A friend once told me that nothing in the world can be more life changing than birth or death of someone close. I believe that its the reminder of our own mortality that makes us think about life and how we are using or squandering the precious few moments we have left.
During my 25 years I have had a few moments of my life that were connected with the fragility of life and death. Each one of those moments taught and inspired me to rethink and reevaluate my life.
The earliest memory for me of anyone being born was that of my cousin sister. This was close to 16 years ago… She is the youngest of my cousins from my mom’s side and I still remember vague images of the hospital as we waited for the baby. Among the cousins on my mom’s side(will talk about my relatives in another post) my sister was the eldest and me the second eldest. My other younger cousins were with us and I remember all of us getting excited about the baby and even christening her with her first nickname. We still refer to her with that name :)
The next memory is that of my cousin giving birth. This was a cousin from my Dad’s side, from that side of the family I am one of youngest… We happened to be at the hospital at the right moment and I watched as they carried the baby out of the delivery room. I was still young and did not truly appreciate the magic of child birth… I remember simply standing over the baby and looking at him… This was about 10 years ago…
My best memory in this regard was one in which I didnt see the baby in person for almost 3 months after he was born. When one of my closest friends in engineering told me that she was expecting I was estatic. This was till then the closest person I knew who was going to have a baby. The only bummer was that she was in another continent… I remember calling her up to congratulate her and few times later to talk about the baby with her. It was one of the most exciting things I had ever been around. I finally saw the baby when she came down to her hometown(also my hometown) for the naming ceremony.
I remember sitting across the table and asking her questions about pregnancy and child birth. I was never more excited about the stages and events. I even asked her if it was spiritual in any way.
To be entirely honest, the biggest regret of being born a man for me is that I wont be able to give birth to a baby. Lot of ppl(mostly my female friends) think that I should be happy for that coz I am spared the pain and suffering of child birth. But honestly I cant fathom doing anything in my life that can be as beautiful and important as giving birth to someone… I sometimes look back at life and wonder if I have or will ever justify receiving the gift of life… something tells me that once you give birth to someone, you will have an answer to the question…
In the movie “Before Sunrise“, Ethan Hawke‘s character Jesse says : ” This friend of mine had a kid, and it was a home birth, so he was there helping out and everything. And he said at that profound moment of birth, he was watching this child, experiencing life for the first time, I mean, trying to take its first breath… all he could think about was that he was looking at something that was gonna die someday. He just couldn’t get it out of his head. And I think that’s so true, I mean, all – everything is so finite. But don’t you think that that’s what, makes our time, at specific moments, so important?”
I have always believed that life and death are just phases of a grand scheme of things. I have always believed in rebirth and the Hindu philosophy of the cycles of life and death… So in many ways I dont feel as sad as most people do when I hear about death. Dont get me wrong the sadness is there, the pain of a good human being not there anymore is there too but deep down I just know that this is how things are meant to be.
There have been three deaths that have had very profound impact on me. The first two were my grandfathers… both had lived a full and fruitful life. In many ways I dont remember being in extreme depression on those days. I was much younger of course to understand what was all happening around me.
The death of my first grandfather(Dad’s side) happened when I was much younger. My memories are limited to visiting my village and laying my grandfather to rest. I have a distinct memory of waiting for the crows to come and eat the food placed in an open field(a hindu custom). My dad rarely mentions him, but my mom always spoke highly of my grandfather, that always left a hole in me wishing I could have known him better.
The death of my second grandfather(Mom’s side) happened only a few years ago. I was never very close to my grandfather and interacted with him very rarely. His image in my mind was of a strict man whom we saw from time to time. As I grew older the interactions were even more sparingly, he hardly visited us and though my dad met him very often I hardly ever saw him. When ever the opportunity came I was too busy playing with my cousins.
My grandfather was an amazing man. I heard stories about him from my mom and grandmom, stories about how hard he worked to come from extreme poverty to richness. About how he did little things keep my mom and her siblings happy. About how they went to watch movies together and how he interacted with my dad and other people.
It was all that which changed the way I looked at death… I remember seeing him after his death and I realized that we are all losers in front of death. Here was a man who had achieved almost everything he set out to do and yet only a few were remembered about him and sadly not all were very flattering.
I stood by and watched him being buried and wondered if this was the right kindof goodbye he deserved. I wasnt old enough to have say in the things that were happening around me but the whole experience left me saddened.
The next experience with death was the most profound of all my experiences. I have already written about it in detail in this blog entry I made about 4 years ago -> In My Hands…
A lot of my philosophies about life are based on the above incidents. If I look back now and think about each of those incidents and my thoughts at that time, there was no way for me to know then that I was going to be changed by them…