Saturday, January 20, 2007

Life, memories, and contemplation.

[Warning: I wouldn't recommend this post to you if you are in a depressed frame of mind.]

Many times, I wonder - Why do we behave the way we do? Why do we do the things we do? How do we learn to say the things that we say?

When she died, even before I could digest the fact that she was no more, even when I was reeling under the shock of the terrible news, I found myself speaking about her in the past tense. "She was so full of life, how can she be dead?" I said. And realized even in that state, how fragile life is - how soon one can change from being spoken of in the present tense to the past tense.

As I tried to grapple with the reality that I would no more see and hear her in the tangible sense, I found myself clinging to things which were her - intangible or semi-tangible. Or things that had her mark. I didn't delete her mails when cleaning up my inbox, I saved her last message in Orkut. I looked at her photo for a long time - observed how her hair falls around her face, how wide and spontaneous her smile is. I find myself thinking about the lac bangles she got for me from her trip to Gujarat. They are in my mom's house. I know I had wrapped them up and kept them carefully - they are very delicate - but are they safe enough? I have this urge to pop down to mom's place immediately and keep the bangles in a safer place. I know I will never wear them again. But I also know that I will treasure them forever.

Does that mean I didn't care about her when she was alive? Didn't I delete her forwarded mails without a second thought? Did I look at her photo for a second longer than was necessary to recognize her? Other than the fact that she had cared enough to bring me those pretty lac bangles, were they so precious to me when she was alive? Then why does this happen the moment the person dies? Is it just that you see the person in those things, in those objects, and feel - she is not there any more, let me at least keep these close to my heart..?

But what is death? When a person ceases to exist, we call it death. But what is existence? Is it just that she is not around any longer - we will not hear her speak any more, we will not hear her laughter any more, I cannot put my arm around her any more?

But what about her image that exists in all of us? That image that has no death? It might fade a little with time - ten years from now, I might have difficulty remembering how exactly she laughed, how tall she was - but her image will never disappear for as long as we live, will it? Doesn't she still live on, in that sense?

There is a very touching and poignant Raccoon episode in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin finds a wounded baby raccoon and brings it home, hoping to nurse it back to health. But in the course of the night, the raccoon dies. When he hears about it in the morning, Calvin bawls his lungs out. His father tries to comfort him, and Calvin says, "I'm crying because out there he's gone, but he's not gone inside me". [This particular strip is here, and the entire Raccoon episode here.(A must read for Calvin fans)].

Could it have been expressed more beautifully?

Then that means death is not when a person ceases to exist. It is just when the physical form of a person ceases to exist. So what is the right word for "death" in the physical sense?

Questions as usual... and the answers, elusive as always...

But life goes on.

"She" is a much-loved cousin who passed away in a road accident ten days ago. She was very active, cheerful, and lived every moment fully. We'll all miss her.

26 comments:

Shyam said...

Shruthi, my sincere condolences on your loss. I've been there, done that and I know how you're feeling. *hug*

Gifts and things, although appreciated, arent that important when the giver is alive... beacuse their aliveness is always the most important thing. I think material things become precious when the person who gave them is no longer alive - because those things are tangible proof of that person's affection (not that you didnt know it anyway but it's something to cling on to, literally). I'm sorry to be so clumsy in what I've said, but I hope you get what I mean.

Bombay Addict said...

Shruthi - I'm so sorry for your loss. I know it would be hurting really bad and I hope you and your family get the strength to go through this awful time.

PS - that racoon C&H...I can't forget Calvin's bawling face.

Thanks

chitra said...

Oh!! Once more for C&H..!

bru said...

she was charming,
she was enthusiastic,
she was talented,
she was creative,
she was ambitious,
she was full of life,
she made friends with whomever she met,
and was liked by all.........

what was the secret behind all these? why cant everybody have such zest for life?
why was she snatched away? :(
no answer.

yes, we all miss her. but her broad smile... will never ever fade from the memories of people whoever have met her.

praneshachar said...

Shruthi
Yes death is for body and not for athma as said. Whatever the athma it is the things which you have mentioned like her memories so many things which will never fadeaway from your mind that is what keeps your respect love affection to her
life is like that. it will go on like a Train. Those who are on time will board late comers will miss. In this journey it is always better if sombody misses so they can be with others. but it is man's thinking
untimately it is destiny which rules
man proposes god disposes applies here also.
heart felt condolenses to the bereaved family once again let us pray all those who are hit hard by this loss get the strength to bear the same
may the departed sour rest in peace

Shruthi said...

Shyam, Thanks so much. You weren't clumsy at all - on the contrary, you explained it beautifully - about their "Aliveness" being the most important thing! Thanks again.

Bombay Addict, Thank you. And yes, that raccoon episode brings out a totally different face of Calvin - and just like you - that bawling face of his really haunts me!

Chitra, hail Bill Watterson!

Bru, Beautiful comment - very apt, you described her perfectly.

Praneshachar, thanks a lot.

Diya said...

Shruthi, I'm really sorry for your loss...N what Shyam has said is so very true and not a bit clumsy :).... It's times as these which bring out the true steel within us...Here's hoping that ur cousin lives on in everyone's hearts forever...

Mysorean said...

Looks like even God has a shortage of such people. May her soul rest in peace!

Anonymous said...

Shruthi, my sincere condolences on your loss. Hope God gives you and your family strength to go thru this sad time. *Hug*
"Death" is the ONLY sure thing that happens in all our lives. BUT it's again the only thing which nobody understands.... *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Hey!

I'm no elderly person to console you!

I dont know who is she neither do i know who are you! But what i feel is nobody should feel bad for one's death, its just an irreversible unavoidable process! You can't stop it neither can you revert it back!

