Tag Archives: Death;

SO LONG BALDY………

SO LONG, BALDY…….

It wasn’t just another face staring at me from Page 10 of the Times of India. That’s where the dear departed are often featured. The Obit (Obituary) page of the newspaper.

For some reason, day after day year on year, irrespective of how much of the remaining sections of the paper that I consume, this is one page I spend a lot of time on.

Faces of the not-so-young. Or sometimes, young. Occasionally, even younger, obvious from the year and date of birth.

There would be some faces I had grown familiar to, possibly because they would appear with such unfailing regularity. The displayed picture would more or less remain unchanged.  The brief prose, or sometimes poetry accompanying the picture betraying the deep pain and anguish of those left behind.

For instance, it has been 13 years last month, (September 19, 2002), but, every year, conspicuous is a small stamp size picture and a few touching words of remembrance to a lady called Priya Tendulkar. My generation would recall the fire-brand television actor who became a household name through her character Rajani, which took on the corrupt.

On Monday, October 6, 2014, my eyes remained transfixed to a pair of eyes staring at me from the obit page. It wasn’t only because the picture was much larger in size compared to the other departed names.

A Gentle face, not so young and surely not so old. Cropped hair. But oozing warmth and an unusual calm in the eyes.

It was, but obviously, an untimely demise. I tried to make some meaning of the possible reason of death or the antecedents. Or what the person’s occupation or family background was. The names, a large mourning family left behind going by the printed list, too, did not reveal much.

Felt sad at this early departure.

The same morning, another newspaper, in one of it’s inside news pages spoke about a young business tycoon and heir to a family empire having died after a massive heart attack while jogging, during a business trip to Maldives.  It was the same name.

This helped me join a few dots this time. Kind face. Large family. Young children. Untimely death. Business tycoon, I thought to myself.

A single paragraph news piece in another broadsheet newspaper the same morning caught my eye. Sports page. ‘Cricketer of yester-years and Sachin Tendulkar’s first captain in first class cricket passes away.’ A few cricketers had mourned the untimely demise. It was the same name.

Sportsman too.

Later that day, on facebook, I saw common friends, with different professional interests and age groups, commenting on the untimely end of this person. Each ‘friend’ contributing a new and fascinating aspect to the departed one. Donor, Helper, Good Samaritan, friend. Ever smiling.

I was amazed at the multi-dimensional persona of such a young face. And to add to it, was the aura.  And yet, he was gone. Just like that.

Two evenings later, stepping out of my office, my ears caught a soothing strain of music and vocals. It did not seem far away. Trying to trace the source, it carried my feet to the auditorium adjacent to my office. The otherwise desolate entrance had a queue almost half a kilometre long. From the entrance, inside, I could see another hundred odd people making their way up, to the first floor auditorium even as a parallel line inched its way down. They all seemed in shock. But for the gentle music, all the people around seemed bound by a common thread of sadness and voluntary silence.

It is a prayer meeting, said the security guard.

I wondered what made me do so, but I silently merged into the queue and about 45 minutes later, managed to make my way into the auditorium. The place was packed. Overflowing. People from different age brackets, some seemed businessmen, corporate types, young and old. Men, women. Youngsters. Some having come straight from work.

What could have brought so many people together? Who could have? It takes generations of hard work for someone to have such a following. For people to come across and admire you for whatever you may have done. Especially in a city like Mumbai, where you have no time for the living. Pray, what could have led so many to assemble for someone who was no more?

My eyes gradually traced the queue, all slowly making their way to the front of the stage, where the family of the bereaved, stood. Folded hands and fingers held tight together, almost as if, as if, the clasped fingers holding the spirit from crumbling.

Behind them, was the portrait. Of the same young face. Smiling eyes. As if watching his friends, well-wishers, asking them to continue showering his family with the love that had brought them here. Overwhelming was the moment.

Here, I quote a portion of the Obituary written by my friend Shishir Hattangadi, for Rajesh Sanghi. The young man who was no more and for whom, so many had chosen to change their routine.

