Unlike Godot, this one will turn up. Preachers, professors, followers and detractors of all faiths and non-faiths will vouch for and agree on this one reality – Death is Certain. Assuming that one has survived infant mortality, fatal ailments, accident or terror attack, property killing, ‘suparis’ of all kinds, literal and figurative – and has tricked this stalker for many long decades – now one accepts that the tortoise is going to catch up and win eventually.
Post-retirement and with no great mission in life, I often wonder – should I wait for Death or is Death waiting for me to make the move? I admire that 95+ woman who fasted to death, because she was bored of living and felt very left abandoned by her peers who had crossed over. Sometimes, it is like a never-resolving stalemate. I look at oldies around me. My adopted aunt, 85, strong and lively until a couple of years ago, now shows signs of fading away. Alone, in her dark, old house, the shadow of Death lurks around. As it does with many of her old companions. Like playing ‘hide and seek’. The conversation always goes like – God willing, I should die before I am bedridden or become dependent on anyone (‘anyone’ is the arrogant daughter-in-law). “Yama tarasa na dikhaaye” sings the poet in Anup Jalota’s voice. If ‘Death be not proud’ is what one wants, one should meet him with Pride and Dignity.
When one of my uncles died recently, my aunt narrated to one and all that his ‘prana’ left from the head – that is supposed to be the sign of a great soul – no further births. I have heard this – that the last breath escapes from one of the 8 outlets that the body has. The choice of outlet indicates the greatness or lowliness of the person’s karma and sets the stage for his/her next life. That night I decided to inform all my close ones, who I think will be around me when I breathe my last, to look carefully from where my ‘prana’ leaves and let me know afterwards. I laughed myself to sleep!
Work till life ends, better to die with one’s boots on, stay active, healthy, maintain a positive attitude, celebrate golden years, avail seniors’ privileges, travel, pursue hobbies, meditate, do yoga, donate organs, connect with family and friends…so many motivating and consoling advices that one sponges on – all euphemisms to disguise the frustration at not being immortal.
The philosophical ruminations go on and on. There are the practical aspects to deal with – allotting and distributing one’s worldly wealth, fond collections, confiding one’s choicest disposal of the remains and suchlike. How should one meet death, sleeping or waking? I had a cousin who at the end of her daily prayers, added a line seeking ‘anayaasa maranam’ – that is a sudden death, leaving you or others no time to entertain morbid thoughts or carry you on that last trip to the hospital. Lucky woman, she collapsed one day, soon after her retirement from the bank, not yet 61 years! Is it possible to choose how one dies?
My father used to often narrate the story of a revered old man in his village. Having outlived all his family, he stayed alone, cooked his meals, managed his daily needs and was genial to one and all. The vegetable vendors raced to make their first sale with him every morning because he never bargained. Let the poor sellers profit an anna or two, he would generously say. One morning, he told the vegetable woman that he would not need anything the next day. Sure enough, he passed away peacefully and quietly the same afternoon.
Who would not give their life to die like Kalaam – doing what he loved doing, simply, gracefully? Like my meditation teacher says – how you die, depends on how you live. I can think of no better role model.
All said and done, how should I die? Assuming that the all-pervading, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, ultimate conqueror will read this mine humble blog, I request –
- Come in your own time, when I am ready
- Not on the bull or bullock-cart. It gives a backache. A car, even Ola or Uber will do.
- To my house (unlike that silly fellow, I will not escape all the way to Baghdad to find you have scheduled my appointment there)
- Come when I am decently dressed
- When the house is neat and tidy, the fridge clean, the papers in order
- When I have reconciled with all unreasonable bosses, neighbours, in-laws and outlaws. Or settled scores with them
- All dues paid – (what others owe me).
The list is a little longer and personal, so I have attached it.
Your move now.