Thursday, June 11, 2009
The above picture is from an old calendar page that has been in my cupboard for the last six years.
The picture shows thick mud houses located somewhere in one of the deserts of Pakistan. Even in its two dimensional form, the cruel heat of a Pakistani summer is quite evident.
I have been told that the mud houses shown in the picture are quite effective in protecting against the scorching heat of the sun.
It is a fine picture, no doubt, quite appropriate for the month it represents
However that is not why I hold on to it.
I hold on to it because there is a date on this page that divides my life into two distinct parts.
A “life before” portion and a “life afterwards” one.
The date that divides it is June 11 2003.
It is the date Naveed passed away.
It is said that of all the misfortunes that one could encounter in a life time, the worst and the last one happens to be death itself.
But I tend to disagree.
I think loosing someone you love surpasses that.
How can death itself be bad?
You can only categorize something as good or bad if you think about how it has affected you. Though admittedly, death does have a far more drastic effect than any other calamity that could befall one during life, but then again, one is hardly able to compare it with anything or think about it in any way afterwards since all thought process stops with death; at least I think it does, though I can’t be sure. I have never been dead you see.
We all have our different ways of looking at death, of trying to understand something we have not been given the power to understand. Trying to figure out what it means.
And we all come up with different meanings. We all form our own beliefs about a phenomenon which is beyond our comprehension. And it is these beliefs of ours that then act like little mud huts insulating and protecting us from the intensity of tragedy that threatens to destroy our sanity.
It was about a year after Naveed’s death that I came across something which I have taken to believe is the meaning of death.
I came across it quite accidentally in news paper along side the picture of the absurdly handsome young man. Laughing and full of life when the picture was taken, deceased and gone forever by the time it was published. Infect the picture was published because he was dead. It was part of the obituary of a youth who had died before reaching his 23rd birthday.
I copied the words from his obituary (added there by grieving parents as a tribute to the memory of their lost son) and posted them to all my acquaintances on Naveed’s first Barsi. At that time I did not know that those words were actually a poem by Henry Van Dyke.
Though six years have passed since I first read them, the significance and poignancy of the words still remains strong.
So here they are one more time.
A Parable of Immortality
By Henry Van Dyke
I am standing by the sea shore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a peck of white cloud just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says:
‘There she goes!’
Gone from my sight –that is all
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the places of destination.
Her diminished size is in me not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says:
‘There she goes!’
There are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
Here she comes‘!’
And that is death
It has to be
Because death in any other form is un-survivable
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Now that the morning ritual of getting kids ready for school is over, I have completely lost track of the days.
For the past one year, Tuesday and Thursday were sports kit days at school. Monday and Wednesday, regular uniform days, Friday was half day and Saturday and Sunday were the days I could enjoy the luxury of extending my hand toward the bedside table to shut off the six o clock morning alarm and resuming my much deserved beauty sleep. Now with the commencement of summer holidays all those indicators of “which day of the week it is” are suddenly gone, leaving my biological clock in complete disarray.
Up till yesterday I was still on Sunday while the world around me had moved on to Tuesday.
My father says prisoner kept in isolation under go similar disorientation. They scratch marks on the wall to keep record of days gone by and even that is only possible if their cells allow any glimpse of the rising and setting sun.
(Only an ex-military guy like my father could have come up with an example like that.)
So what does that signify; that my mental alertness is even lower than those poor unfortunate souls in solitary confinement?
Unlike those prisoners, I not only have full view of rising and setting sun, (also the midday sun, if I care to look at it, which I don’t. It is hot enough as it is without staring into that burning orb of fire overhead) I also have clocks and calendars fixed on walls in more than one room of the house.
I guess its time to wind up the old timepieces and start referring to them for accurate indication of time and date if I want to remain in the same time zone as the rest of my surroundings for the next three months.