They say the thing that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
So, maybe I can’t say I am strong yet. Because the scoreboard of my near-death experiences is: Zero. Zilch!
My best friend used to go for her evening walks in the park with her next-door neighbor, a girl older to her by a year or two.
I knew almost everything my friend knew about that girl. How she had broken up with her fiancé; how she was in love with the son of her father’s childhood friend, and yet getting married to him wasn’t even an option.
I knew almost everything about her!
You know how there are people you just don’t like even when all you’ve ever known about them was through gossip. That girl was one of those people in the periphery of my life.
And then one day, I got to know that she had perhaps had the biggest tragedy of her life. Her father had died. A heart attack, they said. My friend was there the whole time, holding her hand as she watched her father’s body resting on the floor for two long hours before they took him away to the cremation ground.
I shut my eyes and tried to visualize what my friend had described of the incident. That girl along with her mother and a younger brother crying their hearts out. That girl talking to the dead body, asking it to get up and demanding “I want my dad back” to my helpless friend.
It was a Sunday afternoon when he died. The very afternoon when I had taken a long, lazy nap as soon as I got home.
The entire morning that day her father had spent walking down the street with his neighbors as usual, talking about neighborhood watch schemes. By afternoon, it was anything but usual.
How come we get to know about the coming of a possible new member in the family nine months before their arrival but death just walks in without a knock on the door?
However, would the awareness of its arrival make it any less scary? Or make us stronger?
Death is surely a scary word. It fills us with void. And it’s the uncertainty of it that daunts the most. Because it makes you think twice before snapping at your sister, because maybe, that argument would be the last conversation you’ll ever have with her. Because it makes you worry about how ungrateful you’ve been to all the work your mother does to make your life less miserable. It makes you relentlessly keep your calm when your father is losing his temper at home after a bad day at work. It makes you put up with your spouse for another day because they do the same for you. The fear of death makes us do so many things that we wouldn’t do otherwise.
But then, we do love the pleasures that the freedom of life gives us. The pleasure to snap at a bothering sister; the pleasure to vent your anger at your poor mother; the pleasure of wrestling one-on-one with your old man. The pleasure of all these things and more, without the fear of not finding your loved ones around when you come back home. The freedom to hurt your loved ones. The freedom of stretching blood ties and diamond rings into life-long habits. Habits that take away the very life in us when we give them up once death comes knocking.
Death kills everything life ever built. It kills habits. But we always prefer the path of life where we love, hate and fight our loved ones. The complete package of pleasure and habit. Death will blow away things because life built something in the first place. Death means something because life means something more.
So, the scoreboard of life and death is: Life: 1, Death: 0.
[Nithya is a contributing writer, and a postgraduate student in the Department of Political Science. She can be reached via email at: [email protected]]