A constant awareness of your mortality is a great way to live enthusiastically!
Interestingly, several signs and reminders on death have come my way in the last 24 hours.
It was my father-in-law Venks’ birthday yesterday – he passed on a couple of years ago, so we reminisced about our times with him on the family WhatsApp group. Besides, it was also MGR’s 100th birth anniversary yesterday. I thought back to the day he had died in December 1987 – when I had walked 18 kms (as public transport had shut down after riots broke out in Madras) to meet Vaani; it was the first time I was visiting her home. I am glad I walked that distance – she’s sure been a great companion who’s walked beside me every step of the way, these past 30 years! A close friend wrote in yesterday saying she hasn’t been able to come to terms with her husband’s passing. A reader pinged me on WhatsApp to say she was catching up with my blogposts after a while because she had lost her mother last week. And then, of course, while watching a movie at a Cineplex last evening, the Tamil Nadu state government’s newsreel melodramatically showcased the funeral of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa!
For just a brief while, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I wondered if there was any symbolism in so many death-related references and inferences in one day. Given the fractious family I come from, it has been a few years since I have met my father although we live in the same city! Momentarily, my thoughts went to him, his advancing age and fragile health. I may well have begun to walk along the line of emotion and worry, about my inability to repay my family the money I owe them and, at least, repair my credit rating with them, even if I really can’t redeem my relationships there; but my awareness held me in good stead. I recalled Osho’s masterful perspective that Life and death are just two sides of the same coin; that death is accompanying us every step of the way, like a shadow, from the moment we are born. Or simply, as I have come to see it, we are all speeding towards our death, albeit at different speeds. So, no symbolism, there, I told myself as I fell asleep.
This morning, over coffee, glancing at the obituary section in The Hindu, I thought those thoughts again. If death is the absolute, non-negotiable, reality for all of us; if it is indeed that one reason which must compel us to live fuller, meaningful, happier, lives, why then don’t we live that way? Why do we fritter away our lifetimes fretting over petty material pursuits or even pettier squabbles among those that we live with?
I guess the Dalai Lama nailed it when he said, “The problem with humankind is that we think we have a lot of time!” A beautiful song from the classic Choti Si Baat (1975, Basu Chatterji, Yogesh, Salil Chaudhury, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha) comes to mind. The opening lyrics are: “Na jaane kyon, hota hai yeh zindagi ke saath, Achanak ye mann, Kisi ke jaane ke baad, kare phir uski yaad, Chhoti chhoti si baat…”. They mean: “Why does the mind think up even the smallest memories of those who have gone away, after they have left us…?” The song’s essence (not in the movie’s context though) is a potent reminder of our mortality. It tells us, ever so subtly, that the inevitable is lingering around, just there, somewhere within our immediate circle of impact. It implores us to use the opportunity of this lifetime intelligently – to do what we love doing and to live happily, joyfully, with all those among us, in the time we still have left with us here.
I believe that fearing death or feeling sorry for the dead or for yourself is of no use. The awareness of your impending death, and of everyone you know, must be used very constructively to live your Life fully. To live without squandering even one precious moment. And the only way you can ensure living without wasting any of your finite lifetime is to only do what makes you happy and celebrate the presence of everyone in your Life – even your detractors, for they teach you what not to do! You will no doubt face your share of challenges along the way, not just with the path you have chosen but also with the people you meet on your journey, but your inner joy, your enthusiasm, will make the ride fulfilling, meaningful.
This reflection over the past 24 hours has only reiterated a truth about Life. Death is not the physical passing on of the human form alone, it is also what happens to you in every moment that you don’t live fully when you are alive! Think about it! Clearly, you don’t have too much time. If what I’ve shared here makes sense, then please go live that kick-ass Life you have always wanted to live but have been postponing for a better day and time. Remember: there is never a better time to live than now!