Of the many taboos, there exists, one of the greatest is about “Speaking of Death”. The first thoughts of death registered with us are movie scenes/ad scenes of a dark man wearing a huge mustache, holding a club (gada) and come in on a buffalo. He is the god of death but looks like pure evil. He also lets out a burst of loud laughter, which makes us shift in our stomach. The kind of fear that strikes us from these visuals and the added phobia we develop, makes it a lethal combination to look at death objectively as the necessary natural process we will all succumb to. In this post let us look to understand and experiment and exercise towards writing an obituary to self and invite others to contribute as well.
During my childhood funerals were a normal function to attend. Minus some wailing from the immediate family of the deceased, the rest were in calm moral support of the family.
As a child, I was introduced to the concept of death when I had to accompany my parents to the funeral or the odd nth day acknowledgment function. I distinctly recall the good food served at these events. All I knew about death was a social function and it was something which I couldn’t miss at different points in my life.
The other thing which I remember is the carving on the tombstones. Almost all the tombstones in the cemetery had carvings which were almost a copy and paste of the template “in fond loving memory of ..”. It was pretty boring for me to read those.
As can be seen, more often than not, they applied the copy-paste template to the obituary printed in newspapers in the respective section with the same wording as on the tombstone. Very rarely I would come across some extremely touching words on someone’s grave or the obituary section. I would then reflect on the kind of relationship shared, possible life stories, or thoughts that would have prompted someone to write these off the template and straight from the heart lines.
My first loss
Growing up, one of the hardest-hitting truths I learned was from the death of my pet dog, Kuttan. In fact putting him to sleep was the hardest thing I did growing up. The grieving process was extremely deep. He and I grew up together and therefore made it extremely tough. The lines that taught me acceptance of this inevitable truth is a Malayalam line which says “Innu Njan, Naale Nee”. it means “Me today, You Tomorrow”. There is nothing more truthful than this.
I have had many people tell me “never speak ill about the dead”. How will I not want to speak ill about some of the greatest who walked the earth? It is mighty difficult. It would be a lie if I just said “Hitler was the greatest” and then leave the rest blank to be filled up blank on how he is pure evil.
The other dimension of Death is how good people speak about the dead. It always happens after he/she is dead. What is the point? The dead can’t hear. What you had to tell about them will always just be words for the world but not for the one who needed to hear them. Think about it!
Loosing someone in times of Corona Virus
The spirit of the current season is the Corona Virus, claiming lives all over the world. 15% of India’s population is vulnerable to this virus. If this turns out to be true, every sixth person is a probable victim. It could be me or it could be you. While death could be looming at large, we could be left with very little time to share what we ‘feel’ or ‘like’ about a person that person. I wish to invite you to try an experiment with me and also encourage you to try it for yourself.
Need for an Obituary
Don’t get caught up in a thriller background music using a trombone, cello, bass guitar, and drum or even that misery driving music using violin, shehnai or a sarangi. As much as it is tremendously deep emotion with fear, sadness, anxiety built into it, accepting it, as a matter of fact, might just help you deal with it in a more pragmatic way. People, take something from those moral science classes you attended. What would you like to be remembered for? Answer this for your self and get to know about it from others too.
I can tell you this, someone at the death bed would want to die happy if that is possible. I am sure we wish this for ourselves are others around us. So why not make ourselves laugh a bit and let ourselves be vulnerable to find out what people who are close to you can share something for you while you are alive? Why let death laugh at us, why can’t we laugh at it too? Let’s accept some of the best movies out there has been about celebrating death like PS I Love you, Death Becomes Her, Ghost and many more. The obituary experiment I am initiating in this post is inspired by a 2014 Oscar Nominated movie called “The Fault In Our Stars”.
You are free to set out your own framework of how you want it to be. Here are a few pointers if you are writing something for me. And I would like you to
- Please make it funny, blunt and quirky
- Make it short, 100 words max. Keep it Authentic
- I would like to set a timeline of 3 days, but take as long as you like.
Some of you will hate me for this or find the fun to contribute to it. To whenever and however it may happen, this is the truth I accept. It is what it is! So I invite you to rise above your own taboo, start with writing one for me, write one for your self and invite several others to write for you.
My Obituary to Self
Born and lived in my own time zone. I was slow and crazy. Found the divine in things as mundane as smelling a lemon leaf. I led my people as the wolves do in service of others. Ambiguity became my best friend after a lot of struggle. I sang, loved, ate and cussed with elated levels of creativity… straight from the heart. I led an honest life but couldn’t agree with any defined system. I shed my heaviest baggage which was loaded with fear, shame, guilt, anger, ego and self-doubt. I wish to be born again into a tribe that would experience me as the person I am today. I have lived entangled and chose to live free and with a non-judged self.
An Obituary for Me
Someone very close to me very reluctantly wrote for me and I am still having a good laugh about it. Still collecting more:
Jim is and will remain the bestest friend. I cherish each and every conversation and banter I shared with him. He set me free in ways undefined. He has a heart of gold and spreads love in his own crazy ways. All women are “babe” and “darling” to him. He can’t resist a pretty face and has to have a conversation with her, to the extent that he can even barter a scarf for a date. Music is his muse, the spontaneity and the way he could deflect a topic with his songs is a skill which many don’t have. Thankfully after a few times I figured how to get him back on track. He has this undying love for Jimmy Choo and the song – jimmy jimmy (Both piss him off like nothing else can). His quest for defying the mundane set him on a journey of exploration of every kind. I hope he was able to be Shiva and find his Ganga to flow with.
PS: I am not dying, nor do I plan to anytime soon. So stop twisting up your head and “Be Untwisted” . Whether you like this post or not, feel free to share, comment, participate and engage.