The Long Drive & Discussions On Death-Fictional Story By Madhavi Deshpande
The Long Drive & Discussions On Death-Fictional Story By Madhavi Deshpande
This is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents in this Story are either the product of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental and unintentional.
Recently, I saw a funeral procession, where the friends of the dead man, were dancing to the tunes of DJ music.
"Must be the death of a transgender!" remarked my friend, Rohan dryly, as he steered the car past the procession.
I almost recoiled at the revelation.
It was then that I remembered that in India, the death of a transgender is celebrated like any other happy occurrence such as Marriage or a World Cup Victory and the funeral procession resembles a marriage procession, to say the least, with all the dancing and the cheering and the loud music.
Therein lies the irony.
'Was the transgender so keen or happy to die?' I wondered to myself.
"Liberated……….he has been liberated from his cursed incomplete life of a transgender" Rohan explained "And his fellow transgenders are rejoicing at this …………..with the hope that he will be born COMPLETE and CORRECT in the next birth".
Which made me think………….
If all of us expect to be re-born to a better life, then why do we cry when our loved ones die?
Why do we fear death for ourselves when we very well know that all that dies is only the body………….for the soul…….our the very essence of existence………can never die?
Moreover, we all know that we are all dying………..every minute………every second……..of our lives………for the cells in our bodies are dying and are being replaced by newer, younger cells. The trillions of cells in our body take seven years to die completely and to get replaced by new ones………. In other words, after every seven years, we get a totally new body!
This made me think and think….
We all die.
And it is just a matter of time!
For humans, it may be in a hundred years.
For the Universe, it may be in a billion years.
Some die in the wombs.
Some die in old age.
Some die due to disease.
Some die due to disgrace.
Some die of shame.
Some die of cold.
Some die out of worry.
Some die out of pain.
Some die when their dreams and ambitions die.
Some die when their ideals and mortals die.
Some die in their physical bodies but live in the form of their thoughts and ideas.
Some die but their memories live on.
Even the Universe, where we currently live, will one day die.
Or dissolve and evolve again into a new Universe, with new matter and new energy and new dimensions.
'Death……….can watching any form of death……….even if it is of a transgender……….make anyone happy?' I mused over this thought myself………and though the death scene of the transgender did not grieve me …………it certainly did not make me happy either …………..just a bit philosophical maybe and set my mind thinking………..wildly…..and I could hear words, which I had read or thought about, echoing in my mind's ear.
'Nothing and no one dies, they just get converted from one form to another or from one energy to another.
Everything in nature moves in a cycle. Days become nights, summers become winters, ends become beginnings.
So there is no start and no end in the Universe, naturally, there is no birth and no death in the Universe.
It is just a cycling movement of nature, which is both continuous and endless.
Even birth is death since the baby dies to its identity in the womb and is born as an individual….
Similarly………a physical death may be a rebirth!'
'There are no accidents in the Universe…………only evolution' I recalled having read somewhere and suddenly realized the profoundness of this statement and understood that 'Nothing is dying……..everything is just evolving …………be it in the Universe or our lives.
"What are you thinking about?" quizzed Rohan, at the wheel.
I took a deep breath and did not know how to begin or from where………..and simply said "I was just thinking about …………what we just saw………….and ……what you just said"
"Oh! That" Rohan exclaimed "The death of a transgender"
I nodded and added "Not just the death of a transgender………….I was thinking about Death………..only Death………" my voice trailed off, uncertainly.
Rohan was silent for a long time. He must also be thinking about how to begin and from where.
Within a moment, he said matter-of-factly "Death is the only ultimate Truth………. the only leveller……..common to Prince and Paupers alike" and realized that though this may be one definition of Death, it certainly was not all-encompassing……….for I still looked unsatisfied and looked at Rohan, waiting for and expecting more.
Rohan was one of the most well-read and balanced fellows that I had ever met in my life.
Rohan was my childhood BFF, my mentor, my sounding board, my advisor, in fact ….my life coach.
I could talk with him on absolutely any topic in the world, no issues barred.
And he would give me the treatment that I deserved. Like sometimes, he would advise me, sometimes chide me, warn me and sometimes even shout at me to see the correct side of things.
And there were those other times when he would just listen and patiently listen to me……….while I talked and talked ….for hours…….pouring my heart out…………until I was empty……….of all emotions that had been disturbing me for so long and he had absorbed much of my pain and feelings, smoothly and completely like a sponge.
That was Rohan for me………….someone who would hear me out without judging me……….someone who could 'a-spade-a-spade' ………….and at times 'a dull-witted person like me when I behaved like one, 'a dull-witted person' point-blank on my face.
Long drives with Rohan also meant discussions and debates on virtually any topic that we could think of, apart from the quick snack bites that we used to grab from the regular fast food joints that line up the streets.
"Death is perhaps the only thing that keeps man sane and modest" Rohan continued and I chuckled my approval.
"Had it not been for man's knowledge that death will destroy his physical form, man would have become all-powerful, uncontrollable, and perhaps even unimaginably cruel" Rohan added slowly, after a short pause.
I could not agree with him more.
I could agree with Rohan on almost all topics under the Sun, for we were really 'two bodies one soul' kind of friends……… a relationship in which one could finish the sentence of the other and that too correctly …. A relationship where one could read the other's thoughts and that too remarkably clearly.
Today, Rohan and I were in a sombre mood………quite naturally…….and my instincts told me that the subjects of our discussion today would invariably turn to something very serious ……..like life and death.
