Every time death strikes around us it is serving us a wake-up call.
Somehow the images from Tuesday evening’s public funeral of Jayalalithaa refuse to go away from my mind. Not just yet.
Here was one of the greatest and most powerful leaders of our times, from this part of the world, yet she was so powerless in the face of her own mortality. As I type this, she lies buried some kilometres away. History will surely remember her. People will continue to tell their versions of her story – of her beauty, her fame, her struggles, her triumphs, her power, her wealth, her compassion, her wit and her brilliance – for generations to come. But, for now, her human form lies there alone, at the Marina, in abject surrender to Life’s will.
Death, we must all realize, is a great leveler.
The moment you are born, the only predictable aspect of your Life is your impending, inevitable, death. You cannot negotiate with death. In fact, all of us are speeding towards our death, albeit at different speeds. You have to go when your time is up and your number is called. So, the most intelligent way to live is to live fully, celebrating this lifetime being happy, doing what you love doing. Yet, thanks to your social conditioning, you go on getting attached to material stuff, wanting to accumulate more wealth and more things, than experiencing Life, its magic and beauty, in all its grandeur and majesty. Simply, you go on postponing living. When you invest your present in grieving over the dead past or in worrying about an unborn future you are not living, you are merely existing.
Think about it. You – and I – didn’t ask to be born. So, this lifetime is a gift. And this gift is perishable. Each of us comes with an expiry date, except we don’t know what date it is. Of this lifespan that we have, assuming we live to be 60 years old, it is only up to the age of 40~45 that you can be reasonably assured of good health. It is only when you are maintaining good health that you can experience Life fully. But think of how most of us are squandering this peak phase of good health, investing precious time and energy in materialism or living our lives trying to please others or brooding over what we don’t have. By the time we wake up, if at all we do, to realize the ephemeral nature of Life, it is often too late. Sadly, some people never quite wake up in realization at all!
Clearly, nobody who has inhabited this planet has ever been able to take anything of what they created or accumulated with them. You come empty-handed and you will go empty-handed. Death unfailingly serves us a wake-up call, reminding us of this unalterable law of Life, every time it strikes around us. But are we listening, are we waking up, are we willing to change the way we think and live?
After watching Jayalalithaa’s funeral on TV as we stepped out on the street for a walk, I found a bed of leaves under a tree in my neighborhood. Intuitively, as I shot a picture to post on Instagram, this line completed the imagery in my head: “If this is where we all have to end up finally, then why all this drama that we enact all through our lifetimes?”
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