Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Exit...Stage Left

Death is that ugly white truth no one has ever been able to hide from. It gets you when it wants to and it leaves you however it wishes to - burnt, naked, lost, never to be found or right in the middle of a natural calamity. Last words rot away with your flesh but thoughts have a longer half life and stick around like your bones. One death will stand out in your life for a lot of reasons. It's like the death that imparts the power to see thestrals in the Harry Potter series (my comic relief for this rather serious note). The more I think of such a demise the more I admire it in a very bitter respectful way. Bitter, for all the chaos it left in its wake and respectful for its white beauty.

He was a man of conviction. In a very orthodox way too. And everything was there for a reason in his life. Things just didn't lie around, you see, something the rest of us have aplenty. He had a role to play in the larger scheme of things. However, unlike us who think we have found our purpose but end up burning our entire life (at all ends) to figure it out, he had found a good one. He knew it since he was 21, the day he lost his father. I wish it were the same for me.

But this is not about his life; numerous heartfelt words have been said and written about life in the last four years. It's about the day that was dented due to his sudden departure. And his silence only meant it didn't come as a surprise to him. He didn't want to go, nobody wants to go, but he did what he had to and with the grace of a man who had never sugar-coated life to deal with it. That, wells my heart up not with tears, but awe.

He was not indebted to anyone. Never took a paisa he had not earned. I think his power to look everyone in the eye and speak his mind up was a consequence of that. "Never ever tie my shoelaces for me", was a standing instruction in the house. And he kept it that way. His death was not a long and painful poem for his relatives to recite, it was a full-stop. And so he does not owe anyone to have taken care of him in his last few breaths, because it was only one.

He would walk an extra 10 miles for you, but wasn't the sort to cause any inconvenience to anyone. First, comes the world, then our guests, then family, then himself, that was his pyramid of priority (flipped over). We - my sister, my cousins and I - were raised to put others before us. And so he went on to make it easier for us to travel to Jaipur for his last day by keeping it on a weekend. Everybody was there by Friday night, spent two days at Ugam Path and took off Monday morning. Nobody had to worry about work, their bosses, or school.

He was against ceremonies. If he had cared enough he would have started a movement to abolish ceremonies! But he never missed an occasion to bring everyone together under his roof to share some bread and beer. It was the same thing every year - invite everyone over, whether they liked being together or not - eat, sing, dance and talk (albeit a little). "New year's in Ugam Path!" "Summer holidays in Ugam Path!" "Weekend in Ugam Path!" "Graduation party in Ugam Path!" The air smelled of soggy disposable paper plates rich with tamarind chaat chutney, gol gappe (homemade!), chicken curry, mutton curry, some sliced raw onions to go with the curries, and, in the afternoons, kadhi chawal (with some sliced raw onions again). There was also an undercurrent foul of words spoken under intoxication, but he used to do this uncanny dance of optimism to take care of that. He would borrow a dupatta from the nearest young lady, put it over his head and throw his hands up in the air. It was funny, I tell you, brought a smile on everyone's face.

Getting to the point, he made sure his last day was no different. No ceremonies, please. No rituals over who will cremate him or bury him or where his body will be laid to rest. No donations to some priest to chant some words to make his walk to heaven easier, no sir. "Come over to Ugam Path, spend some time with each other, just forget about the awkward fit of disrespect for one another we had the last time we met, and spend some time with me. You don't have to do anything. Just sit. Okay, is this house not big enough for everyone? Let's walk over to the park." They say over 5000 people got together that day, I was not aware of that. His body was donated to a local medical school that didn't spend years on paperwork.

It's about keeping your word till the last breath, and after.