From here to eternity

Al Ngullie

I believe Death, in its own morbid way, is an inspiration to live life to the fullest. Ever since I started writing, circumstances have seemed that death, in all its sinister forms, has constantly made its presence felt in one way or the other. Or maybe it’s only my imagination making things seem too conspicuous. Correspondingly, Journalism is perhaps only a process to reinforce that tenacious reminder of mortality. Perhaps to some extent Journalists are de-sensitized by terror and horror as well as pain and fear which are ever so present – more conspicuously, since the picture of death are set in pen and photographs, unintentionally edifying people on their own morality – so they are constantly brought face to face with the realities of the smallness of impending humanness. The consequence is that we somehow lose touch with life itself. 

The eternal quest for news – scoops and everything that happens to be off-tone from the usual malarkey we call the world we claim as part of – might have deadened my hitherto cherished tenets of manners, friendship and familial relationships. I don’t know. I just don’t know. 

Some time back, I’d dropped in at my brothers’ Garage to say goodbye since he was about to leave for Bhopal. As we both walked out bantering about flight tickets and Train timings, there by a shop sat one of my nephews. My brother called out to him while I simply I smiled and nodded at my nephew without a word by way of greeting. Then we proceeded on our way while my nephew just sat there lost in his thoughts.

Four days later, around 10 am my brother rang me up as I worried and busied around what news to get from whom and where. The phone conversation was shorn off any niceties as he shakily informed that one of my nephews had passed away the night before. My mind went numb at the weight of the news. Which one? The one my brother and I’d met as we bantered about flight tickets just 4 days before. The one I only nodded to. He left just like that. Without even a proper goodbye. Without even a decent sentence of brotherly sharing. He was found dead, drug overdosed, on a street. The same street just a meter away from the place he’d sat just four days back as my brother and I nodded to him as we passed by.

Suddenly the meaning of shared joy whether it be in familial relationships or of brotherhood seemed so much clearer, though tinged with sadness. With a dose of guilt too. I have seen bodies rent apart by a bomb. I have seen friends shredded into half, die in my arms. I have picked up with my fingers severed limps of a friend who was unfortunate enough to be at the right place at a wrong time. I have seen loved ones lose their lives to quirky circumstances. Still, there remained more to be corrected or learnt.

Lost in the frantic whirl of journalistic pursuits I’d also lost something on the way? News. Reports. Events. Scoops. It was all. Why hadn’t I talked to my nephew that day? But how do I know he would be gone forever four days later? Perhaps I should have smiled at him cheerily. Perhaps I should have gone over to him enquiring on his health. If his family was keeping fine. How was his day going? How his parents were. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I only know now that I‘ve learnt not to be carried away by life’s exigencies – that nothing is more important than reaching out to your family, friends, colleagues today because you never know tomorrow might never come again.

Often times as we go about our lives we tend to forget that circumstances are simply unexpected opportunities to reach out. We miss these opportunities to be free of our personal ambitions, work and time for once and be humans again – taking time out to say hello, share, laugh or just be with someone. Many a times we lose sight of the purpose we are here for. I believe that life was actually meant to be a Paradise for the created to enjoy the blessings of the creator. But yes, we somehow messed it up with our fallacies, ambitions, selfishness and the eternal obsession with survival. No. There’s much more to life than to survive. The joy of playing in the rain; plucking a petal to let it off with the wind; smiling a mischievous smile to a friend. Anything. Just reach out and feel the humanness of all that we are. To hell with the tasks of life for once. Yes, simply. Because Heaven is always where we are. If we just reach out. 

Last week, I’d decided every moment should be lived. I completed a big story, one of my first ‘big ones’ and left for home. It felt so good to be breezing along with the warm Sun just about winking off and the joy of wafting along with the scent of trees! It felt so good. Really. There wasn’t really anything to worry till tomorrow when I’d have to go search for more news. The lane leading up to my place felt so fresh owing to a slight drizzle some hours back. There walking up in my direction was a teenage girl who lived some houses away from mine. I nodded and smiled at her without a word. She smiled back shyly as we passed each other.

Two days later after that beautiful evening, I would pick up a newspaper in the morning and would see a particularly pretty face of a girl among many other obituaries on the page. And I would read her family’s acknowledgement to all those who had rendered kindness in myriad ways at the death of this girl. And I would wonder who this young, pretty girl was and then would take a closer look at the picture as if in it were answers why she had to die.  The pretty face would be the face of the girl I’d smiled at; two days ago on my way back home from office. Two days was all it took to last an eternity.