By that I mean life is very short, too short. All of us say that like a mantra especially when faced with death in the family or in the inner circle of friends. But just how real it is and how such a realisation puts everything into stark perspective is kind of, mind-boggling. It makes you recognise there are so many things you won’t be taking with you when you go. And that you do want to leave behind certain things and certain memories of yourself, mostly good. I have lost a dear cousin six plus months ago. It painfully brought to mind many childhood memories of an older cousin who guided me through a complicated world of grown-ups and taught me how to traverse life. And as all good older cousins go, the introduction included furtive classes on how-to-smoke-Charminar even though it makes you cough your guts out. In 1973, Capstan was for rich people, we had to make do with Charminar. I wonder if that brand is still around. At a certain age, the joy of life is being allowed to hang out with older siblings and cousins. And my memories of her include all that – life in a simpler Kohima where a one-time visit to the matinee show at the Ruby Cinema hall was enough entertainment for the whole year. A time when being underage meant you could not get parental permission to do so many of the things that older siblings did and were our idea of fun. She passed on, and so did the memories. I could talk about them, but without the main participant around, it just feels flat.
In the New year, two friends bid adieu to this temporary world of ours. One young, one much older. The very young one was a talented musician, but never really got his break into the fickle world of music. He went almost unsung, the news of his sudden death popping up on a Facebook post and catching us all by total surprise. The older friend – an 84-year-old Turkish writer – it was a joy to read what others wrote about him. MorisFarhi was a human being whose mission in life was to recognise the worth of the other person. Always full of encouragement for younger writers and translators, always affectionate and inspiring, he made those around him feel they were living wonderful lives. His gift was infusing worth and meaning into people’s lives, both with his writing and with his person. Not only did he write marvellous books, he extended graciousness to all he met, so that they always retained this beautiful memory of him, the person. What a legacy to leave behind.
Life is too short to have regrets. I have heard someone quote someone else on that. It’s not avoidable. Of course, we regret. I regret not visiting the relatives who have now slipped away and the opportunity is gone forever. I regret the unnecessary harsh words said over needless quarrels. I regret time not invested in people I love while they were still around.
There is an attitude in many households that celebrating the birthday of a grown-up is a juvenile thing to do. I disagree. More even than a child’s birthday, (which of course should be celebrated with gusto) the celebration of an adult’s birthday should be carefully planned and executed. We are grateful to be alive, to manage to live another year and see the anniversary of our births. Such days should be opportunities for all of us to use to invite old friends, relatives, neighbours, the newspaper boy, etc to celebrate a special day in a special person’s honour. I think we should grab such opportunities instead of thinking we don’t need to make a fuss. Life will go on. The business of bringing food to the table will never take a pause. We can choose to click pause and take a few hours to celebrate the gift of being alive. Let’s choose to make a fuss over each other. Everyone deserves it. It will make the world a nicer place, and when we leave, it will be a good memory bank to leave behind.