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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

Sad times…

My father in law passed away yesterday morning. It wasn’t unexpected. He was unwell and suffering for over 3 long years, so I am glad he’s finally managed to move on. Of course I wish he didn’t have to have the disease (cancer) or suffer in the first place; but given the fact that he was going through pain I can’t even begin to imagine and the humiliation of hospital visits and your body no longer being yours, I am happy he has moved on. 

Death is a shitty thing though for the people you leave behind. 

His wife has been sad and crying since then. Obviously. She’s going to miss him and whatever us children do it’s not going to replace him or her relationship to him. But more than all that, what saddens me is the constant throng of people and relatives. I guess it’s just me and my introvert nature – I can’t imagine what I’d do if I were in pain such as this and had people around me. I would be able to be myself around them, and I’d just hate having so many people around. 

Well actually, I can’t even imagine what sort of pain I’d be in. I don’t get close to people, and even the ones I do get close to haven’t really resulted in any deep inseparable bond sort of thing. (Again, just me I guess. I aim of this “ideal” in relationships and how I am. I dream of an abstract but intense relationship. Reality doesn’t work that way so I don’t know how I would even react to the loss of any loved on). 

Sitting here in Kerala, one it’s so boring; and two, I can’t help think that all this “process” is just holding everyone back. Today is day 2 but we are all still stuck in day 1. (By “we” I mean his wife and daughter etc – people with feelings). We are waiting for the son to arrive before the last rites can commence. He is due to arrive today night, so all that stuff will begin tomm morning. And that’s a ritual in itself. First his body will be brought from the cold freezer in the hospital. Then there’s a whole bunch of rituals to be done by son & daughter & other interested parties, after which the body will be cremated. During all this time there’ll be people and relatives – oh so many people! After cremation there’s more rites I think, but I am not sure. Then some 5 days later (or maybe it’s 3 coz I am not sure if they start counting from the day of death which was yesterday) there’s some more rites. Then we have to put his ashes and remains in a river somewhere. Then a few more days later (the whole thing ends in abt 11-12 days) there’s some more rites and rituals. And with that everyone is able to move on… I think. 

The thing that strikes me is how we are all just holding on to him. I don’t know why, it feels so unreal to me. Like why do we ‘need’ to do all this to remember someone? A loved on dies, it’s a private thing. Let that person go – the body at least – and then mourn in private or with friends and relatives, and try to just move on. I am not saying forget the person, but just move on. Try to get on with life. Incorporate that person into your life, make him or her a part of you/ your memories/ your base, and then just get on with it. Spending 12 days in rituals (I am speaking of Kerala Hindus by the way, specifically the community of my in-laws, things could vary for others) holding on to the one who is no more, crying, remembering, mourning… it just feels so impractical or negative. 

Right now for instance, we had to remove all the furniture from the main room because tomm morning that’s where the body will be kept. His wife burst into tears seeing that. I empathize with her. It is a sad sight – seeing things removed off your house (“their” house, their furniture, their dreams and reality) to place to dead body of your loved one in its place. It’s heart wrenching. And it leaves your last memory of everything in a bad place. Your last memory of your loved one is all this – not just pleasant ones if your time with him. 

And now I have a relative trying to socialize with me so I have to abruptly stop this flow of thoughts. Bah! 

Never mind he’s left. :)

My wife’s sad that she will have to do last rites tomm as she doesn’t want the last image of her father to be him in this dead state all skinny and lifeless. I get that. When I am dead I wouldn’t want anyone’s memories of me being my lifeless body or this sad state. Yes I would want them to miss me. Every day. Think of me, miss me, terribly miss me in fact – but I would still want them to be able to live life as usual and I would want their memories of me to be the good and bad times we had together, not a corrupted image of me lifeless with nothing more of “me” in it. And I would definitely want them to move past my physical body. That’s not me any more. That’s just what I was. Now I live on inside you, as part of you. Keep me alive that way instead of feeling sad that I am not physically around any more. If I love you I wouldn’t want you to be sad, and definitely not on my accord. 

Anyways. Death is a shitty business. And I have to go through the motions for the next 11-12 days. Definitely not looking forward to it. 

I didn’t know my father in law much though. He was a good person though and I’d like to think we respected each other. We didn’t speak much. I am an introvert and prefer reading a book or watching a movie instead of interacting with people. He was an introvert too, lost in his books and farming and teaching etc (to be honest I don’t know what else as I wasn’t too close to him). But he was a good person. A person filled with morals and all that good sort of stuff. He cared for his kids and family, wanted the best for them, secure their future, try and do what he could. Most of all I think he was a very simple person. You know he is wasn’t cunning or wily and that whatever he said or did was simple and from his heart. That’s probably *the* quality of his that I admire and remember most. It’s rare to come across people whose actions and words reflect their inner thoughts. Most people (myself included) aren’t simple. He was. 

Someone needs to arrange lamps now for tomm’s ceremonies. I guess that’s one good thing of having people around. You can ask someone to help out as everyone’s there to help out. I would rather not having people or rituals, but considering you are stuck with both it’s good to know that both work out for each other. Your role (as family) is mainly to participate in everything – rituals and socializing. 

Had to go socializing again now. Someone I have no idea of has come to visit. So go through the usual motions of hi hello and receive condolences etc. And then they sit and stare into the emptiness for a while and you to do the same (except in this case I am bored now and typing this post!). That’s a very funny thing about this business. Everyone just sitting around staring into the emptiness. I know why we do it – it’s to express sadness. Wouldn’t make sense to have a loud conversation or chit chat, so best is to just stare into the ether with a sad look. 

I think it’s time to stop blogging. More visitors coming in. More socializing to do. More staring.  Sigh. 

Sad times… by rakhesh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.