Monday, February 26, 2007

The Dead

Mortality is not for beginners. You need to have been through about half of your projected life span to understand that mortality is for advanced users. All the bells and whistles which herald the living becomes a silenced farce when you are faced with death.

Death. No, not the passing away of someone near and dear, regardless of the grief one might feel. There's always the acceptance of the inevitable in the circumstances, the logical end. I say death is the sight of corpses in a police morgue where the air conditioning is malfunctioning; the cloying stench of putrefaction feebly masked by chemicals; the stink of rot and decay, old spilled blood and entrails; morgue attendants going about their usual work much as we do with ours – that same indifference, the steadfast boringness of it all.

I say death is being the only one who does not object to going into the morgue to identify your dear friend's body. I died many deaths in the short period between October and January as I went inside two separate Calcutta Police morgues to take delivery of the corpses of two of my dearest buddies. Then I cremated one, and three months later, buried the other. And cursed them silently but strongly as I did so. Two of my exact age, two who were my closest confidantes, my intellectual foils, my partners in the vices we indulged ourselves. Their deaths were inevitable but should not have been so early.

They had lived about half their lives, and we had ideas and made plans about what to do with the rest remaining. Ranjan may have been unmarried with no progeny, but he had family, including us – a core group of buddies who went back more than 20 years, and we met as often as we could. Paul was married but separated, with two sons who live in another city with their mother. Because their deaths were recorded as police cases, autopsies were required to establish the cause of their deaths. I still do not have the results. I'm not sure I want to know, except perhaps to give me some false sense of closure.

Both lived alone due to circumstances they could not really control. Both were traumatised by their addictions. Yet they both had the sparks of life still to be lived. And then they went and died. Ranjan and Paul were serial numbers 2 and 3 in my roster of dear friends predeceasing me. Number 1 was Sanjiv, my namesake, in 1989, in New Zealand. He botched his own hanging and lay in a coma with life support for a year before the inevitable. We still have no idea why he committed (tried to commit?) suicide. And were Ranjan's and Paul's deaths also verging on the suicidal? Aren't all of us who are addicted to alcohol/narcotics/psychotropics suicidal in one way or another? Even when I claim I use it and don't abuse it? Brave words indeed for the dispirited.

Death is the stench of putrefying corpses randomly assailing me for a few seconds as I walk down a street, read a book by a window, window-shop in a mall...

Postscript: Monjit and I, (two of the remaining 3 or 4 of the core buddies bunch; part of the 90% of school contemporaries still alive), have decided to open a packing and moving company. Here's what the advertisement might read like:

M & P Packers & Movers
Taking care of getting your near and dear from this world to the next

We're sure there will be enough custom.


Ricercar said...

kind of sad. and kind of scary. :)

p@tr!(k said...

i do not wish such an experience on any one - friend or foe :(

Anonymous said...

Hi Patrick,
Heard Monjit's version of both stories - knew Ranjan from the old days and vaguely remember Paul.
Keep the faith!

p@tr!(k said...

thanks devangshu! am trying very hard to keep keeping on, faith or none!

Anonymous said...

Damn sad, man .... despite the glibness: M & P Packers and ....

- datta