Friday, March 30, 2007

Because life must go on...

He said he cared about me,
he said he was the man.
And now I find that he's gone,
but I just don't give a damn...!

And so, with or without our approval or consent, life goes on. Whether we want to or not, even when catastrophe strikes, we must get up every morning, go out for the milk, cook for the family, pretend to have a normal day at work, watch some TV and fall asleep early... all in a bid to blot out the voices in our heads, the many guilt pangs, the million tears that threaten to spill out and cause a tidal wave of emotions that engulf us in a continuous, all-encompassing storm...

Pathak sir passed away early this week. I did not know him personally, but his death has had the kind of effect on me that is too complex to define and too huge to ignore. I see his death reflected many times over in the tears Jaan cries for him. In the many conversations among his friends and colleagues, all wondering why?... . In the many voids the passing away of one person can leave his family, among his friends, in his profession.

But fight off the gloom, they must. It's not easy for those closest to him, but I can see that they're all trying. They're staggering into a normal walk, but they're trying. It's costing them the earth, but at least they're trying.

Atul told me once, that a study conducted in the UK estimated that one single death has a direct impact on at least 70 lives, and an indirect one on about a 100 others. "Just think," I remember him saying, "your death affects even the bus conductor who wouldn't have to punch your ticket from now on. Or the watchman who can't smile at you as you leave for work. Or the mother who will keep looking at the empty seat at the dinner table, remembering that her child sat there and yelled for her dinner if it was a minute late."

If only the impacts were measurable. Dixit sir told me on the day Pathak sir was cremated, "It's easier when you're expecting a death, like when the person is fighting for his life in hospital. Mentally, you start preparing to fill the void. But look at me - all of a sudden, I can't go the BMC any more. I only used to go for his company. I'll have to look for another activity now."

But apart from the desperate note in his voice, I sensed something bigger - the will to go on. And that's a lesson all of us need. It's never easy, his silence says, even as he prepares to write his next editorial. Not just death, many things in life are designed to test our mettle like nothing else can. The disappointment of a promotion not coming our way. The despair of not conceiving a child. The hatred for a spouse having an affair. The helplessness of being forced to work and support a family. The desperation of having to go back to finishing studies to be able to get a job. The pain of unrewarded effort...

But, as several wise men will say, learn to accept and move on. Learn to accept that life is not always fair, and that every injustice need not provoke anger or hurt. Learn to accept that we are only human, and that nothing gives us the right to expect that we can change things to suit ourselves.

Nothing gives us the right to carry our past unhappiness into our future, and cause endless grief to ourselves and those closest to us.

And nothing gives us the right to stop living and just exist in a limbo of anger and hurt just because somebody up there decided he wanted to test you for reasons unknown.

If one death can teach me this much, I'd so like to give a damn.

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