Death, be not proud
Source : Google photo
Synopsis : Death is inevitable ,only the manner and time is perhaps different for individuals so the blog discusses the importance of living and not dying because ultimately how you have lived is more important than the dying.
I know it is not a popular topic but it is a topic that is always at the back of our mind whether we like it or not. Death is like a final scene in the long played out drama of life but in one instant, it ends the drama and with such finality that it shocks most people. It makes people sit up and take notice of the life of someone who was here yesterday but today he is gone forever.
We all know someone who was dear to us who has left us sometime at the prime of his or her life or at other times at a rich old age leaving behind perhaps a great legacy or the story of incredible valor and courage that people still talk about and even erect a statue in his honor.
Some people leave behind such an impact that sears into the general consciousness of people in a way that cannot be easily forgotten. Who can forget Che Guevarra or Nelson Mandela? Who can forget Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King?
Some say that we all possess the seed of nobility, the seed of greatness in us but very few see that seed grow into a tree that the humanity takes notice of. Most of us will die someday, mourned by a few and soon forgotten , never to reach greatness that stayed latent and sleeping ,never to wake up to show the full potential of a person. Their stories are never told and they leave no legacy behind. This is the story of the vast majority of the humanity.
But I can imagine what incredible stories they took with them to their graves or funeral pyre with them that no one heard anymore. Normally this was the duty of the bards who kept the stories alive through their story telling magic in societies where the oral tradition was practiced.
The ancients found a way to record their stories in cave paintings or in hieroglyphs in dark underground tomb walls that were hermetically sealed to preserve them. Others chose stone monuments like in Angkor Wat where a kilometer long gallery preserved the stories in bas relief for ever.
But what about the common people? Perhaps they too had something to tell about their achievements, their successes and their contribution to the society where they lived. Who has recorded how many thousands of sick people whom the shaman or the herbal doctor cured in his lifetime and had only his poverty to show for in return? Who remembers the simple old man who stood up to assert his human rights and received a bullet as a reward? Who will remember Tien An Men where thousands died because they only wanted freedom?
We all tend to forget the contribution of common people who fought for the rights of all of us but died unknown, un rewarded and un sung just because they never made the headlines and never wrote books about them. Did anyone remember the common soldiers who died in large numbers in the battle of Kohima so that one day we all could be free? Did anyone care what happened to the abandoned soldiers of the Indian National Army of Bose after the army was disbanded?
That is the fate of ordinary people whom we all forget and remember only those who made headlines. The death wipes their slate clean as if they never existed.
I come from a culture where death is considered just a passing phase in the cycle of life and death, where people believe that we die and pass on to the next life , where the human body is considered nothing more than like old worn out clothes that one must discard and get new ones in their next life.
I have seen how soon after the passing of a person from this world, people calmly sip their tea and discuss the weather as if it really does not matter. The photo of the departed stays on the wall for a while but is eventually discarded because the second or the third generation cannot relate to that person whom they never knew and never met.
In other cultures they visit the gravesites of the departed ones not often to remember them but as a part of a ritual on All Souls Day where drinking and eating becomes the priority.
There is a story in the Hindu mythology that is interesting so I will mention it here.
There was a woman called Savitri who married Satyavan and were very happy together but one day Satyavan died leaving the grieving Savitri who so loved her husband. Soon the King of Death called Yama showed up and took the soul of Satyavan on his shoulder and started walking but Savitri started to follow him so Yama asked why she was following him. She said that she had nothing more to live for and will go where her husband goes.
Yama said that she could not go where the souls go after the death but she continued on and would not quit so the God of death said he will grant her three boons if she will quit and go back so she agreed.
She asked the happiness as the first boon so it was granted. She then asked prosperity as the second boon which was also granted. She then asked for many children as the last boon which the God of Death also granted because he was getting tired of Savitri following him but she started following him again.
The God then asked why she was still following him to which she answered that her last boon could not be fulfilled without her husband. He knew that Savitri had outsmarted him so gave back the life of her husband.
But this is just a mythical story. In reality no one I know has ever outsmarted death although there are stories about Lamas in the Himalayas who live for hundreds of years in Shangrilas but they too eventually become dust.
Rider Haggard wrote about the eternal fire that burns deep in a cave in Africa that could give a person eternal life but that too is just a story to amuse you. Mankind has been obsessed with death since time unknown and I have written a blog about it called The obsession with death that is perhaps worth a look.
Today my blog is about common people who leave no trace of their life behind. Millions toil under the harsh sun to grow the food we eat. Millions more toil in the inhumane sweat factories getting pitiful wages to make beautiful clothes for us so that we are not naked. Millions work very hard to build beautiful homes for us but they themselves live in cardboard and plastic shanties dying very poor and of sickness because they cannot pay for the medicines.
These are the common people who sacrifice their lives so that we can live and enjoy life. It is the same story of common soldiers who die in foreign wars that their governments wage under false pretense and get a cheap coffin as a reward.
Those who survive suffer from their injuries and neglect of their government like those poor soldiers in Walter Reed hospital. Their stories of personal sacrifice is never written so no one will ever know what they did.
Have you ever stopped to think of all the sacrifices your mother and father made to raise you, give you education and care when you were sick? Have you ever wondered how they managed to raise so many children with their meager means? Have you ever thanked you Ma who fanned you all night and kept a wet clothe on your forehead to bring down your fever?
We take their sacrifices for granted and one day their photos disappear from the house in the same way their memories become faded.
Once I said to a great lady who was dying of cancer and had a short time to live that what matters most is how a person has lived and not how long. Terry Fox died when he was only 23 but he left behind a legacy that his country of Canada has not forgotten.
We all carry a bit of Terry Fox in us in our own way and die someday as unsung heroes so I say- Death, be not proud. You can snuff out a life but you cannot snuff out the sacrifices people make so that others can live.
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