have written is so precious Purba. I just loved the last paragraph.
    I think you should start an oraganisation 'Art of true living'. Humans cannot be 100% rational. But they should know where to break the rule when it comes to getting emotional.

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    1. LOL...Bhavana...I just put in words what most of us feel.

      And aren't we all perfectly clear what others should do with their lives! :p

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  20. It is such tough thing to express condolences. But you manged to make me laugh even on serious topic of Death, or is it Life and death.....
    No wonder in our country we have professional cry babies, remember ex Mrs. Khanna in Rudali ?

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    1. Half our life's decisions are governed by "what others will say'!

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  21. Losing anyone dear to you is very painful

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  22. True but at the same time difficult to say words for consololation. Many a times it appears so unnatural/unreal!
    The 'Like' option of Face Book on news of somebody's demise appear funny.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Not just funny, it's ridiculous!

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  23. amazingly well written Purba. I am one of those who seems dumbfounded on these occasions. Words don't comes to me. The last part of the post helped me in consoling myself that I am not that big a culprit.

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    1. I think we should be true to ourselves and not worry about what others will think/say.

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  24. Inspirational and informative. My incarnational ambitions were so far confined to Aryavart. If Russian strippers are in list, beer tasters sure will be there.

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  25. It is not the death that people are scared of. They mostly think what will happen to their loved ones after their demise.

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    1. Yes, but worrying about it doesn't change things. What one can do is prepare for the inevitable.

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  26. Very funny. I almost died laughing! Cheers ... Srini.

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    1. Thank God! you stopped at almost.

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  27. Oh my God...i am dead and gone, reading your post :P what awaits us women? Same 72 ahem..men? Hallelujah!!

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    1. If you've been pious, obedient and cooked three meals a day all your life, you will get a beautiful death.

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  28. well, I do mind dying!!!.....

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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    1. But if you don't mind, it won't matter!

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  29. A friend of mine lost her son, I wanted to say I understand your grief, I then re thought, do I actually understand what she is going through when I haven't experienced it. Silence was my only word that day.

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    1. Silence is any day better than empty words.

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  30. Very wicked and awesomely hilarious with a message in the end, This is a thumps up post!

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    1. Delighted that you liked my attempt at dark humour.

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  31. claps !! claps !! claps !! mocking at death .. you explained the meaning and reason of why life should be lead happily and not packed with remorse !!
    I am one of those who falls in dilemma when I see FB post of SAD demise .. I feel if I press like would mean - I liked he/she left the heaven .. or if there is a phone call I am supposed to make to express sorry - I am like ... better I be taken as botherless than asking them how did it happen , when it happened and that I was sorry!Purba you always bring a smile on my face .. wit at its best .. inspiring !!

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    1. Why, thank you so much.

      At difficult times like these when words fail us, a kind gesture means a lot.

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    2. true that .. a gesture is better than thousand repeated words :)

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  32. Please check my blog on death:

    http://liveandexpress.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/death/

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  33. This happens because expressing grief and sympathy has become a formalities these days. Most people have it in the way " the more they'll cry out, the more they please the deceased "Non sense thinking though.. And yes, about Facebook culture, people have got sick of liking. I saw someone updating 'XYZ person passed away' and 100+ people liking it. So weird.
    Absolutely liked your post...

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    1. I feel click on the like button comes naturally to most Facebook users. Many a times people click like before even reading the post fully.

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  34. It is certainly difficult to come out with the right response at such times because-yes,whatever we say has to be miles away from what the berieved person feels

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    1. Rather silence than words we don't mean.

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  35. People are damned hypocritical about death. For instance, there was this 'tiye ki baithak' where the chap's mother had died. He distributed small printed Hanuman Chalisas, and on the back of each was the name and address of his place of business. The idiot was using his mother's death to promote his business!

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    1. Had the person been honest and celebrated the end of a fulfilling life, his relatives(who visit him only during weddings and bereavement) would have ostracized him!

      Delete
  36. I do not know if you seriously believe in re-incarnation like your writing suggests you do.

    I obviously don't. I think Dawkins' has written eloquently about how and why this life is enough.

    If Dawkins is too 'militant' for your taste, Dr. Neil Tyson has spoken about his ideas of death too in equally eloquent words without perhaps resorting to re-incarnation.

    About those virgins, I remember Hitchens talking about what the ladies get.

    It's from that debate with him, Sam Harris, and two Rabbis, one of whom was Smuley Boteach or so ...

    It was a debate when Hitch was already very ill with his terminal (as it turned out) cancer.

    It is available in full on YouTube. Hitch was at his combative and eloquent best in that debate.

    He informed the audience that the ladies of course get their husbands back and the audience roared with laughter.

    I guess some women after spending 20 or 30 or however many years with their husbands here on this Earth think: that's ENOUGH! They don't look forward to spending an eternity with their husbands and I quite concur.

    Cheers!

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    1. There will be many theories about life after death and whether it exists or not. But we will believe what makes us happy.

      I believe in reincarnation and Dr Brian Weiss's Many lives many Masters, because it makes it easy for me to accept the inevitable.

      Delete
  37. That was a seriously contemplative post with a touch of your usual humor in between. I agree. I am also usually at loss what to say in these kind of situations.

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    1. It's the sheer hypocrisy that makes me speechless.

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  38. I see people here making meals and sending it over, taking care of answering phone calls so the family can have respite, taking care of the kids, doing laundry...all practical things that I for one would be happy to do, rather than sit awkwardly with a mithai in my hand, wondering why I automatically took it when it was offered (what a crap tradition to offer sweets to guests during a shraddha!!)!

    Roshni
    http://www.indianamericanmom.com

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    1. That's how it should be rather than make death yet another excuse for feasting and fasting!

      Delete
  39. But....but I was always excited for a maths exam. What should I imagine?
    It its hard to say goodbye for many. Others do it because society says so. "My deepest condolences" and "I am sorry for your loss" are standard messages one can write without feeling anything.
    Anyway, I am going to make mistakes, have regrets and then haunt you in your next birth. *evil laugh*

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I have a feeling you will be reborn as a Russian stripper *eviler laugh*.

      Delete

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