Tip: This post contains graphic text. Please do not read further if you’re expecting it to be anything but morbid.


Life is full of uncertainty, but nothing beats that like the eternal leveler: death. As soon as a baby comes out of it’s mother’s womb, the ageing, and dying, process begins. It doesn’t get apparent when the mother cuddles her newborn child, when she lets it feed from her, when she dreams about its future. It doesn’t become apparent when one passes out of college with a promising job in hand, when one falls in love and casts dreams about yet another future. And then it does. Tragedy, illness, an advancing age: whatever be the reason, the final destination of each one of us is exactly the same. Death.

It dawns on you when you see someone you were close to on the deathbed. Someone who walked, talked, ate, and lived in front of your eyes lying lifeless, cold and thin, like a withered tree. He never showered his love on you, but at that moment, in that hospital room, the tears come on their own. You weep, but then your senses tell you: no, you must stay calm. For you’re his eldest grandson, the first-born, the one who must carry the family name, the baton, the flame. For you’re now a man, and your strength forms a pillar for your own father, whose sorrow you can’t even imagine. And then, when you see them take the body to the mortuary, your eyes don’t bleed.

The next morning, you see the women crying as the body bag is brought home. But you’re unmoved now. Once is enough. Then the white cloth is removed a bit to show the face, which looks like skin on a skull. A tumult forms inside you, but you still stay calm. Once is enough. Then your father puts his father’s head on his lap, and he cries. Cries like a son would cry if his father left forever. You’ve never seen him cry. Never. Now you do, and you break. Break like a glass ceiling whose walls had been blown to shreds. When it’s time to take the now-decorated body to the cremation ground, your mother tells you to lend a shoulder; you were going to anyway. And as soon as your mother tells you this, your aunt tells her son to do the same, almost as if there’s something like a competition between her son and me. A competition to lend a shoulder to your dead grandfather. The tears weren’t real, didn’t you know?

At the cremation, you watch the body being laid on the pyre, the dry rice being poured onto the lips of the deceased, the head being washed with honey. He is ready for the final journey. The final journey of every Hindu who is lucky enough to be cremated by one from the bloodline. You don’t bid him goodbye, you fold your hands and treat him like a forefather should be treated: like a God. Your father lights the pyre, and your lips form a prayer. As the flame grows, you can’t help but marvel at the sight. At the sight of a life lived out being given a fitting, fiery conclusion. There you see another side of death: glory.

But that feeling fades away a few hours into the cremation, when the skull and spine are clearly visible from outside the now-depleting wood. The chandal uses a bamboo rod to shift the remains into the heart of the pyre, into the flames, so that they burn properly. And then, when all the wood is all but charred, the intestines are all that’s left, full of moisture, with the cells deep within probably alive. More wood is brought, the pyre is remade, and now the chandal used the bamboo like a fork to place the guts on the replenished flame. Then you realize, your own guts are wringing, partly by seeing that sight, and partly due to the fasting. Nevertheless, you watch the guts burn, till only the smallest of portion remains: the navel, the remnant of the same placenta that forms the bond between mother and child. The sign that links this morbid event to the very formation of the life that was. And you realize your guts hurt no more.

The remains are immersed in the river, and you know that’s the end. The end that everyone alive will meet: your parents, your love, and you. And, at that time, while the remains sink, you start praying. You pray that may your own children give you the final fire, that may destiny not give you such a tragic end that you miss this chance. A chance to burn, a last shot at glory. ওঊম্ শান্তি, ওঊম্ শান্তি, ওঊম্ শান্তি।

About Blabberwock

Blabberer General of Blabberwocky.
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4 Responses to Death

  1. akhila says:

    March this year, in the ICU of a hospital, at around 4 am, my uncle died.
    For the first time in my life, I’ve seen death.
    For the first time in my life, I’ve seen a man dying.

    8pm, the previous day, when I went to the hospital to see him, I knew that he has just a few hours to go. A diabetic, poor blood sugar control, with cellulitis, landing in septic shock for second time, no urine output since 18 hrs, BP falling down….. I still found myself running to my seniors and teachers in search of something I could do to him (as a doc, or his kid,or both–I don’t know).
    I knew that there is nothing I could do, but watch him die.
    I knew that at that stage, no one on this earth can do anything to him.
    I know that he is bound to die.

    All those eight hours, I sat on his bed..
    staring at the dobutamine drip that kept his life clinging to him.

    I sat beside him, witnessing his body and his failing system–body that would be lifeless soon. I sat there, witnessing his suffering and struggle.. to live…

    I sat there with him, to give his wife- my aunt- a few hours of sleep and solace….which she didn’t have since long; which,I know, she wouldn’t have any long. (she didn’t sleep for many days. Or perhaps it was the assurance, that there was a doc taking care of her man, that made her have a sound sleep—The only thing that I could give her.)

    I sat there, for those eight hours,
    watching death as it slowly crept;
    watching it laugh at me, laugh at my helplessness;
    watching it rejoice its victory over science–science that had always tried to defeat it, but only succeeded in postponing it
    watching it triumph;
    watching it remind me that it still remained undefeated… … …

    Checking BP-which was falling despite dobutamine, looking at the monitor at the falling oxygen saturation, listening to his heart, checking his pupils, CPR when his heart stopped—I knew nothing would save him, but still an attempt to fight a losing battle…Just a feeble attempt to add a few breaths to his life… … …

    Eight long hours..
    Of my encounter with death… As a human, who’s also a doc.

    • Arijit says:

      For the first time, I don’t have words to reply with. I don’t even know why I wrote this post. Perhaps I did so because I didn’t want these memories to be lost. Perhaps, I wrote it as a tribute. I don’t know.

  2. akhila says:

    ctrl C ctrl V.. copy paste kar lee apni site pe! With appropriate spacing and emphasis, ofcourse!! Came back to thank you..

    When the incident happened, march, It so happened to be the time when I was recovering from some sort of madness. When I read your post, I just jotted down my response, But now, when I reread the response—–MY GOD!! I just cant believe I felt all this..!! All the time, I was thinking that I had been insensitive during that period; I had been cursing self that I had lost myself… Now I feel I am wrong. Some part of I was still alive… sigh…

    Thanks to ur post that made something pop into my head..
    And another thanks, b’coz I used your space to scribble my feelings. I have sent them back to their right place now!! (I’m not sure if what I write makes any sense to your readers.. Feel free to delete the comment in case 😀 )

    • Arijit says:

      I’m glad my post made you feel that way.
      And no way am I deleting anyone’s comment, least of all a comment from a blogpal. Your comment makes perfect sense, don’t you worry. 🙂

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