Is it inconvenient to talk about death on a Sunday morning? Would it be better if we talked about it on a Tuesday afternoon?
The thing with death is that it never comes at a convenient time, especially the ‘untimely deaths’. That does make one question, what is ‘timely death’? One would argue the death of someone who is old, ailing, is already in the ICU on life support, the entire family is in town, and every one has taken a weeks leave from work, just waiting for the inevitable. Just a friendly wave at death ‘Ready when you are ‘, would be called a ‘convenient death’. Convenient, for the person who passes away, also convenient for those who must attend to the aftermath.
But, untimely death is rarely convenient. The last week my whatsapp groups has been rife with untimely deaths : A badminton player was just 2 points away from victory, when he collapsed and died. A surgeon had just finished surgery, and dies before he even makes it out of the scrub room, a noted scholar dies on the lecture podium, in a foreign country . inconvenient times and inconvenient places, and we are not even talking about accidents here, but just the ordinary – heart just stopped variety of deaths.
And it is not just the dead who are inconvenienced, the news of the death of friends and loved ones also come as unpleasant surprise. They just blindside you, at 3 in the morning, especially on a morning when you have a particularly important meeting. I still remember, I was at a live music concert, Usha Uthup was to perform next, and I was quite looking forward to her perform ‘Rambha h oho ‘ when I received a text – my friend had lost her husband in a car accident.
I stumbled out of the concert venue, in a daze, unable to locate my car in the crowded parking, afraid to get in and drive, but there was no way I could stand the happy, alive humans around me.
Does that happen to you? The guilt of enjoying life’s frivolous pursuits when someone has just died? Music concert ?! What does that mean to a 3 year old who just lost her father?
Recently we lost another friend, and this time it was at 7 on a Monday morning. While we spoke about how heart breaking it was to lose someone before forty, and how full of life he was, we had to contend with our own lives continuing. “ Bhaiya gadi dho diya, undar se saaf kiya ? “ Asking the car wash man if he had washed the car, or trying to pack your kids tiffin. I myself had my son’s craft project to carry, it was a two hand job, “Do you mind if I put you on speaker, or… can I call you in awhile ?” Life, it refused to let up, it continued to demand our attention, even while we wanted to talk about death.
Why is it that we are so prepared for life, with our five year plans , and our goals and motivations and dreams . But, we are so unprepared for death ? Not just our own deaths, but the death of our near ones, or the near ones of our friends?
How do you console someone who has lost a loved one? I searched for answers on google. I googled books on children’s book that teach about loss to a three year old, I searched for music playlists that helped the grieving heal through the power of music, and I wrote facebook posts.
At our age, we know how to apply for LIC policies, but none of us actually know where those policies are when someone dies. We just continue to live each day, ploughing through our to do lists, but none of us have a checklist of things we would like done, say if we never returned home today. How many of us have a written will ? Have we ever asked the tough questions of what documents will be required to liquidate all the SIP’s and stocks that we so diligently buy every month?
And in India everything is so mired in customs and rituals, we barely understand our wedding rituals, but atleast its all fun and games, and instagrammable pictures, and we have event planners to take care of most of it. And it got me thinking , why don’t we have event planners for death ? Someone who will help smooth out all the unnecessary and inconvenient , so that the grieving atleast have some peace of mind while they grieve. Someone who will organise the kafan, call the cemetery, make arrangements for the pandit, send out beautifully lettered invites for the condolence meeting, maybe even organise for a music session or a book reading session where people can come and read out passages of poetry for the dearly departed. Organise the vegetarian food for the 13 day, and also help with the multiple visits to the bank to figure out the financials.
Today’s world is all about convenience, every app out there whether to order food, or online shopping or call a cab is designed to make life as hassle free as possible, then why don’t we have ‘plan your funeral and the after death financials’ apps?
But, no matter how pragmatic we are and how much we plan, death will always be that inconvenient truth.