In death, you are always reminded of how fleeting life is, and even how ironical it is: you leave much sooner than you begin. Or perhaps, goodbyes always feel much shorter than hellos.
At the Shivaji Park Electric Crematorium in Mumbai hangs a black-and-white sign: Adult: Rs. 250/-, Below 12-year-old: Rs. 175/- As the deceased is thrust into the furnace and engulfed by fire, all in one fleeting moment, you think ironically the price of death is lesser, when it possibly hurts more.
Odd things come to you when people die: I remember how my aunt washed her hair every Sunday at the local parlour, and how she gifted me a giant doll house one birthday, and how she forced me to wolf down four rotis one difficult Saturday afternoon. My sister remembers how she turned down every invitation, and my mother recalls her less generous demeanour, her penchant for grief.
There are all sorts of people in this world, and all sorts of ways to live your life: holed up in houses where everything is as it is year-after-year, and embittered from everything you do not have. You can choose to keep people out: turn down every hand extended, and every chance at happiness before it even begins- And you can choose to navigate the many upheavals of life unbearably alone, but pretending to be okay. Or, you can choose to let go, stay open to life and people and laughter.
As we make our way through the maze of Bombay traffic, a relative narrates an odd story: A week before she died, my aunt went through her usual Sunday morning at the temple routine. The attendant at the temple asked her where she had been; my aunt had been too unwell to go to the temple for many Sundays now. As she was leaving the temple, she requested for the Ardas prayer- a Sikh prayer that marks the beginning or end of any significant task. At the time, there was no significant event she was about to embark upon…
As it turns out, it was, and it was her own death. As the Ardas prayer was once again recited before the cremation, now marking the end of her journey: I also realize how much of our lives we already know.
As I try to lean towards how I intuitively believe my life will play out, I ask only for ardas.
I’m not afraid
Of anything in this world
There’s nothing you can throw at me
That I haven’t already heard
I’m just trying to find
A decent melody
A song that I can sing
In my own company. ~ U2, Stuck in a Moment