“He played golf, ran the marathon, did all the right things to stay afloat in a world that can easily distract you with temptations. He liked a laugh and was always around for a chuckle, for old-time’s sake.

One is shocked and confused, can’t even imagine what his close friends and family are going through.

Time, I am told heals, I’m yet to find a balm that can give us the answers we spend a life time searching.

Rajesh Sanghi be happy wherever you are, and Mr. Destiny you owe his family and friends an explanation, and it better be a bloody good one.”

It is rare to find good Samaritans. Rare to find ideals. A species extinct as we look around us. People for whom life is so much more than just living. And in death they leave behind such a rich legacy. (https://shishirjoshi.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/the-man-with-the-umbrella/)

I didn’t know Rajesh. Baldy, as I am told he was popularly known across circles.

I first met him in the Obituary pages of the Times of India. I so wished I had the privilege to met him outside of that.

Yet, he left me with a deep sense of void and a lump in my throat.

What a way to have gone…What a way to have lived…

Ends

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Life in a Real Concrete Jungle:)

 

What do I do with my son, the moment he wakes up, he says I want to go home, a young mother was complaining, of her seven year old.

“Going home? Doesn’t he live at home with you?” I asked her. Oh no, she said. The moment he wakes up, he clicks his laptop on and, gets into facebook. Farmville. Buys farms., trades animals . “That is his new home”.

Far from the  Madding Crowd.

On a bright and busy Monday morning, my eureka moment had arrived.

Enough of the urban chaos I said to myself. “I am going home too ” I muttered,  loud enough to convince myself. 

It is time I bought myself a farm and traded animals. Since I could not afford it in Gandhi’s India, Farmville and facebook was my new destination.

The space, the privacy, the non intrusion of familiar names seemed far sexy an idea to resist.

 

 

I picked up my headphones,  switched on my laptop and, stepped into the world of Facebook.

I want peace, I said to myself. I can easily find myself some corner where I can sit, catch forty winks or just hum a song. No intrusions.

Facebook, I was told, has hundreds of such corners where I can crawl into.

I opened the facebook door.

Ketan stood there, with a morose look. “Kafan to hain chehre par, lekinj kambhakht maut nahin milti….” (Am shouldering a coffin, in wait, but, death eludes me).

Not a great way to begin, I told myself.

 “Is there an explosion outside Delhi High court”?? frantically questioned Sanjay. I didn’t have the answers. Even if I did, I was running away from people. Wanted space.

Shreyansh had occupied  another window seat. “Groan. I have an upset stomach. Loosies. Groan”.  Deeksha and Siddhartha “liked” it.  Sadists, I muttered.

“My legs, my torso, my legs are all travelling in different directions. Crocin, do your thang”, Mansii was  pleading.  Nobody seemed to care.

I didn’t want to either.

Move on, I told myself. Amrita stood in the next corner. Just smiling. Maybe she was in love. Or maybe out of it.

The next corner I saw Naiji, a close friends sister. “Naiji is building a livestock  pen” She needs woven wire. Help her you will be rewarded. Whets got into Naiji, wasn’t she happy in  her IT job?

Why should I help? Help me, I said to myself.

Even before I could move on, I saw Naiji screaming for help again. “Needs soap dishes for her shower”. Move on, my sixth sense told me. This is getting too personal.

Guys really look way way way hotter with beards, Shilpa was crooning. I looked at my clean shaven chin and the thick greying mouche and wondered if she was taking a dig at me. Move on fast, this corner s not for you either.

In the next cove, Sheetal was looking for more bushels in Farmville and Sanjay was busy wooing Aroona, ‘Happy birthday dear Aroona, Long time no see no hear no do.’

 NO DO?? Wonder what he meant by that!!

Shweta was busy adding a smoke free badge to her profile. There were ten who ‘ l”liked” ‘ the way Sanjay was “Doing” Aroona but hardly any takers for a smoke free city.

Blogger Kiran was an enraged soul in the next lane. “Femina steals a story and uses it without credit”, she  howled. Bloggers of the world unite. Holy shit, said one. I knew they would do it. Said another. Take a chill pill remarked a third.

