death, memories

Losing Aju — a realisation of life, and death

There are times in our life when you experience immense joy or relief and at the same time extreme sadness, and you don’t know what to feel anymore. I’ve felt this once already in 2014 when days before our first child Sofia was born, my old flatmate was killed in a road accident in Germany. I was shocked to hear the news and then engulfed with happiness as Sofia arrived. But I couldn’t shake off the feeling of sadness. And 2018, the déjà vu feeling struck again. After waiting for months for various reasons, the day I learned that my citizenship application is accepted, I also learned that one of our close friends has passed away the night before. Being accepted for a citizenship is no way similar to the joy of witnessing your first child being born, and the feeling of loss of someone I had known for a year and someone since I was ten are completely different. It just makes you numb.

This is not an obituary to Aju, because that’s not his style to sit back in a cosy corner of a room and fumble through your phone to type something half-intellectual. He wanted to stay outside, having a laugh with his friends, and a fight at times. Aju wasn’t my best friend and I don’t think I was his, but that didn’t matter. When you have a friend whom you’ve known and been around with for over thirty years, it didn’t matter any longer how close friends you were. They become a part of you, just as you become a part of theirs.

He was a bundle of energy, always wanting to be in the middle of things. He meddled into all sorts of trouble but when you really wanted someone to count on, you knew no matter what, Aju will be there. Yet it’s saddening that when we were growing up and in our twenties or thirties, all what people wanted to remember is what trouble he caused and not the number of times he was there for them, putting aside all differences of opinion and people’s judgemental views. Personally, he has been there for me on many occasions throughout the years. It’s a regret that I haven’t. And a regret that I couldn’t say my last goodbye to him.

But Aju’s shocking demise made me think about death. That it exists, looming somewhere behind the curtain and it’s unavoidable and absolute. There may be exceptions, but there’s nothing more certain than death. Throughout my journey of life so far, there are memories of people passing away. Apart from some exceptions, it was mainly our previous generation at the beginning, then slightly younger generations, people we used to refer to kakus and Pishis. It then moved on to our generation with people slightly older than us — the ones we refer to dadas or didis. With Aju’s death, it felt as if death has knocked on the door of our generation. The feeling of “not our time yet” suddenly felt passé. As if we were hidden under the invisibility cloak and it has suddenly been pulled away.

Death puts your life into perspective. Whatever you achieve in life, whoever you are, it suddenly makes you think that things you valued so much in your life are worthless, and the ones you ignored are the precious gems that are your real possessions. Memories. Family. Friendships.

And death then gives a new meaning to life. An objective, to enjoy every moment of your life. It’s like you’re floating downstream along the river of life towards a fall but you don’t know when that’ll come. And what you perceive as the end might just be a small dip and you can continue your journey for much longer. But during this journey, it’s more important to take in what you’re passing by rather than worrying about what lies ahead.

One might think that talking about death brings out dark, gloomy and negative feelings. That’s true, we can’t deny that part of it. But thinking about death also means acknowledging it as part of our life and be ready to keep it at bay when we are living life to the full and embrace it when you think you’re ready. Death is just a finality to the life you lived. You don’t judge a candle by its burnt wick that’s left behind. Our life is not eternal, and that’s why it’s even more important to cherish it while the time is on our side. When we were young, we used to be told about quotations by famous people, that leave your mark behind on this Earth. I now think that’s utter crap. We leave no legacy. At least most of us don’t. So it’s pointless to feel weighed down by such thoughts. It’s time to enjoy life. Do what we love to do, see places we only dreamed about, spend time with people you love.

Death teaches us to look at life from a different perspective. And having witnessed a number of them, nothing affected me more than Aju’s. And the news came on a day when I received the news of acceptance of my citizenship. It made me think about the significance of the two massive news on the same day. Was it a somewhat good news consoling the blow of the loss? But more I thought about it, it felt that the two news, in reality, delivered the same message. Aju’s death meant a part of me stopped living as well, and that part just became a memory. It will never be relived. And the citizenship also meant that a tie has been severed from the place where the memories were associated with. But then, as we grow old, our memories become larger than our life. They help us survive. And I’ll cherish many memories of Aju. The good ones, bad and ugly ones too.

But I’ll especially remember a day before our lives became complicated, and that I think was the first time Aju was out with us. I was probably 12-13, it was Durgapuja, and we went to Esplanade. We hired a horse-drawn carriage and went to Moulali before heading back home. That was the first and the last time I rode on a horse-drawn carriage. It was pure fun, and being typical early teenagers, we thought we were ready to take on the world, but unknowingly, our demeanour was completely naive and laughable. It was the age of innocence. It was a memorable night. Among thousands of other memories, Aju remained a part of me on that night, and I’ll dedicate that memory to him. Every time I think of that night, I’ll think of Aju.
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Horror, short story

Tales from Disturbia – 13 days of horror

Not sure how I ended up writing grotesque horror and gore stories. This is an experimental writing project, trying out new formats of flash fiction, and a new genre. It was inspired by a few two-line horror stories I read a long time ago. I had other stories in mind, but I’ve stopped at 13, keeping it ominous, as well as maintaining my sanity to avoid nightmares. I’d say they are like the Evil Dead/Final Destination series, some find them hilarious, some terrifying. Depending on which side you belong to, I’d warn that contents are pretty creepy and not suitable for children or weak-hearted adults.

