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When Death Celebrates

When Death Celebrates

8 mins 497 8 mins 497

A thought of writing in Hindi or Marathi (difficult for me) died an instant death, when I thought of writing this recent experience. May the language flowing out of my mind today be a genuine tribute to its real stakeholder, who inculcated it in me. How many times one realizes that, as we celebrate somebody’s birth, death also keeps celebrating people. Weird! But true. Exactly a week ago, while returning from the college, as we say in the campus Jargon “after finishing our work load”, I had stopped to inquire about our evening Table Tennis schedule. One of the prominent members of our TT club included Dr. P.K. Joshi, who also being my mentor of the game, was a most regular attendee.

It was almost a ritual from past few years to call one another before assembling in the TT hall, and then sweating out for couple of hours. Joshi sir being a retired senior, was one among the list of conference calls. Unexpectedly I got an intimation from my other colleagues that, Joshi sir’s mother was seriously ill and was admitted in an ICU of a hospital of repute. I rushed with my other colleagues just to observe the caretakers getting stuck in the rut. Now with Joshi sir at sixty two, his mother at eight five who had recently battled a couple of surgeries was between the devil and the deep blue sea and doctors along with the family members were on the horns of a dilemma.


We were four visitors and while trying our best to balance between the network of medical ethics and bonds of socially ‘attached strings’ we entered the ICU unit, one by one, escorted by the patient’s custodian. I was the last to go inside and being the junior most of the worried lot, was quite as inarticulate as the patient herself, and equally dumb and numb as the busy care-taking nurses. While trying to measure the routine events of this unfathomable phenomenon called ‘life’, I rolled my eyes over the series of adjacent beds, where many patients were jailed in a disguised four curtain walled bedding, each supposedly called as an intense care unit, the curtains trying to create a “special class” ambiance, only for sake of claiming remunerations. I seriously thought this industry must be renamed as “sick care units” instead of “health care units”.


As my eyes rolled on and over, suddenly I stopped at the fifth bed to the right, which had a patient, who was lying on the modern battleground called ICU and whose whole body was carefully equipped in the modern plastic armory for survival. His soul was playing an electronic game for relief and his scores were being displayed in numerals and graphs, on a monitor above his head, which was providing his headway report with occasional beeps and counts. He was playing a game, of the final level of difficulty, for survival. I saw him directly staring at me, with eyes wider than usual, he was simply seeking prolonged attention with reduced blinking, and his eyes indicated particular interest in something or someone. Man’s eyebrows are sometimes very expressive of a person’s emotions and attitude. I was suddenly shocked and went into a moment of disbelief, particularly when a series of events took place in parallel sessions.

First it was Joshi sir, who while watching me, mentioned in a soft voice, name of that patient, secondly I in equilibrium had recognized him, and third, in tandem that patient called out loudly “Shiva!!.......” taking my dumb state into deeper dumbness, I looked here and there, just to see him raising his hand and signaling me to come over. I had recognized him he was Prof. Satish Radikar, who was calling me. I walked up to him and reached his bed in around 10 seconds. Time stopped and a torrent of thoughts breezed my mind in this ten second journey.


Year 1986. Prof Radikar was a cheerful and respectable English teacher during my 11th and 12th standard in Shivaji College, Parbhani. I had attended every class of English in every walk of life, without bothering how or who taught it. It was the subject which interested me more than anything else. Prof. Radikar was among a few elite exceptions, he was a jolly good fellow and taught English with wit and hilarity. Shivaji College has given gems of English teachers to the society at junior and senior level. What Prof. Ratnam sir and Prof. Prabhu sir (Shivaji College, Parbhani, alumni need no mentioning of the elite teachers here) were to senior section, Prof. Satish Radikar was to junior section. I was his student then in 1986-88. Two years I never missed a single lecture of his, later on his book on Grammar was most famously known as "Radikar’s Grammar" among students, a handy book which had saved many drowning candidates in this educationally backward area. His way of teaching was most effective and his vernacular least distracting. He was full of anecdotes, humor and mock-ups which made us remember what he taught.


As I neared his bed with folded hands, still flabbergasted, to the core fact that, I never met him after my 12th Std. education, which was in 1988. Now 27 years down the lane, he still remembered me and my name. With my hands still folded, which seemed too stuck in that posture, I uttered “Namsate! Sir!” He enquired, “Shiva! How are you, are you still working as a Lecturer or looking after your Hotel?” Unable to pacify my dumbness I went “Doing both, Sir!” Still I was wondering how he was updated about my job status, not wondering about the hotel as it was my father‘s virtue. Radikar sir talked and talked, I was a mute spectator jammed in my folded arms posture. I fumbled for words when I asked “Sir! I am most surprisingly happy to know that you still remember me!” to which he replied “Shiva! How can I ever forget you? There are very few B.Sc. graduates who were very serious and studious English students, you are one of them whom I will never forget. I keep giving your example to my students. I was humbled to the earth. But it’s not about me, anyway, I thought.

A bedridden Prof. Radikar had given one more lesson of life. True teachers are themselves living classrooms. He sounded conclusive when he said “See Shiva! What has retirement planned for me ~ all this plus kidney failure and what not” I was all ears and my empathetic mind sensed he was least regretful of his life lived, all he wanted was to talk. Gathering courage I said “Sir! You have lived a noble profession with utmost nobility, and my heart tells me that, you will fight this out with peace and without pain. I simply can wholeheartedly pray that may the best happen to you.” Following the nurse's orders, issued through her concerned eyes, to end the conversation, I touched his feet and bid adieu. While walking out of the hospital my colleagues to expressed surprise over the ‘recognition incident’.


It was only recently that our near and dear friend Renukadas sirs Aai, had disposed of her body and went to seek the greater realms. Couple of days back, it was again Renukadasji’s sister’s father in law passed away after a prolonged illness. He had hurriedly met me and rushed off, out of the town. Within a span of one week, we tried hard to continue our regular table tennis game, but somehow without the most punctual Joshi sir, the missing link was creating a void. Breaking shackles Dr. Manwar yesterday frustratingly remarked, “It’s high time we get back to our feet, let’s give it a shot, today we assemble, no calling again. Six pm sharp lets meet at the table. At six I got a call from our third partner Dr. Palaskar, “Shiva! Come downstairs~ Joshi sir’s mother has expired and funeral is anytime from now” When I went down he had already intimated the rest and we without surprises or any special emotions, kicked our bikes towards the funeral ground.

The pyre was already lit, and a life may have ended, but for the sons standing there, the relationship survived. As I walked towards Joshi sir, he seeing me, said “Arre! Shiva ~ do you know a few days back PROF. RADIKAR TOO EXPIRED IN AURANGABAD” I was dumbfounded again. Death was celebrating people. I observed that all the gathered people were speaking rationally. 


Graveyards are great grounds for the arousal of automated philosophical thoughts. Generally in these modern times such temporal graveyard philosophies, being so volatile, die an instant death. All the spiritual thoughts exchanged over watching the burning pyre don’t even last till the person reaches home. In today’s times, informality, nonchalance and detachments reach home before the dead man’s kith and kin reach home. All I can sum up, which I had read somewhere, is that imagination is stronger than knowledge, myth is more potent than history, and dreams are more powerful than facts. Unquestionably hope will always triumph over experience and also that laughter is the only cure for grief, there is absolutely no substitute to love which is stronger than death. Death may keep celebrating people, but people will never cease to celebrate birth and life.


Humble tributes to Prof. Satish Radikar sir and Aai.

And to every soul who departs from this earth to be reborn somewhere again. No wonder births overtake deaths numerically. Celebrations continue.


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