Somewhere further down, more hell was breaking loose. “My hotmail account has been hacked”, Parsa complained. Don’t write to me on that account.

Suddenly, someone ‘poked’ me. For a moment, I felt I was travelling in a packed-like-sardines all male local train somewhere and had reached Bandra. I dared not ‘poke back’.

I was beginning to worry. For myself. And  whether I would find any space for myself here. “I lost my pet poodle” cried Anamika. Eight people ‘liked” it and three people said. “Oh”, “Where” and “So Sad”.

I began walking faster. Someone had announced he was  married. Two others announced break ups. Many joined the fun.Break-up or Marriage. For facebookers, it was the same.  Liked. Disliked. Comment.

 

Amitabh said he was checking into the Taj lands end. Wondered  whether it was a proposition. Hint hint.

Here I was running away from the concrete jungle. Hoping for a peaceful corner. Round the bend, bumped into  Priyanka seeking donations for  her Jungle habitat in City ville.

Send a donation, and you will win an animal, she was telling the world.

Am I crazy? I have enough auto rickshaw-wallahs of my own to deal with.

“I don’t have a problem with myself. If you have, that’s your problem,” Vivek was shouting. A dirty, I-know-it-all grin on his face.

Somehow, I felt, Vivek’s was trying to tell me something. I had a problem dealing with chaos in the city and was running away from it. Escapist? Maybe. I had to deal with it. Face it. Not Facebook it.

Be a MAN, I told myself.

The chaos within the virtual world was way too deafening then the world outside.

I ‘Power-offed’ my laptop.  It took a few seconds to refocus. I was back in Aamchi Mumbai.

Ugly hoardings of uglier politicians smiled back at me. Loser, they seemed to say.

 

Got into the car. Rolled down the windows. The stench. Suddenly it felt so good to breath real stench. Compared to the virtual confusion.

 I Drove onto the main road. I did not have to ‘join’ the traffic snarl. It was everywhere. “You XX###@@$$” screamed an auto wallah. To another. I smiled.

Honk honk went the bus driver. I smiled. Again. In an attempt to miss the bus, I almost crashed into a pole. My car missed the pole. But not the pot-hole.

The two-hundred meter drive had taken me 45 minutes, a few abuses and a big gash to my car. And a grubby sweating me.

But emerging from the car, I felt  like a Gladiator.  Having battled a real war. Real people. Unlike the moans groans and drones of the virtual world.

Opened the newspaper. An ‘Adarsh’  Chief Minister had disowned his mother-in-law . All because of a flat. A national leader’s politician daughter had been beaten up by her businessman NRI hubby.  An IAS couple had amassed hundreds of crores through corruption. An actor had been charged with rape.Farmers had been beaten black and blue by political goons.

Thank gawd nothing had changed here. The concrete jungle seemed so human.

It is so good to be back home.:)

ends

…..Yeh Jeena bhi koi jeena hai:)

Over a period  of time I have realised, I spend lesser time in the edit or op-ed pages of a newspaper, as compared to the Obituary page(s).

The content there seems so much more real.

Or maybe, I am growing old. Which is what is drawing me to OBit pages…(I can almost hear my handful of  friends scream  out You ARE old, the moment they hear I am still claiming to be ‘in the process’ of getting old). “Handful friends”, out of choice, and not because I am so so old now that most of my friends are dear departed. I am growing old. 🙂  But I am NOT  old.  Grow up Shishir YOU ARE OLD , they will scream back.  Err…Grow up? How can I, if I am already old:)?

Eff it. I will not play with Wordsworth arguments.

What fascinates me, increasingly, about the obit page, is not just the size of the obituary (if it’s the TOI, the size of the ad will also mean how wealthy the departed was. )

What however, catches my eye most often is the dateline. The birth date. Oh how young he was. Wonder how and why would he die so young. I promise you, todays newspapers have many such obituaries. Of lives cut short at an early age. Not  just of people younger than I am, but of really younger people. A teenager here, a toddler there or someone in his early twenties having left behind a very young family to mourn and fend.

