– Srikanth Mantravadi
Does the knowledge that a man is going to die make the event any less painful?
He had a stroke in 2006, when I was in my 9th standard. It was on an unusually sunny May morning, the rays piercing with a strange vengeance like in Garcia’s Macondo that I woke to find myself locked inside an empty house. The dissonance of the morning aside, it was the emptiness in the building that was unnerving. And just then I got a call from my mother. They had saved him, my grandfather, but he was in an ICU. He was, needless to say, a strong man with some presence for his short stature; the baldness giving him a muscularity and ferocity. He had sunk into a stroke at 3 AM and had gone stone cold on the way to the hospital; his heart beating at a surreal 500/300 (A day later we found that he had been neglecting his heart condition; his fortnightly blood pressure readings touching a double hundred. He was a Registered Medical Practitioner; a doctor). They resuscitated him and the agony of an ICU, the devastating kind, lasted for a week. What we brought back from the hospital was his ghost; this might sound uncharitable, ungrateful even, but medical science has only advanced so far that we can keep a man alive, if need be. People survive these days. They don’t live. He was shrivelled up, had aged a lifetime, had lost his mobility, had lost his speech, had lost vision in one eye. I wouldn’t say he was a survivor but it takes courage to still have the zest and ambition to live like that. I probably wouldn’t.
Considering all this, we should have seen it coming. But 6 years had passed. We become complacent. We assume the existence of some people. Not that they even make much of a tangible difference to our everyday lives. It is akin to losing a planet in a solar system. A loss that is acutely felt post fact. This is the first death in the close family. People face death when they are children. I face it as I am 20. The feeling of not knowing is perhaps better. But now that I know, I am helpless. I don’t know how to react. Unlike what we tend to think, there is no natural emotion that guides us apart from stupor taking over. I try to cry but can’t. The feeling, a sordid, chilling one infests my being but fails to rise from the gut and burst forth from the eyes. Not a tear. Like water in a deep recess, it churns. It’s a crushing feeling, not being able to cry. The sheer impotence of it makes you feel guiltier. Is crying the highest form of expression when it comes to grief? Maybe, I need my mother’s lap.
A loss makes you feel vulnerable because it gives a sense of people shrinking away forever. I am thinking…20-25 years hence my father and mother will be in the same position. Is that all I have left? We don’t have a pause button. Living like this is not going to help. Neither does a life lived with disregard to the people around. My father saved his father once. He tells me that there was a sense of déjà vu, this time, as they rushed my grandfather to the same hospital again. He had already sunk on the way. Like last time. How many times can a man fight? He was resuscitated last time. We were given his death certificate this time.
Words have a strange way of coming true, they say. Hence I have a death wish – I want to die as my parents die so that we spare each other the agony and grief of not living without each other. It is tough to even think of cremating a dear one. It is an imponderable. All this while, I counted myself lucky for having all four grandparents alive. Now it seems like a burden. Can’t all loved ones perish at once along with me? It is hard not to be cynical at times like this but even then that is a strangely freeing thought.