My understanding and acceptance of death started at a very early age.
In my childhood, I had read a story, about a young boy, Nachiketa. In a fit of anger, his father gives him away to the god of death, Yama. Nachiketa waited for three days at the door of Yama before he could finally meet him. Yama grants him three boons. Nachiketa asked for peace and knowledge about fire sacrifices as his first and second boon. As a third boon, Nachiketa wants the God of death to unfold the mystery of death. Yama refuses and asks the child to ask for wealth and other material gains. Nachiketa doesn’t budge and refuses to leave without knowing what happens after life ceases. This story is from Upanishads.
I was too young to understand the significance of the story in depth and understand the meaning of death. But what got registered in mind was this –
a). Death isn’t a bad thing. There is no need to be sad about it. Nachiketa accepted death and not even once showed a sign of despair and sadness.
b). It ranks higher than wealth and all pleasures. After all, he refused to get diverted with all other attractive things.
I traveled by bus or an autorickshaw for going to college and work in Delhi. Sometimes to avoid the massive traffic jam in the morning, the driver used to take a detour, and we use to pass through a cremation ground in Delhi Cantonment. As I looked out through the window, on some occasions, I would see a funeral pyre burning.
Well, I couldn’t help thinking about death. It was a strange feeling for those few moments as the bus/ auto stopped at the red light in front of it.
But the thing that has moved or touched very profoundly is this: A few minutes after the body has been consigned to the flames, people (relatives, neighbors, co-workers) will rush outside as they have to continue with their daily routines ( going to the office, sending children to school), etc.
I can not put it in words, the feeling I had when I saw pyre burning inside and there was not a single person inside the cremation ground. And outside the relatives or acquaintances of the person (who is being cremated inside) are hurriedly walking towards their cars and scooters.
So this is it.
The world in all its glory and charm ends here at this point. I am alone at this point. No one is coming along with me. I will just become another body which has to be burnt before it starts rotting. I will die, but the world is going to live. It will be the same daily routine for others.
But before I go, there is a long checklist of things that I want to do!
1. I will only eat desserts! (I have a big sweet tooth)
2. I will get rid of all broken relationships that I am carrying as a burden for various professional and familial reasons.
3. Get rid of all my belongings. I will start giving away stuff that I completely adore, and love ..my silver jewelry, piles and piles of books, my hand embroidered pieces.
4. Send those sorry/thank you/ please forgive me kind of emails/letters/phone calls that make my heart heavy but I don’t dare to face those people at present.
5. No more grudges/complaints. I will be thankful for every breath that I take. Every morning and every night will be a precious gift.
6. Throw away all my identity cards such as passport, income tax proof, etc.
7. Without delay finish my set of short stories that are inspired by the life of the people around me.
8. Pack my essentials and probably go to the Himalayas or spend every moment with my parents and brother.