The Practicality of Death

While the world mourned Sridevi’s death I was reminded about the fragility of life. The greatest, the loveliest, the most courageous people in the world die. It is the law of nature. You live. You die. Up until Sridevi’s news this is the way I looked at death. Practically, void of much emotion.

While I was coming back from the Mumbai airport to my house my Uber driver played Sridevi’s hit songs on repeat. The only thought that went through my head, as I heard Sridevi’s song in the background was- How and what will my 88 year old grandfather have to say about Sridevi’s life and death? My grandfather, Dattatrey Mutatkar was lying in the ICU in a stable condition, in Aurangabad on Sunday. I was scheduled to be in Aurangabad Monday afternoon to be by his side listening to the million things he wanted to tell me. My father had told me, he is fighting hard and there was all hope that he would recover soon.

Hope is a good thing, until destiny gets it chance. In life, you learn it the hard way that though hope is a good thing, destiny will always trump. My grandfather, did not talk to me about Sridevi’s amazing sarees in Chandni, or how wonderful she was in Mr. India. At 7pm on Sunday he stopped breathing, fighting as hard as he could in the hope of meeting his granddaughter, though he lost his fight to destiny. I took the last bus accompanied with my dad at 11pm on Sunday night. My dad put up a brave front, I did not see tears or long silences. He was on the phone for the longest time talking to family and friends accepting condolences. I decided to emote less. Hold my tears in and be there for my father. I realized his loss was greater than mine.

When we reached the building where my grandfather was kept. The first person we saw waiting for us was my grandmother. Her eyes moist, ready to lose all inhibitions in the arms of her eldest son. The moment my dad saw her and held her in his arms, there was no eye in the vicinity void of tears. My grandmother was with Ajoba for over 60 years, never leaving his side in sickness or health. Seeing my grandad, wrapped up in a bedsheet lifeless, silent, was one of the most devastating experiences of my life. My grandfather was an expert in two things, reading and talking. He hardly listened, ever. His curiosity about the world and his zest for life, was worth emulating. This man who talked non-stop and never listened lay there in front of me not saying a word.

This experience has left me a lot less practical about death. This was my first time of witnessing a death of a loved one. Understanding death is a tough thing to do. I have a million unaswered questions about it. How should one face death, when they see it coming? Should you fight it with courage and strength? Is it ok if you can’t muster up the courage to fight for life? How long should you mourn for a loved one? Should it be four days, four hours, four years or forever? Is it really better to die at 88 instead of 40? Is the pain more or less? Does the pain of losing a loved one ever go? Should it?

The list could go on and on.

The journey of Ajoba becoming just a dead body was pretty quick. A group of people from the morgue and the hospital were there to help us with all the ceremonies and processes post death. In a lot of conversations they had with each other or our family, Ajoba was addressed as a mere ‘dead body or body’. My heart broke every time I heard the words- ‘dead body’. I wanted to shout and tell them to stop, but I couldn’t garner the energy to correct them. Life is unfair, now I know so is death. One minute you are a living, breathing person playing multiple roles, touching so many lives. A life that you have built for over 88 years, in just a matter of minutes culminates into a ‘dead body’.  You become an idea, a memory, a legacy that no one can touch or feel.

Ajoba’s legacy to me is his love for reading, his curiosity to know more, his quality of talking to people young and old- known and unknown, his ability to love unconditionally and his passion for life.

There is nothing practical about death. The transformation of a living person, into a ‘dead body’ could be a journey of a minute in the real world. But there is nothing practical about it. I have a feeling it should never be. The ability and the freedom to mourn, to emote, to feel and to never forget, makes dealing with death just a little more manageable.

Baba, Aji and Ajoba a few months back