"What are your thoughts on death?" I asked Rohan casually, fully aware that this could start a long discussion especially since Rohan was a very well-learned person and rounded in thinking since he had read extensively on almost all the important subjects from different viewpoints.
"Death……….hmm," said Rohan with the exact degree of sobriety and seriousness, that such a topic demanded and choosing his words very carefully, spoke slowly, weighing each word carefully and said "Why! We are dying every moment" began Rohan, clutching the wheel tightly "For our childhood and innocence dies and our youth is born. And when our youth and energy die, our old age is born. Though we know that only the physical body dies, rarely have any one of us felt evolved or liberated after any death………now why is that so?" Rohan posed the question and looked at me, expecting me to answer.
"Because we are afraid that we will not see that person in the same physical form………after his or her death" I answered without a thought.
"Exactly! This means that we are too attached to the physical body of the person and cannot think of or relate to any other form, other than the physical form" Rohan, who had read a lot on such topics, explained excitedly.
I merely nodded my head to denote that 'we are on the same page.
"Some die to old habits, some die to age-old customs and believes" Rohan went on, carrying further his concept of death.
"Some die to the past……..and with their past…….their former relationships, jealousy, bitterness, hatred, love, memories ...also die" I added with equal zeal, continuing the flow of thoughts.
"Correct! But remember, death is not just regarding the people" Rohan cried excitedly "History and the past of a country also dies and is then written by those who are alive and victorious"
I nodded slowly and remembered the sentence 'Those who win wars write history' which we had been taught in our School Essays.
"Again, death is essentially only of the individual who can be killed, not the ideology by which he lived" Rohan went on.
I agreed without any argument.
There was a silence between us as both were brooding on the topic while Rohan stated in his deep voice, something which he must have read in some great book of philosophy "Some die physically but keep on living through their works or creations"
"Then there is the other side of the coin where there are some people and situations which do not let you die………there are some people who don't allow your past and past mistakes to die and they keep on reminding you again and again about the same and keep on judging you on the same" he added.
"Judgmental type of people!" I remarked bitterly, for those were the types of people whom I usually hated the most.
'For how can one completely or correctly judge a person…………in a single incidence or the course of a single day?' That would be my most obvious question.
I had grown to hate all those who felt that they could not just evaluate and judge but also write off some person as 'hopeless' without listening or knowing the other side.
Rohan went on and as far as I know, he, could go on speaking and lecturing for hours on end……..so vociferous a reader was he. "Some also try to keep the memory of their loved ones alive by erecting statues or pillars or monuments to immortalize them" I put in, trying to add some value to the conversation, which I dreaded was fast becoming one-sided only.
I could feel Rohan's eyes brooding inside me with that typical queer look, as I added "What is easier…….remembering or forgetting? And more importantly, what is more important……remembering or forgetting?"
Both of us thought long and hard………..but could not come to any decisive conclusion and both agreed without words, that there are many things to which we have no answer or the nature of many things is such that there are no correct answers for the same.
"Ahh…" chuckled Rohan, with an air of resignation of a person who had been 'check-mate' in the debate. "The ironies and pathos of life!"
"And death!" I added and Rohan agreed.
"Any other thoughts on Death?" Rohan inquired, which meant that this unusual topic must be getting mighty interesting for him and greedy that he was for more points of view, he wanted more……..much more.
I thought for a while and quoted a few lines that I had read a while ago "Some live in such a way that they remain alive even after their Deaths. Some die in such a way that they are their entire long life becomes meaningless."
"Hmmm……"Rohan said again…………munching on these new lines carefully.
"Some deaths are significant and inspiring" I went on, edged by Rohan "Some deaths are mere statistics in the Government registers"
"But all said and done…………rarely have I seen death being celebrated with such joy and cheer!" Rohan said referring to the death of the transgender that we had just seen, and it was obvious from his tone that it had also had a great deal of impact on him.
My thoughts went back to the incident which had started this conversation in the first place….the celebrations of the transgender's death…………….and try as much as I could…………… I too just could not get over it.
It had changed me in many ways and I had experienced an unexplainable calmness, creeps over me when I thought about the concept of death………….the physical death of a body.
It was the first time in my life………….that in my mind and heart,
I could feel the death of my 'fears of death.
"Our discussion has as always been great" Rohan announced and wanted to know what underlying message would I take from our discussion.
We also had made a habit of pointing out the 'take-aways' from our discussions.
"Dying to the mistakes and regrets of the past………….is the best form of dying…is my lesson from today's discussion," said Rohan, smiling his typical loop-side boyish smile.
"What was your pointer?" he asked me.
I sighed for a while before speaking "I have finally overcome my fear of death………to a certain extent….at least" I added haltingly…….and I feel gratitude…………for my current PERFECT life of a FEMALE……who has no confusion whatsoever about her identity, and most importantly about her gender"
Rohan agreed as I continued "What I had always thought to be an average, ordinary life, full of flaws and regrets………………is, in fact, a Life which many (like the dead transgender and his fellow-transgenders) are ……pinning for ……..dreaming for……….even praying for……even happy to die for!"
Both of us had fallen unusually quiet today, as we were nearing Rohan's home.
"And in the end, it is all Silence" I quoted the famous last words of a Shakespearean character, which quite rightly concluded our discussion, as Rohan parked the car in his garage.
We then said our goodbyes to each other and went our ways…………all the while thinking about the most common yet least discussed topic in Life………Death!