According to Hindu religion, a soul takes an year to depart the world. It is said that it is not an easy journey, so we perform a lot of rituals to help the soul transition to another world, to say “good bye” and to bid “farewell”. But I think such rituals are more for the living than for the dead. Because it slowly prepares you for the rest of your life.
This day, an year back, changed my life for ever.
When a storm hits, boat take a couple of bruises, but if the sailor is willing he can steer through the storm and make it to the shore. And the sailor would’ve learnt the lessons worth a thousand sail in just a few hours and the boat would’ve known its true strengths.
My story is quite similar.
It came at a time when I was finishing my studies. With job secured and grades taken care of, I was celebrating graduation 3 months in advance. I was having a blast – playing, reading, travelling, cycling and celebrating. Nothing could’ve shaken the grin off my face except a call from my mother when she said “your brother is no more.” I didn’t believe her. Asked her 3/4 times. I wanted to be sure. So I called my dad. Until my dad told me to book tickets, I didn’t truly believe that Vishnu was dead. Even while I was travelling I wished it wasn’t true while mentally preparing for what waited at my house.
What came after this dreadful call was as series of conflicts in my mind and disapproval of the world. I didn’t care about graduating any more. I couldn’t care about how my parents felt. I hated the world. But thanks to friends I got to travel, play and dine and eventually get back to my own senses.
Fast-forward 12 months, I am sad and yet I am at peace.
You cannot control what happens in your life but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
It took me a long time to understand death. Death has always been a mystery to me and I have done quite a bit of reading to understand it. But this one year, has been a revelation. My understanding of death has changed my way of looking at my life. Just like the first step I took by looking at my brother (I don’t remember, but mum says I always looked up to my brother for everything), my brother seem to guide me even in his death. Here are some of the things I learnt.
1. To recognise and appreciate love. I have always looked at a persons’s interests and intelligence more than the person him/herself. Last to judge, but never understood their emotions. I never new that waking me up everyday with a cup of tea is an expression of love or for that matter, ignoring the new year party, or even sending messages that read “how are you, how are your parents” every now and then. Recognising love in my daily life has made me appreciate the meaning of life even more. Suddenly a lot of things (even the annoying things) I took for granted was in fact an expression of love..a gift we must treasure.
2. To empathise with others. Till now, I often mistook empathy for pity. I used to feel bad for the beggars and the kids who stand all day at signals selling something. Now, I just give them money so that they can at least enjoy their next meal. Being able to understand others pain is impossible because pain isn’t transferable. We can only superimpose their pain on one of our experiences to even begin to understand them. And dealing with the loss of a dear one could just open up a bank of experiences. You just don’t deal with loss, you deal with frustration, love, pain, despair, guilt, disapproval, aversion and more. So, the emotional radar gets a little better. And when you recognise someone is mourning you just shut up and be with them and not to try to make sense of it. In the beginning, I tried too hard to get my parents to stop grieving and then one day I just shut up. And I found this had helped them (I can never be sure, but seems like it).
3. There is always some trace. Ancient Egyptian left their name on their grave so that when someone calls their name, they are believed to “wake up”. That way even after they die they could live. In a way all of us leave a trace in this world. Sometimes it’s E=mC2 or sometimes it’s simply the way you lived life. We pick up a lot from the ones we love such that a bit of them still live with us. This is probably the biggest lesson I have learned in the last one year. At the lowest points, I usually tend to scrutinise every inch of my room searching for something express my feelings (read: to throw at). As the time mature you run out of things to throw at, but have face the “feeling” on its face. That’s when I noticed the guitar, then my laptop, then my wardrobe, then my books. And I saw a pattern. Vishnu had encouraged me to buy guitar (basically to do what I want). Vishnu had showed me to keep desktop clean and wardrobe organised. Vishnu had planted the seed that grew in to my love for finance. In a way, I felt my brother can never not be a part of my life, then how can I ever miss him. So, when I have the biggest dilemmas I simply have to tune in to my life and dig a little deeper. All of us leave traces of ourselves especially on our dear ones and if we are keen enough to look, we can never be “apart”.
4. Celebrate the ordinary. The home you go to every day, friends you chat with, the extra rice dad served you, the dhal mom makes, the Monday morning blues, the weekend movies. Celebrate the ordinary cause however ordinary they might be as individual elements, the make one helluva extraordinary life and experience. My brother was an ordinary guy with an ordinary family but until he died I never knew that he made my life (and a few others) extraordinary. Sometimes it’s best to stop looking at the extravagant glory and simply look at the simplest things.
These are my humble experiences. I am just starting to discover the meaning of my experiences and I am sure there is a lot of exciting things to uncover. But right now, I am thankful for the support of my family and friends who helped me get through the toughest year of my life.
Thank you da for guiding me.