May 29, 2011

The Strangers on the Page

They are strangers. All of them. But after reading their dear ones describe them in loving words, you suddenly feel as if you know them all. Every single one of them, featured in the newspaper’s obituary page, where the memories of the departed are shared with grief, love and gratitude.

Today, there’s a father who is lovingly remembered for his commitment and dedication. His legacy of hard work and honesty is heralded as greatly motivating. I read this, and this dad comes alive in front of me - in flesh and blood – a warm and suave gentleman who is always there for everyone, and suddenly I miss not meeting him in person. There’s a beautiful lady too, who I read, was an intelligent and loving mother, and a dedicated and hardworking wife. I read about her pleasant smile and see it lighting up around me. Then there are grandfathers and grandmothers - the dadas, dadis, nanas and nanis - who have left for their heavenly abode and are now being remembered and missed by their children and grandchildren. I read it all - the names and the adulatory messages, and look deeply at the photos and try to guage if these strangers died content and happy, whether they had a fulfilling life. The warm and happy faces of these elderly give nothing away and so I assume that they died happy.

Then there are those who share another corner, staring straight, proud in their military fines. They are the fighters, the martyrs who laid down their lives fighting for their country’s cause. Here they are now, remembered year after year, by their families, fellow fighters and brethrens.  From all ranks and files, they are lauded for their bravery and thanked for their invaluable guidance and noble thoughts. I read it all – their names, their ranks and the unit they belonged to, and imagine strapping groomed men full of fervour and zest for life, charging ahead and taking the enemy head on.

But almost always there are some announcements that leave you sad and disillusioned. The prayer meetings, rasam kriyas and chauthas. Of people who must have been in the prime of their life. They are gone, and now have their best pictures announcing their untimely departure. Their beaming, happy, cheerful faces next to the obituary notes look so out of place that you naively wonder if there’s been some mistake and that probably the press men bumbled and put up wrong photos. All of 23 and dead? No, this surely is a mistake! That’s not an age to die! 18 and gone? There must be an error here...the heart goes. But deep inside you know it’s not a mistake. You read about the freak accident, the sudden illness, the massive heart attack...the words ‘untimely death’ prefixed everywhere. Ah. The grief stricken list breaks my heart. Father, mother, brother, sister, read on, realising it all too well that life for them would never be the same again.