It might seem like a morbid subject but like life there is death around us.
Oftentimes, you are at a safe distance from it and not compelled to say anything; or whatever you say is not registered; or does not matter. Sometimes death strikes people very close to you. Every time that happens, I feel, it leaves you looking for words and somehow you can’t pick the right ones.
Death does affect people strongly but it is something that is to be felt more than said about. Yet we’ve made such a ritual out of it that people feel they must say something. And, no matter what they say, it does not adequately convey their emotional state.
In cultures where people are tuned to venting their grief by crying, even crying is not considered enough. They must follow it up with clichés. In some cases, very rare, people just decide to be with their grieving friends and relatives, and both sides are comfortable by being together and not saying anything. Then there are those who want to know the exact cause of death, the time and the circumstances which become a well-rehearsed mental exercise after a while and both sides derive a sort of comfort by asking and replying to standard questions. Others pick on memories, happy ones, and that puts everyone at ease.
In modern times, where people can’t be physically present on the death of those dear to their dear ones, they avail of whatever means to “convey their grief”.
Social media makes it easier. Or, does it? If anything, it makes the entire ‘grief business’ quite obvious and, dare I say, futile.
Sometimes, the aggrieved person decides to share his or her loss first because, again, that is the easiest way to announce a death, especially of those from the older generation.
That seems like a demand of modern times. What follows are notes of grief. Allah’s (or God’s) blessings and courage are sought for the family to bear “the irreparable loss,” accompanied by a wish for the soul to “rest in peace,” preferably in “heaven”. The “heartfelt condolences” lose any sense of feeling or condolence the moment they are uttered.
Some people, only some, know how to do it well — by keeping it simple. The shorter the better. But again, it never totally conveys what you mean.
Nothing could be worse than going to the ritualistic ‘fautgi’ in cities where you end up spending a half hour or so (if you don’t wait for the food to be served, that is). You are there to fulfil a certain obligation and are, therefore, jittery all the time. There is a visible sense of relief the moment you are out of the house that just saw death. Moments later, you are actually happy to be back to the familiar world with no death and only life.
Death involves loss, more pronounced in some cases than others. If there is pain, it needs to be shared — in gestures and not just words, by sparing time. Words, especially in prose, often fall flat. Poetry sometimes works better in the case of death. It captures your senses and feelings at that moment the way prose can’t. As for time, we seem to have very little of it.
So, for the moment, we should let this debate “RIP.”