‘When the garlands wither on your brow, boast no more your mighty deeds, for-
So many of yesterday’s heroes crumble…’
In the short story ‘The garland on his brow’, the famous Anglo-Indian writer Ruskin Bond mentions the yesteryears of his protagonist in a way that is harsh, painful and yet beautiful in its’ own right.
I am 26 years old. I know for a fact that I am not where I thought I’d end up when I was in school. I can only assume that life has a plan of its’ own. I’m not a fatalist by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t believe in ‘Karmam’ and ‘Karmaphalam’ (Actions and consequences). If that were true, none of our politicians would live this long. Rather, I believe that the choices I have made contribute only partly to a destiny, that is largely defined by agencies outside my control. My life is basically an endless wait for the unknown.
We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I had collected a large number of names, all of whom I could call my classmates.
One of my friends, coming from a financially weak family, committed suicide a while back. We were working on making a short-film. He was the funniest guy in our group. We’d talked a couple of days before the incident. And then I got a call, informing me that he’d died. I still don’t have a clue why he did what he did.
One of my friends, a guy I’d studied with briefly had a sudden kidney-failure. Some of my friends formed a group and started sending out requests for donations so he could have a transplant. He died before anything could come out of that.
Another one of my friends was returning from a party in his bike. He was drunk. Barely a 100 metres from his home and his family, his bike stumbled on a pothole and he fell. He died from the resulting injury immediately.
One of my old classmates, died in a car accident in Amsterdam this year. I heard about it through facebook.
All of these people, like me, saw themselves at different places from where life would eventually send them. I am only 26 now, and I already have this morbid list of friends who did not make it past 26 years. If I am lucky enough to reach a ripe old age, I wonder what it will be like. For starters, the list would would be much longer. People – family members, relatives, friends, co-workers… So many people whom I started my life with me, none of them alive to talk about it.
Or I may die, and become a name in somebody else’s list.
I have a joke playing in my head. It is about this very old man who starts his day by going through the obituary section of the newspaper. His grandson asks him why he is poring over the obituaries, and why he has that stupid grin on his face. In reply, the old man says – “ Every person who died today is another human being I have outlived”
The Muslims have an interesting practice. Religious Muslims punctuate conversations with the refrain ‘Insha Allah’(God willing). Basically, they say – “I’ll see you tomorrow, God willing”.
I’m not a religious man myself, but I can see the point. Pinning your hopes on a God helps you to make light of things. It helps you unburden some of your thoughts and fears and anxieties. But I’ve always felt that faith has to come naturally. I can’t just go to a temple tomorrow, and expect to feel what genuine believers do. I sometimes envy those who can pin their hopes and futures on a deity. The freedom must be exhilarating.
I don’t know what the point of this article was. I’m not sure I had a point writing it. It does not take an Einstein to figure out people die.
I wish I did not take life so seriously. Like my main man William once said, we all go one way –
“Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”