Romancing the final act
What's the title of my column? Oh, Life's Like That.
If this one reads like Death's Like That, I am really sorry. Can't help it. Because life and death are two sides of the same coin that whirls around like a top. Your luck depends on which side the spinning coin falls on.
Besides, for more than a month, I had been floating around like a zombie, rufescent tears about to drip down my face. I was in the grip of inexplicable sadness, which wasn't a surprise to many as a touch of melancholia typically delineates my personality. They say I am even capable of picking sadness in happiness. So, there were no empaths in the office, except a lone soul who asked, "What's happening?"
"I don't know," I said. It wasn't a lie; a half truth at that.
Then the grocer asked.
So did the girl at the local pub.
"Didn't sleep well?" asked the restaurant waiter who serves the less-sugar tea early morning.
I shrugged my shoulders.
"Your book release is a couple of days away, so be happy. Why are you looking all morose?" daughter asked as I rushed out for a morning appointment with my gastroenterologist. Half truth again. Because the day you get your biopsy result, whether a hospital visit was an appointment with the doctor or death is highly debatable. So I didn't answer. I drove to the hospital all alone. Er . half truth again. I was accompanied by the lone WhatsApp message - It will go well - that lay snug and warm in my pocket.
I read the doc's lips while he read the lab report. As time slithered away, he looked up and said: "Non-malignant. No issues, you can go."
I felt like a death-row convict who had just won a stay on his execution. Exhausted, excited and elated.
Back home and back to Netflix, I was about to unwind when the phone buzzed. On the other end was a book fair visitor who introduced himself as Rajeev Govindan, producer, poet and lyricist.
"I have my book release at the Sharjah fair. Can you do the honours, please?"
I said yes after which we talked about books and other common interests. The consensus was, Tagore was great. I quoted from the Nobel laureate's short story, The Postmaster. He quoted verses from The Grasp of Your Hand, which he said he had kept as a preface to his about-to-be-released anthology, Ilakkanam.
Veering away from books and book fairs, the chinwag took a "deadly" turn. Despite the huge age gap, we found ourselves discussing the importance of romancing death.
"Read my latest post about death in FB," I said.
"What did you say?"
"One who breathes his last serenaded by his favourite songs or poems is the most blessed," I said.
"What a meeting of minds."
"What happened?" I asked.
"I have told my wife to play music to the mourners at my funeral. Let poetry replace sobs and wails. Let it be a happy ending."
"I am in the process of creating such an album," I said.
I said I dread sinking in a maelstrom of nostalgia, with teary eyes peering over your last moments. "The same old mise-en-scène of your childhood in the last act of your life would be so boring. The ancestral house you were born in, the courtyard where you first toddled, the streams where you made the first splash, the banana groves where you played hide-and-seek with village lasses. A flood of nostalgia would wash out the last show. Hello, are you there?"
"Yes, I am listening. I have seen some communities in South India celebrating death by paying professional mourners to sing, dance and play the trumpet at the funeral where the body even wears a pair of dark shades."
"If death is all about making a new beginning, let's start on a fresh canvas. Recently, a friend's father went on a European tour and died on the Alps breathing in the freshness of the great mountains. I envy the guy. His death was picture perfect. He wan't carrying any old baggage on his new journey. Instead, he had a freshly painted picture of a whole new world tucked under his arm."
"Great thoughts. Great ending. Great beginning, too," he said.
Rajeev left for Mumbai, his hometown, the day after his book release. Couple of days later he messaged, "My doggy passed away."
"How did it die?"
"Multiple organ failure. He was 14." He changed his WhatsApp DP to the Labrador resting on the dining table.
I hope Rajeev played music to the mourners.