Even i've felt bad when people whom i adored died, this is what i learnt from them! Make them happy when they are alive, dont try to cry for their death! Accept it! Move on! If you really love that person, you feel their presence even after their death!

Inspiration is not something which you get from a person's presence! Its all about the idea he/she has created!

One more thing! A person should not be remembered(if remembered) by the presents he/she gave you but by your rxperience with the person!

Anonymous said...

Shruthi, felt very bad to know abt your cousin, I am sure she must've been a wonderful person. Please get over it soon.

Sometimes I wonder that there are some people in our life who we probably don't meet/talk to for years together, yet if we hear that they are no more, feel very bad. We can't we just convince ourselves that even now they are somewhere far away and we will not meet them for some more time?

I feel we should worry too much about what is birth and death, we may never understand it. Some things are best left unexplored, may be. Although I too have had too many such thoughts. Please get over it soon.

Chaitanya

Shruthi said...

Diya, thanks for the sweet words!

Mysorean, well said, thanks!

Shark, thanks a lot! Yup you are right - it is inevitable, but you just cannot understand it! :(

Sandesh, presents are just something you can cling to - they don't, and can never replace experiences.

Chaitanya, thanks a lot. As I said, "Life goes on"... we just have to deal with it and move on. You know, what you said is very right. why can't we think that they are somewhere where communication is difficult and that we won't meet them in a long time? There are people who we are totally out of touch with, but the moment we hear they are no more, we get upset. As Shyam said above, their "aliveness" is all that matters, ultimately!

Full2 Faltu said...

Shruti

My condolences for your loss. may god give you the courage to handle the loss

-Punds

Anonymous said...

my sincere condolences. have been there - know exactly the disbelief and the questioning phase you are going thru. no answer is satisfying.

ano

Viky said...

Shruthi, my condolences on your loss.

Do not dwell much on the fact that the person will not be there, and hence attach even more importance to the things they left behind. If you do that, you will grieve again, when such souvenirs are irreparably damaged.

Souvenirs will break, memories will fade, life will move on. However, it is easier when you cherish the memory that the departed loved you as much as you loved them, that they enjoyed every moment of their existence with you, as much as you did.

They say the departed become our guardian angels - and from their heavenly abode, they watch us. And they certainly won't like it when their memories slow you down - they would rather see you remember them and smile, rejoicing the secret prank played together, remembering the silent giggles...

And if you want that to happen, don't fight the grief. Talk to someone, cry out if you so need and get the grief out of your heart. Be strong, and in your strength, help the aggrieved family gather their broken pieces and move on.

Life moves on, professor, try and keep up the pace.

scarface said...

hi shruthi...my deepest condolences on ur loss!! i understand wat r trying to say..its so difficult for us who r left behind to cope...everything they've left behind reminds us of the departed...but the longer we hold onto them, we r not letting them rest in peace..remember life is an endless cycle of life and death...hence let them go!!

Shruthi said...

Punds, thank you.

Ano, thank you. You are right, no answer is convincing enough.

Viky, beautiful words, Viky, with a lot of sense in them. Thank you!

Scarface, thank you. Btw, your name made me smile - one of my little cousins used to call himself scarface and try to scare us :)

rash_mi said...

Shruthi, my deepest condolenses.

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled upon ur blog...

Really a nice one, but feel sorry.

I have just read Jaggi's Mystic Musings, i've lost track of the number of times i have read this book, but every time i dwell into this, it takes me into a new journey, and reading ur post seemed to have a lil link of the life and death u were narrating....

I dont know if am looking into life and death in a new perspective, but something really is different....

I'll add u to my fav blogs......

An Ishaite....
Kannan.

Rimpi said...

Hi Shruthi...very sorry for your loss. you are right, its very hard to forget or let go of something thats inside you.

bellur said...

Shruti,
Our sincere condolences on your loss. Hope God gives you and your family strength to face this sad time.

We can love without attachment or dependency, which is much more rewarding.

This attitude is better understood from the example of the story of the 'bird on the branch':

A tired bird was resting on a branch for support. It enjoyed the view from the branch and the safety it offered from dangerous animals. Just as it had become used to that branch and the support and safety that it offered, a strong wind started blowing and the branch started swaying back and forth, with such great intensity, that it seemed that it was going to break. "But the bird was not in the least worried for it knew two important truths. One was that even without the branch it was able to fly and thus remain safe through the power of its own two wings. The second is that there are many other branches upon which it can temporarily rest.

This small example represents the ideal relationship between ourselves and our relationships, possessions and social and professional positions. We have the right to enjoy all these, but cannot as long as we are dependent on them and are afraid of losing them. They are all in a state of change and can disappear at any time. Our real strength dose not lie in those external ephemeral things, but rather on our two internal wings of love and wisdom. These must become our security base, our source of enjoyment and happiness.

Shruthi said...

Rashmi, thank you.

Kannan, I haven't read the book, have heard of it, though. Thank you.

Rimpi, yes, that's true. Thank you.

Bellur, that's a very nice story - and illustrates your point beautifully. But don't you think that such an unattached love is very difficult to develop?

Mridula said...

I am so sorry to hear about the loss Shruthi. And I remember the Calvin strip so very well. I somehow have very few words to say but that I understand.

Srik said...

I can understand the trauma u have been put into Shruti.

Its a great loss whatsoever.
And I guess time is the only healer in such cases. The departed souls will definitely rest in our hearts and minds always. We have no other choice but to accept the fact and cherish the times spent with them.

I have no words as me too am going thru such a shocker, a great loss.

Thanks for the post. You have put forth exactly my words and concerns here, beautifully.

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Sachin said...

Shruthi, your cousin, wherever she is now, is happy knowing she is loved by all she touched in her earthly life. And while she is happy, am sure she means for you to be happy for her as well..

Look after yourself.....

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