There is a powerful word in Sanskrit: Kshunbhangur (K is silent). It means something that can be destroyed in an instant of a second. Life is perhaps the biggest example of this word. Here now and gone split seconds later. That a flight later the vistas change has never ceased to amaze me. That a second later a life suddenly comes to a grinding halt just makes me wonder at this enigma called death. Yesterday death visited Monk’s family and his octogenarian Uncle passed away to what I like to believe is the Other World. He was comatose for a week and was cutting a caper on the barrier of life. He just crossed over. And left behind many manifestations of grief. A younger brother who is now the last of the preceding generation, two nephews who realised they lost an Uncle who they loved and who loved them and most importantly a wife of five years and half a century. Today the dead is being bathed and prepared for the funeral. The neighbours and friends are pitching in with food and other requirements. Those who can’t travel from long distances will call. The numbers will dwindle and life will go on. The jolted nephews will have Monday morning meetings and phone calls and projects and the fresh wound will get a scab quickly. The grieving brother will grieve for weeks since the departed was the only living anchor to a family now only comprising of spouse, offspring and soon to come grandchildren but life will catch up there too. In this dice of life the one who is left bereft, disoriented and facing an unspeakable void is the wife, the one who has never stayed a single night alone since she was married. There are no children.
Last night a visibly shaken Monk asked me what must she be going through? What must she be feeling? I think it is incomprehensible for me to even step into her shoes. But very gingerly as I do I go insane wondering. The body of the departed was kept in the living room. The wife slept in the bed that she shared with a very living spouse a week ago. She has been looking after him for many years now, having broken his hip bone a few years ago while exercising his pass-time to feed stray cats. This rendered him bed ridden. With renal issues and slightly compromised lungs prone to bronchial problems, the old house nestled within it an old couple going through their daily lives. There comes an age where your house and your room becomes your sanctity. The old generation television aired the daily soaps that were an integral part of their lives. The early sun down in the hills suffused quiet and silence. There were no phone calls from a son or a daughter to disturb that silence. There were no frenetic planning to spruce up the house for a visiting child or grandchild. There were no weddings to be planned. No daughter in law to love or hate. No son in law to adore or avoid. Birthdays and Anniversaries came and went. Sometimes when the nephews and later the wives visited home there were occasional dinners. There were a few social events, a few family weddings, a few religious get together. But there was a marriage. There were two people who cohabited for years. The usual norm of a marriage is that starts with passion and sublimes into daily business of living involving an amalgamation of love, adjustments, resentments, annoyance, joint inspiration and individual dreams and deep musings and personal space. The institution helps you grow, experience life and learn to accept each other despite idiosyncrasies and not everything everyday is peaches and cream.
There must be unspeakable pain, anger at being left to face life, guilt for perhaps sometimes being angry at the now departed spouse, fear of facing life alone, trepidation at ploughing through the business of living by yourself. Yes there is help at hand with a surviving brother living in the same compound and a helpful community. But I am sure at the dead of the night, when there will be no one from amongst family or friends to sleep next to her, when the raw pain will sublime into a dull loneliness, she will miss her happier younger days, days when the spouse came home for a well cooked hot lunch from his work and appreciated earnestly her efforts. She will miss planning her day where her husband was the centre of her universe. There were short trips and long postings at various places. She will miss a young man who aged and went before her and all his quirky ways. I am not sure if having a child would have impeded too much of loneliness from creeping in but she like any other woman who kept the home and hearth running she will cry as much as she will suddenly smile recalling the happier times.
I today pray as much for the bereaved as for the gone.