Then there are those, who have had their stay and say.  Silver citizens, having lead a full life. Their photographs also, betraying the black and white days of photography, almost subtlety hinting at having lived a life with clear demarcations. All black and white. No shades of grey.

In such cases, one always hopes that the end has been peaceful. Quoting eminent actor and psychiatrist Dr Mohan Agashe, Padmashree, from a recent citizen journalism workshop.” Very rare it is to see an old person pass away peacefully, these days. Often, you hear of people spending many a days in the ICU or ailing, and waiting desperately for the end to take over.” In almost a scathing barb at the growing medical lobbies, he quipped” it will not be long before a legislation will make it mandatory to keep a person for 72 hours in artificial respirator before declaring him dead”.  I hope from my road from here (at the age of 65), to vaikunth dham (the crematorium), I do not have to encounter a stop-over (a hospital or an ICU), he  remarked.

Often, the journalist in me finds a story tucked in somewhere. May not be a story to be written, but to be filed in memory. Revealed through the names of those left in mourning.

Coming back to having grown old. There was a time when those passing away were grand parents of our friends. Or people of that age. Then, one began hearing of demise of a friend’s father, or a colleague’s uncle. Increasingly, one gets to hear of cases of “that friend of ours…..” or “that guy one batch junior to us…”.

This could also be about how people are dying young,nowadays. But it also means you are not growing younger. And that you cannot fight mortality.

Makes you wonder that if life is all about such  uncertainties, do I get a chance to look ahead and start leading a better life or get a moment to even ponder and look back whether it has been one well-spent.?

 (Almost) jokingly, I ask students to try writing their own obituary. Pick the good deeds within, if any. How many do that, I wonder. I do it, at times.

But nothing to beat quirky artist Sudarshan Shetty, who at an art summit in Delhi last year  put up his own epitaph as an installation art. Leaving many a people gasping. Not knowing whether he was actually alive or….

I guess that’s life. Either you live it like the Big B said in Mr Natwarlal. Yeh Jeena bhi koi Jeena hai. Or like artist Shetty. With a tangy take to it all.

As long as the end, when ever it comes, is not preceded by a long stint being serviced by a hospital respirator.

Gosh, if this blog sounded depressing………..then you ain’t seen anything. I mean, you ain’t seen Himessssh bhai’s Karzzzzzzzzz yet:)

SO LONG AND FAREWELL, DEAR NIGEL

39 is hardly an age to go 

 However much you prepare yourself, steel yourself against the impending numbness, nothing  readies you for the moment when you lose your precious one.

 39, is hardly an age to go.

ALL IS WELL  is a poem which Nigel Wills loved. Nigel departed on a Friday, a little over two weeks ago, in Australia. Leaving behind a vacuum, and some wonderful memories.

ALL IS WELL:

DEATH IS NOTHING AT ALL,

I HAVE ONLY SLIPPED INTO THE NEXT ROOM

I AM I AND YOU ARE YOU

WHATEVER WE WERE TO EACH OTHER, THAT WE ARE STILL.

CALL ME BY MY OLD FAMILIAR NAME,

SPEAK TO ME IN THE EASY  WAY WHICH YOU ALWAYS USED

PUT NO DIFFERENCE IN YOUR TONE,

WEAR NO FORCED AIR OF SOLEMNITY OR SORROW

LAUGH AS WELL ALWAYS LAUGHED AT THE LITTLE JOKES WE ENJOYED TOGETHER.

PLAY, SMILE, THINK OF ME, PRAY FOR ME.

LET MY NAME BE EVER THE HOUSEHOLD WORLD THAT IT ALWAYS WAS.

LET IT BE SPOKEN WITHOUT EFFECT, WITHOUT THE TRACE OF SHADOW IN IT.

LIFE MEANS ALL THAT IT EVER MEANT.

IT IS THE SAME AS IT EVER WAS. THERE IS UNBROKEN CONTINUITY.

WHY SHOULD I BE OUT OF MIND BECAUSE I AM OUT OF SIGHT?

I AM WAITING FOR YOU, JUST AROUND THE CORNER.

ALL IS WELL.

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