Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Prior Knowledge of Death

I was trying to gauge how we react to the death of an unknown person who isn't even remotely related to us. And the difference in reaction between knowing the person is "going to die" and the reaction when you know "the person is dead."

Recently, a fellow blogger Titin posted on her FB profile some pics of an art exhibition held in Mumbai. The painter, 17 year old Shobhit, looked a little strange: unusually thin, head shaved, and with death in his eyes. The paintings were nice, his family was around him and everybody was happy and smiling. Titin informed me that Shobhit is terminally ill and has only a few days/weeks to live. I looked at his pics, the smiles on the faces around him, and also at his smile. And, despite not knowing him, I was affected by the knowledge that he may die any moment, any day. I kept thinking how he is or if he is alive at all. I asked Titin a week later and they said he is in pain and on morphine. I wondered if he had ever enjoyed some essential things in life. Does he have a Munnabhai next to him to make him enjoy his last few days? Would a kind woman make love to him to show him how life began? Does that woman necessarily have to be on hire? The next time I asked her, he had passed away. Everybody seemed to be relieved to see him not in pain anymore. Sometimes, we wish death came faster.

When you see his pics with the knowledge that he is already dead, it probably doesn't affect you much. But if you knew about it before he died, you would have tossed and turned in your sleep. When Dhananjay (the lift operator who raped and killed a girl in Kolkata) was hanged, and we were all waiting for it, I woke up on two nights thinking whether he is dead yet! Such is the power of impending death. Of anybody. To know that Saddam will be killed tomorrow will make you more uneasy than the news of his death greeting you the next day.

Here are some pics taken by a plane crash victim moments before he himself died. The plane was hit by another one and broke into two. This guy managed to click some last pics, in one of which you get to see a man flying off. Look at the anguish on their faces, not knowing what hit them, with not even split seconds to react. There's not even fear on some of the faces, just plain bewilderment. How soon did they die, I wonder? I hope they died before realizing that they are about to die. These two pics were so disturbing that I deleted the email which brought them. But there was also this morbid desire to see the pics again. I guess the only time I was so affected was when I saw Daniel Pearl's death on video. The most gruesome, although you can derive solace from the fact that his pain lasted not even a second. But he knew he was dying, right? How did he cope with that knowledge?

And suddenly one day my brother sent back these air crash pics to us confirming these are hoax pictures. There was a sense of relief, much like you are probably feeling right now.

One of my aunts who died of a painful throat cancer used to maintain a diary on her deathbed. She addressed all her letters to my dad, and sometimes I am curious to find out if she had mentioned death in those letters. How do you get ready for death? And if you meet death in the eye, how do you ready yourself? What do you think? Any last ditch attempt to jump out of a plane at 37,000 ft?

I feel it is much easier to cope with death that's already happened than with death that's about to. A friend of mine says "pass on" to imply there's still some world for the spirit to go to. I guess I need to start believing in a whiteness post death where my spirit can live without the bodily pleasures.
Until then, I will be shit scared of death.

8 comments:

Lazyani said...

So am I dear!! I guess it's more of the fear of the unknown than of anything else. It's all Maya which binds us in such a way that leaving the binding is so very painful.

Puzzled Private said...

those pictures of that plane (supposedly of te Embraer & 737 on brazilian airspace) is a hoax... those are pics from a tv soap!!

Oreen said...

i know i know... i mentioned that too...

Mampi said...

When you are alive, think of life. When you are dead, think of death.
When you think of death while you are alive, that is actually the moment when you start living. I have recently lost a cousin to death. Her daughter is my daughter's age. I have since been thinking of a richer life to be lived.
Just sharing. Somehow your post brought back the recent pain. I did not know she was slowly going. I will probably tch-tch a few days and then get on with my life.

How do we know said...

wow.. yes even i cannto face death coming to me slowly.. and yet, i know that is exactly my destiny.. :-(

Estella said...

ur absolutely right..it brings sleepless nights to all of us..but more than our own deaths, it's the thought of loved ones dying that is utterly unbearable..it brings with it unecessary guilt over what we cld have/can do better...then the thought passes away...and we forget all abt it in living..

Oreen said...

thanks everybody...
the only thing i can wish everybody is a painless, happy death after a long, fulfilling life...

Manish Raj said...

Hi Oreen

Came to your blog through a friend's blog. Liked your post.

I want to die but I don't want anyone to cry for me. Death has been a problem for those who stay alive to see a person dying.

You are in my favorites from now.