“Life”, a new take!

This is my narrow interpretation of life!

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I saw this Marathi song today on you tube. The title of the song is  दमलेल्या बाबाची कहाणी “Damaleya Babachi Kahani”, a story of a tired father! So many thoughts came to my mind while listening to this song. The song was presented by the famous duo, Poet Sandip Khare and Singer Dr. Salil Kulkarni, presenter was Sunil Barve. At the end of the song, there were tears in my eyes and I had very heavy feelings in my heart. I thought that I am a person who can hide his emotions, men folk generally attempt that! That reminded me of the time, when I had gone to see off my daughter, after her marriage, I had the same feelings. Probably all fathers have the same feelings for their daughters, at least I hope so. By the way, this not something against the Sons! But the feelings for sons and daughters have the similar difference like the behavior of “Men who are from Mars, and Women who are from Venus”! They must be giving some different potion to drink on Venus, to make daughters think and act the way they do! 

When your daughter is born, you know that at some stage she is going to get married and go to her husband’s home. Though this is known, the fathers keep on hoping or maybe pretending that this is never going to happen. Slowly the marriage age is reached and “Daddy’s Love” is ready to get married. In the mind, father wants to delay this if it is possible. But at the threshold point, which is the day of marriage, the day of reckoning arises. The father’s mind is in great turmoil, though he is busy in marriage activities. But at the back of his mind, there is a big turmoil going on.  

 The father in the song, is in a somber mood and he remembers that when his daughter needed him to be available to play with her, he has been away in the office. The father says, that he wants the daughter to become young again and fight with him, playfully. He remembers the day when the child was blessed with her first tooth, he remembers how she crawled all over their home and took control of everything, including their minds. He then asks her a question, “Will you please remember me, when you get married and go? Will you shed a few tears while going away? ” The song simply overwhelms your mind! It is also beautifully rendered in a modern way!  

Such situations do arise in many facets of our lives. The situation can be with mixed feelings, when we move to another city after a long stay, or we complete our studies and move out of hostels after 5/6 years of stay with friends. It can be when you retire after a long innings. In all these scenarios, some very close relationships relationships are formed. Sometimes, them become extended families. I feel that a daughter is father’s “Life”; similarly your work, you career, is also your “Life” if you have worked at only one place in your life time. Cutting off from both “Lives” is equally painful!  

In my life, I have seen only seen one person retire, that too twice! I watched it from close as I am talking about Jaya, my wife. Years back she retired from a Government research institute. She had taken voluntary retirement, and after a small break, she had plans ready for her future. For her it was kind of transit retirement. I could see that she was both happy and sad with the retirement. Sad that so many years of association with many people was going to break, a few had become life time friends. As she had future plans, she was able manage the transition quite well. Second time when she retired, she “really retired” from work in the industry. But our granddaughter’s arrival and my health issue did not give her time to get the feel of the new phase. We kept her so busy for first 8/9 months, that she did not have time to enjoy the change or feel the vacuum, retrospect or get the feel of real retirement. When she retired, our life pattern had changed so much, that she had to really juggle & struggle her time to manage life.  

I felt that there are quite a few similarities in one’s daughter getting married and the retirement from work life. In both cases, you have spent quality time with your daughter and as well as at your work. Some people get involved a lot in their work, sometimes forgetting everything else in life. Such people, I am sure will find it tough to adjust to retired life. Maybe those are the people on whom the song is based!  

Friends, it is quite tricky to decide which is more difficult from the two inevitable things that are going to happen! Giving away your first “Life”, your daughter or the second “Life” when you retire from your career! I have already, done the tough one so probably when time comes for me to retire, I hope to handle it more deftly! How you about you folks? 

The Modern Final Journey!

We stick to old ways in Modern Times under the garb of tradition!

Vaikunth-min

I was required to go to Vaikunth, a crematorium in Pune, for the final rites of a family member. He was 91 years old but was always positive and smiling. All were in somber mood for obvious reasons but also had a comfortable feeling that he had led a reasonably satisfactory life and had seen all good things that can happen in our lives. We were waiting for our turn to start the process, we were third in the queue! Then I saw the board displayed above.

The board indicated how the final rites of your loved and dear ones can be seen by live streaming where ever you are in the world. Wow! Hinduism is modernizing or is India modernizing? Want to see a movie, go to Netflix, want to order pizza go to a site, order it! Want to see the final rites, get them by live streaming. What is happening? Is this good for the human race? You are too busy to travel for last rites? Or you want to brag, “I have seen so and so persons last rites on live streaming”. Emotions? Heard this word before but I am not sure what it means. When a person dies, two things are important, how close you are to that person or how you are related to that person. If you are out of these circles, on both the counts, then your presence during final rites does not become important.

What is the purpose of the seeing the last rites on live streaming? What do we achieve by doing this? The hospitals now provide facility for keeping the dead body in mortuary. This allows dear ones to travel from around the world for the final rites, within reasonable time. What is so important in one’s life more than attending the final rites of your near and dear one? After this you never see the body again; but if you are comfortable with that then probably next best thing is live streaming. Or is it? Maybe you will say, “Hey bro or sis! Could you adjust angle slightly? I can’t see the face! Ya, that’s better, now!”

