With both, death and shit, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Can’t control either.
This line caught my fancy at the movies today, a movie called Piku, a new Hindi feature film that has been garnering rave reviews.
So true right? I remember this really cool tongue-in-cheek poster that used to be hanging on the inside of the toilet door in my aunt’s home back in Mumbai. It was about different body parts fighting about who’s the most powerful. The asshole just clogged up and the whole body started turning black and blue and the final denouement was that you don’t need to be high and mighty to be powerful just an asshole. It was of course in a lighter vein. But well, so true again.
Well, yesterday I attended a funeral. The funeral of a neighbour’s father. He died suddenly. No lingering illness, no prolonged ailment, just a sudden something and poof, he was gone. Leaving his wife and children quite bereft. He was 74.
As I stood in a corner of the home, watching the dead body, laid out in a stretcher, garlanded and ready to make its final journey to the crematorium, with the men and women standing or sitting, sombrely, some trying to comfort the wife, some getting busy with some formalities with the priest, some just being silent, with God knows what thoughts in their head, I just started wondering about the man who lay there, mute, stiff, with life having ebbed from his veins.
I teared up and thought to myself :
my God! death can really happen in an instant. I could die tomorrow. Who will look after my mom? What is it that should really drive me – money, fame, goodness, leaving a legacy, doing good, something tame, routine, what?
I realised that in the final analysis, it was critical that I did good by people.
I also thought, so if my mom dies, what are the things I’d need immediately, like a 101 kit: instant money, at least 100,000 in Indian Rupees, phone numbers of a priest, the crematorium, would be great to have someone who could help buy the things that are essential for the final ceremony ( and I came up with a blank as I couldn’t think of anyone who would be there and help me out. You know how when you visit people’s homes or occasions or funerals, you see people magically appearing out of the woodwork and somehow everything being organized so perfectly while the immediate family is given time to grieve? Well, in my case I can’t think of anyone being there. I just have elderly aunts and uncles and so I might have to do the running around myself and not really have the time to mourn), how I wouldn’t want people to come and condole, as I hate the crowds, and so on.
I then thought, shit, I am a woman and and my mother’s only child, and as is the Hindu custom, only a son can basically perform the last rites of his parent. But in my case, will they allow me to? And if not me, who? And then I started getting angry with the nerve throbbing at my temple, I gritted my teeth at the thought of any one else having the right to perform such a duty just because of gender. I was bristling.
Then I started feeling scared. There was the finger of fear slowing moving inside my stomach. The fear of being suddenly left adrift like a ship without sails, completely without a raison d’etre, of being so alone, so directionless, so utterly alone, that I couldn’t breathe for a moment.
It hit me then. A sucker punch. In my solar plexus. I gasped. I was scared shit of being left alone, that I didn’t want to live for long without the presence of my mother around me. Yes, I have friends, relatives, acquaintances, good neighbours, etc. But everyone has a life. I would need to figure out a way of living on my own.
Jesus! It makes my throat cramp up with unshed tears, it makes my fingers shiver with dread, it addles my brain. I can’t really think, but I know I need to worry about life and purpose and meaning once my ma decides to leave her mortal coils. I need to figure out a way of making my life worthwhile. And somehow making it count. So that my mom is always proud of me, my conduct, my character, my deeds wherever she is, after she’s gone.
I don’t know how to do it really.How to make my life worthwhile? Shit!
Dear God, I know death and shit wait for no one, when you gotta go, you gotta go. But in my mother’s case I’ll be around to ensure that she’s cared for, loved for, and has the easiest of times. When it’s my turn, who will be there at my side?
Damn! The travails of being single. Tough life eh?
Nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard…