My grandfather passed away last week.
When I was at one of life's cross-roads, he rescued me with some advice I hold onto as one of my life's truths.
Sacrifice. It's a word that gets thrown around in the social context without any inherent meaning. Just like other things caused by peer pressure, the sacrificial act is a social demonstration of emotion, at the detriment of nearly everyone intimately involved in it. Mothers give up their careers to stay at home. fathers end up working longer and so on.
After my dad's untimely end, there was a choice left to me - envelope pushed under the door of my mourning, if you will. Move back to Trivandrum and try to support my mother & sister while they mourn the inconsolable loss. Social signals told me clearly that it's what's expected from a "good son".
I thought otherwise. I was wracked with guilt at the thought of staying in Bangalore, chasing my own life's goals which had been on hold for the couple of years my father was ill. And I couldn't bring myself to ignore the social pressures and was caving in to them, when I talked to my muthachan.
He got to right to the point.
"Is this something your mother asked you to do?" / "No". "Do you think leaving Yahoo and moving to Trivandrum is good for you?" / "No". "Is moving back home likely to be a disappointing thing for you?" / "Yes".
"Then don't do it. We're here to take care of your mother. She is my child." / "Ok, but ..."
"Your mother will need you in a few years, your sister will need you. Be there. But you will do this one crazy gesture they never asked for, because people pressure you into making it. When times are bad and your life isn't moving forward, you won't think of those pressures. You will blame the ones you really did it all for."
"And one day, you will get angry about something and tell your mother that you did it all for her. That your life's frustrations are due to her. Maybe it won't be your mother and it will be your sister - she will tell you that she didn't ask for it, that you did it all on your own. That your sacrifice wasn't necessary and then you'll feel hollow, because it was all for nothing, how you turned away from your self, silenced your wants and died a little for them. You will be truly angry with them for your thoughtless sacrifice and never let it go."
"If what I said sounds inevitable. Don't do it. Go do your thing now and whenever your mother or your sister need help they will not hesitate to ask. Be there for them without question. When it's the right decision to take, you won't feel yourself tearing apart."
That is how I got to today, half a world away mourning his death, knowing fully well I couldn't go & be by my mother's side.
And this time, I wasn't tearing myself apart.--
Much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said.
Nobody commits suicide.At least, nobody commits suicide any more than they commit a diabetic coma or a cardiac arrest.
It isn't a crime to commit, it is the unfortunate demise brought on by years of accumulated damage - perhaps a less acceptable one than a surfeit of cheeseburgers.
If you're the one playing the devil's advocate for sinners, please rank it with gluttony and sloth.
I don't intend to minimize the act here, but nobody in their right mind goes that way. I want to talk about those that did, but I never know how to put my words together. But I talk about one death - the same death, over and over.
A loved one's suicide never quite washes off your mind. And it is never the day or the moment that just fails to fade out. What I remember vividly is the year before that, was a witness to it, from as up close as humanly possible. I saw the face of depression up close, felt the shadow if it touch my future.
Perhaps some of you can describe being depressed. For the lucky folks here, let me describe the sensation I had by proxy.
Imagine you're having an asthma attack - you can't breathe, your lungs are choking up and your throat is straining. Right at that moment, someone tells you that what you need is some fresh air in this beautiful garden of roses and shows you how they breathe in & out throwing their chests out. And then ask why you're ruining the day for everyone by reaching for the inhaler, before it was even 10 AM.
This isn't some pervasive sense of sadness, but an accute occurrance of hopelessness and despair. The weight of the world falls on your shoulders and you can't move - everyone's just asking you to get up and do things. The inability compounded by the knowledge that at least some of the world is your responsibility to move.
And there-in, Ophelia, lies the rub. Social conditioning and my personal observation tells me that's where being brought up to be a Man bites your head off.
Years of indoctrination has taught (me) that - Men are resilient, Men do things, Men have responsibilities and that when in a crisis, the rule follows that you save "Women and children first".
Imagine, after fifty long years of being that, you're stumbling for the first time. And there's a huge stigma attached to being a problem for the people who depend up on you. I suspect, the indoctrination goes to your heart for those who've survived long odds, like returning soldiers from a war front.
Except you haven't learnt to talk about your emotions. You've lived your life with rational thought and enlightenment, treating emotions as fickle pertrubances to be ignored, like fear or desire - talking about them gives them more credence than necessary.
And then there's the stigma of treatment. Treatment for the chemistry in your brain is considered somewhat different from any chemistry elsewhere. I've never seen anyone reluctant to take Insulin for social reasons. I have never seen anyone skip an X-Ray in case they need a cast for their swollen foot. I've never before seen someone dodge treatment or diagnosis for worry that they'll get caught up in it.
Insanity has a huge price attached to your sense of self, since it is the only scenario your own input into your condition can be disregarded. In fact, just worrying about your own improvement might be treated as a symptom.
I have to come to understand that death - the terminal condition of an untreatable depression.--
It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living.
-- Terry Pratchett
Not for me, of course.
Today's the day when the burdens of all the what-ifs of my life becomes unbearable. The day I work up a year full of courage to face. A day which I devote to despair, for I leave no room in my life for it otherwise. To lay myself bare to all the demons of my mind. And survive.
Four years ago today, I lost a father. And today, I will remember the greatest lesson he ever taught me.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
-- William Shakespare, "Julius Caesar"
You get to say no last goodbyes.
One cold december evening, I walked into a house of wailing to see my dad in a casket, laid out in the living room. If I could call it a living room anymore. And I couldn't even cry. Not while things were left to be done, people left to be comforted and a pair of large shoes to be filled, before I could truly mourn.
I cried into my pillow all night. I told myself that I wouldn't. But as the waves of sorrow came crashing down, I just couldn't help myself. I told myself that I had to be brave, I had to be strong, that now more than ever, I am a man.
And I cry. For all that I've left unsaid. Respect, love and my last goodbye.--
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, must give us pause:
there's the respect that makes calamity of so long life;
-- Shakespeare, "Hamlet"
A ship set sail on a new sea, with a destination unknown. Carrying on it, a cargo dear to me. Across the river and into a world that might not be. Gone away, never to come back. To find his peace with that world, having given it up on this.
And I was left on this shore. Left behind. Left alone, waving goodbye. Left waving goodbye ...--
Do not seek death; Death will find you.
But seek the path which makes death a fulfilment.
There is not one life which does not end. There were days when I was afraid of death, not because mine was next. But to lose a friend, a father or a mentor - to feel the loss that would stay alive. Death does scare me so, because of how ordinary it has always been. For you does not knock, nor toll the bell - but hark, it tolls, but it does not toll for thee.
Hear the bell and I weep for me.
For the one who's lost is really me.
Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident - It is as common as life.
-- Henry David Thoreau
It's been a year.
A year, a really long year.--
It is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years.
-- Tom Lehrer
Yeah, I had a father.
And then last saturday, I didn't.
May his soul rest in peace.--
The future is interesting because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.
Last thursday night, the last Karanavar of my family joined his ancestors. He was a teacher by profession and a painter by persuasion - a professor of zoology and a painter of landscapes. Even after retiring, he was one of the founders of the ICS entrance coaching centre in Cochin and continued teaching. I've never sat in one of his classes, but he was a teacher to me and much more.
As a young boy, I used to gravitate towards his house. The first and primary reason was that there was a fridge (where fridges and grandparents meet, there is a likelihood of icecream). But what kept me hanging around was his VCR (also the first one in the neighbourhood). Eventually having run out of Mickey Mouse cartoons to watch, I would end up watching his collections of nature documentaries. I used to while away entire afternoons, watching some of the best documentaries BBC has ever produced. If I've acquired some sense of admiration for nature, it starts from those happy days in the eighties.
And then there was his workshop. He used to play around with electronics (when he was 60+) and one of the first things I saw built was a water level detector for the water tank. Eventually, every house around wanted one of these - encased in old transistor case, hooked up to its speakers to wail out when the water got too full in the tank (while pumping it). For the first time in my life, technology was cool.
He was a stickler to healthy living, a strict schedule and regular exercise. Sunrise would find him in the temple, even though he wasn't a blind believer in God. He was an epitome of health, having never suffered from diabetes or blood pressure disorders, which were common in his contemporaries. But then cancer struck its blow. He survived the first onslaught, went under the knife and managed to fight it without chemotherapy. It was not be, here was a secondary, that too in his vertebra.
But he still had his legendary nerves of steel. When I visited him a week back, pressure on his spinal cord had cost him use of both his legs. But as I was talking to him, he launched himself into a lecture about the human anatomy and how the hip bears the load of the whole body. What took me by surprise was the obvious conclusion - he will never be able to sit upright, not even in a wheel chair. I haven't met too many who could talk so lightly of their own fate.
No matter how many times it happens, it never gets any easier to lose someone. But eventually, you've got to reconcile yourself to carrying a little bit of them inside yourself.
And then, as I helped my uncles lift him to his funeral pyre, the thought came unbidden - Goodbye ... for now.--
The Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.
-- Miyamoto Musashi
[freenode] /who lilo * * i=levin freenode/staff/pdpc.levin irc.freenode.net lilo G :0 Rob Levin--
A man’s not dead while his name is still spoken.
-- Terry Pratchett (Going Postal)
Nobody expected Steve Irwin would be killed by anything other than an aussie salt water croc . I mean, this was the man who'd put down Eaten By Croc down on his epitaph by choice - struggling with crocdilians in all four continents. And it was quite a surprise when I woke up to this news that he was dead, from a sting ray barb through his heart  - a very painful way to die, indeed.
For someone who'd maintained a general irreverance to nature's deadliest creatures (most of which live in Australia, by some weird coincidence), I personally thought him to have aura of invincibility - a firm confidence that these animals mean him no harm, even when they were capable of snapping him into two bits without even trying. Crocodile Hunter wasn't just a nature documentary, it was reality tv with stunts and a fair bit of nature thrown in.
His antics might not have won him any respect from other wildlife experts, but he did manage to get a whole new generation interested in wildlife. If you watched a David Attenborough documentary about spiders and saw a spider in your backyard, you probably wouldn't hesistate to smush it out of existence. But if you'd watched a Steve Irwin special, you'd go looking for someone to throw it out. This guy put animals in your backyard, robbed them of their dignity and in some strange way, let us empathise with the animals. To the less ecologically sensitive masses, he put animals in a different perspective - one that made sense to them.
I'm sure he died doing what he loved, talking about things which could kill you, and him. I mean, I think that Douglas Adams is probably sitting up there wondering why he had to die while on the way to gym. Steve's got it much better, in comparison. Though it's Crocodiles:0 Stingrays:1 right now.
With condolences to Terri & the kids. Rest in Peace, mate.
When I die, I want to be hit by a meteorite while I'm coding.
I do not write this entry for myself. I write it on behalf of the soul departed. But when I climbed onto that bus to Cochin on saturday I was headed for a quiet sunday at home. But before I set foot in Cochin, I received the news. My uncle - V.M Venugopala Menon is no more. After nearly a decade of struggling with diabetes and its complications, he finally succumbed to the silent embrace of death sometime during the early hours of sunday.
For nearly eight years, he had a daily dose of human insulin to keep his blood sugar under check. During my final year in college, he lost a toe and would have nearly lost the foot as well. Ever since mid-2003, his kidneys had started to fail. But he was a man of iron will and still went ahead to enroll as an advocate, travelling nearly the length of Kerala to attend the ceremony in Kasargode, lugging a peritonial dialysis kit. To have that tube jammed into his lower stomach and have the liquid pumped into him was something he hated. But the moment the peritonium lost the osmotic qualities, the horrors began.
When I saw him month after month, he seemed to grow shorter and weaker. The haemodialysis which started off on a weekly basis, slowly became a necessity every other day. A complete kidney dysfunction, combined with the diabetic's slow healing, totally ran riot in his system. To see him on that wheelchair with his swollen feet, bitter about the world in general, yet prepared to fight till the end, if only for his children. His resolve only grew stronger as his health deteriorated.
We've always had our differences. But the blame is often quite evenly distributed in that. Of course, in our last conversation he probably forsaw this day. He was talking about the things he had left to see - my cousin's marriage, her brother's job. And then he said "Marikkenda samayam varumbayuthakum, ethokke nadakanam". And yet, didn't.
Maybe it was all for the good, to not let a man suffer so on this God's earth.--
What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;
What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.
The year is 1986 and it is a hot and humid April morning. I was lying around in hospital bed feeling bored beyond imagination. My parents were still trying to plan for my sister who would be born in a few day's time. I was past the sick phase and quickly moving into the hyperactive run-around stage that is often the bounce back of the sickness.Amidst all the turmoil, someone presented me with a book - a simple twenty page book of poetry. I could barely read malayalam at that point, I could read the letters but not fast enough to actually read out.
That book was Kunjunni Kavithakal. I read them more from boredom than actual interest - but I was hooked. At first glance the words were simple, but now that I look back they meant a lot more than a dictionary would reveal. But even to a literal minded child the poems were entertaining and even more importantly easy to remember. I still remember some of the lines I read twenty years ago.
More vividly, I remember meeting O N V Kurup on a train to cochin, a month or so later. We are distantly related by someone on my mother's side and my maternal grand parents, who were with me on the train, knew him. He was basically taken aback when I said - " I don't know about your poetry, but kunjunni mash's poetry is Poetry ". Of course, after ten more years of learning malayalam (and maybe ten more of ignoring it), I still haven't changed too much in opinion - which may not be a good thing, but that it.
Oru mayilpeeli undente ullil, Oru valapottundente kayyil, Virasas nimishangal sarasamakan-iva dharalamam-an-enikke
Maybe that's what I miss of childhood, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life - paper boats in the rain water, raw mangoes with salt and hide 'n seek at the tharavad. Hearing of his death brings back memories of other things lost and certain smile at a paradox of pokkamillayma aaNente pokkam.
Kunjunni Master - (1927-2006)--
In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.
-- Benjamin Franklin
For all those Coupling fans out there, Julia is dead. Those who have watched her say the immortal "don't mind me, I'm dead... " in Season 3 can take a moment to wish her soul to the big white theatre in the sky. Actress Lou Gish succumbed to cancer on 20th February 2006 at the age of 35.
Lou Gish, 1970 - 2006
To say the least, she was funny. She was funny in exactly the ways Jeff wasn't - the wanton pranks over the accidental coincidences. Her fake french accent in The End of the Line was of course the beginning of the line and then the entrance at the right moment to say "Susan, I was Giselle on the phone" are just icing on the cake. After all if Jeff had to have a girlfriend, could it be any ordinary woman ?
They say that when a comedian (or in this case comedienne) dies, they should be remembered with a few tears and lot of laughter. So dig out those episodes again and laugh a bit ...--
Dying is easy, Comedy is hard
Yesterday, Venuchettan passed away. He walked into a hospital to get treated for a stomach pain and quite unexpectedly met his end with a heart attack while his stomach was being pumped. I cannot imagine someone disappearing out of this world just like that. We all lost a bit of ourselves with him. It just won't be the same to go to that house - with two people whose permanence I'd taken for granted. People don't just die. Please tell me that they don't. Please !
I wasn't prepared for it the first time someone close died, I am not prepared now. And I will probably never be.--
There is no cure for birth and death other than to enjoy the interval.