In Hindu culture and for that matter in most cultures, taking photos or videos of the departed ones is not the norm! This generally happens only in case of very well-known public figures. Their lives as well as deaths are public! What could be the reason for this? First and foremost is that in olden days there were not many cameras; it is a tradition that is continued, though now cameras are everywhere. Personally, I prefer this tradition of not photo graphing the dead person. I remember at a funeral, years back. In the funeral place, somebody was taking photographs. Those were for that person’s son in law (grandson of the lady who died) and his family who could not travel, taking an eight-hour flight! I stopped him from taking the photos as others in the group did not want confrontation!

Though I am not an atheist, I have reservations about chanting of mantras, following of rituals at funerals. The more I see them, the more I am convinced about the futility of these things. These rituals are supposed to be saviors in the life after death. Is there life after death? My understanding is that when the human race did not know anything about nature and science, the knowledgeable people of those times, came out with rituals by creating fear in the minds of the people. This turned out to be a good business and it made sense to continue with the same. I keep on talking to various experts about this, but nobody has been able to convince me the utility of the rituals and mantras, except probably mental peace. Do I follow what I think (preach will not be the right word)? Yes, when my mother died, we went to the crematorium and without any ritual we took her to the furnace! I have attended many funerals, body is pushed inside, door shut and the furnace blower starts. That sound of the furnace blower motor, makes my heart heavy and moistens my eyes. To me the real final journey just starts, to merge the body with the nature. I have always thought, that when we are born, there is no chanting of mantras, there are no rituals. Then why should we have them at death? Birth and death are only two absolute truths in the world. Someone is either born or has died, there are no two thoughts about it. All other issues have more than one side to them. We should accept the death as we accept birth; of course, our emotions are bound to be different when someone dies.

When we change so much in modern times, why do we not change in our way of thinking about death? Another thing is that the modern world has created physical distances, though you may be close electronically. Or it creates mental distance too? It has also created a busy culture, fast paced life. But is it really so busy that we cannot attend funerals of near and dear ones? I will share a story with you. Someone had an accident, died after about ten days of treatment. So, it was not a sudden death in that sense! His both children were in the US. His daughter flew out.  But the son had some issue regarding Visa status. End result, the son did not come home for the final rites, in fact he never came at all during that year ! Of course, Visa status is more important! Friends, to me this is just not on! Modern life? Do you need a tradition to attend your father’s funeral? Is this a conflict of modernity and tradition? No way. But why such decisions are taken only that family can tell. I am sure that the son will keep on having nightmares till end of his life for this decision!

Am I modern? No, I am contemporary, but would I keep the same thoughts in death too? Yes, direct to the furnace, no mantras and rituals! That’s my take! A Living Will?

So long dear friends, Al Vida!

Al Vida is a Hindi word meaning Goodbye! This year has been a bit rapid in the wrong sense! I lost three dear friends of mine to the almighty till today, 11th April 2017. I am not writing an obituary but I am writing random thoughts that come to mind when such deaths take place. I am now 67 and it’s not a big deal really to face that your friends or family are dying. I know the realities of life and know very well that one has to go at some stage. My first such experience was when I was in final year of school and I had lost a friend to destiny. I have written a blog on this event

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/he-is-gone/. That time it was a big shock!

In my grandparent’s time, he died at the age on 89, reaching that age was a miracle! Medical science and other allied sciences were not yet really developed and reaching the age of 50 was a great feat. Probably this threshold has already gone up to 55, then slowly to 60. My father and father in law both died at the age of 63. Celebrating 60th birthday was a great event then. People were considered to be at their prime around age of 40/45. Things have really changed now; almost 10 % of my batch mates from engineering college continue to work and are in reasonable health. Another maybe 50% are in good health though they have retired. People go for walks, treks, climb hills daily or hit the gym.

Now people are considered to be in prime around the age of 55/60 and I have known a few who have started new ventures after crossing 60. Definitions of old age are changing rapidly in India, the age bar for doing new things, new achievements has gone up! Besides improvement in medical sciences what has helped to raise the bar? New technology has brought people together. The isolation that older people had to suffer is now almost becoming history because we are in touch many people and many of the contemporaries are still around. This has definitely added to improved longevity.

I only feel sad that two of my friends who died, passed away almost instantaneously. Third friend was unwell for a few months. I don’t know the details about their health status for the period before they died. My other friend Suresh who was an Air Force pilot, flying MIG 27, had once told me. “Pramod, planes are as good as the way they are maintained. Except for one system, all hydraulics can be checked on the ground; only one system gets checked during flying. Similarly there is no sudden heart failure; there are signals which are ignored or sometimes due to diabetes the person does not feel the pain.” Had these two friends been a little more proactive in getting themselves checked who knows….

In this world time is the same for everybody. One minute for me is the same one minute to everybody. How we use this one minute is what matters. If we are day dreaming, thinking of future for ten minutes, we lose ten minutes from the current time which we could have spent better. Similarly if we had used those ten minutes to remember what we had done in the past, the net result would have been the same. It is the current time that is THE time!

Out of the three friends that I lost one of them was current time person. He would enjoy life to the fullest, whatever he was doing. He passed early morning. He had just come back from a party a couple of hours before he died. He had the real zest to enjoy the life. His son had shared the following on Facebook, sometime back. It is a perfect fit to my dear friend’s style!

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he neither lives in present nor the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies never really lived.”

My friend really lived life and it is not easy to be so zestful all through your life. Thank you dear for showing us the path how to live and in the how to go!  Goodbye, Al Vida, My angels!