Day-1

They said that I was always good in geometry. I never denied it. Geometry is everywhere; it’s about how every line, arc and angle fitted into a perfect symmetry. I could always sense that. Except for the time I failed to notice the parabolic trajectory of a shard of glass that sliced my throat.

Day-2

Shawn came home hungry after a long day at work. He wanted to cook a korma. He opened the freezer and took out a box of frozen meat. He looked at the label and smiled. That was Brian’s thighs, the guy Shawn last dated.

Day-3

Monica pressed the brake hard, the traffic is queuing ahead. She looked outside, to see what’s lying on the verge. Packets of chips, pieces of tyre, the skin of foxes and badgers run over. She crawled forward a bit and looked again. On the grassy land covered with trees lay what looked like a hand. She focussed hard, that was a hand! And what’s that big bin bag doing there? Monica could feel her heartbeat rising. But the traffic eased off suddenly and she drove on home.

Day-4

Tinku thinks he has special powers. Not just the sights and sounds, he can remember the smell and the taste as well. He remembers the aroma of the egg curry with butter he had fifteen years back in his friend’s flat. And he remembers the putrid smell of the corpse of a woman at the crematorium — her body swollen from the Post-mortem, and the smell of cheap perfume her family was pouring on her to douse the smell.

Day-5

I was on my way to the Chinese class on an auto rickshaw. The traffic slowed down in the railway over-bridge and people were looking down. So did I. There was a man, sitting on the track. Not all of him though. It was his torso, wrapped in a jute bag, sat up. His head was missing. Why did I look!

Day-6

Arshad saw the bicycle thief. Being mauled by the mob. He grabbed his daddy’s hand a bit tighter. And they went to the market. Arshad couldn’t understand why they were beating that guy. Or the human form lying inside the waste bin on their way back. Thirty years on, he still wonders if the mob set fire on him or it was just mud.

Day-7

There was a stale stench hung in the air. It seemed to come from Mr. Vargese’s flat on the first floor. When the smell was so strong in the stairwell, the neighbours decided to break in his flat. The moment the front door was burst open, it was clear what it was. They found his body hanging from the ceiling in the toilet. And the flies. As John cut the rope, Stan tried to hold on to the dangling legs to lower the corpse. But his hand sank through the decomposed flesh. Rotten flesh all over his hand. And the flies sat back on them.

Day-8

“Sam, are you home?”. Abbey called from outside Sam’s window. Sam looked at the watch. 1:57. What the hell? Should he get up? He stayed in his bed. “Sam?”. She called again. “Coming”, Sam got out of the bed and put his top on. The next morning, people found Sam’s door wide open. He was never found. Sam didn’t wait for the third call. The devil claimed his soul.

Day-9

Adewale looked up from the ground floor landing and his heart skipped. Is there a man watching over them from the top of the stairwell? He looked again, the head was still there. With three or four classmates he climbed up to the fourth floor and realised that it was a bulkhead lamp hanging from the ceiling. Nevertheless, Ade looked up every day. Except for one night, when he was slightly drunk, and there was a head instead of the lamp, watching over him. He had a sickle in his hand.

Day-10

It was my idea. Imran opposite the toilet was a sissy. We made a scarecrow for Imran, using the travel kits people borrowed from the university mountaineering society. Then we hung it from the ceiling of the toilet, so if Imran ever wanted a toilet at night, he’d see the man hanging. We also took out a lamp from the toilet. Imran didn’t go to the toilet that night. I did. And I forgot about the prank. They are sending me for post-mortem today.

Day-11

Parimal is into palmistry. When Malay came to show his hands, Parimal told him to be careful, but he wouldn’t say what of. During summer, they went to the hills in a group of 15. On the first night they found themselves surrounded by tribal people wielding machetes and torches. They set fire to the house. Some of Malay’s mates chose to be burnt alive. Some tried to flee but were hacked to death. That’s what Parimal saw on Malay’s hand. A violent death. Malay was hacked.

Day-12

When Stefan went to the uni to study engineering, he was met by a bunch of sophomores. They dragged him to the field, down to the loco sheds. Stefan knew about ragging, but this was going a bit far. They tied his hands behind his back, laid him on one of the tracks, and bound him to the track. Stefan could hear the vibrations of a coming train. He knew about this prank before. This must be the disused track, he kept telling himself. It was, or so thought by the sophomores as well. But the loco was sent for shunting. It dragged Stefan about fifty yards, at a slow speed, shredding his body in pieces for over two minutes.

Day-13

Harriet wanted to be a nurse. Yet her parents forced her to be a doctor. She never liked autopsy much, and it almost pushed her off the edge. During her time as an intern, her friends took her to the hospital morgue and slammed the door behind her. They thought about leaving her for a few minutes and let her out. They forgot as the pagers went off for a major accident emergency. Samantha came back to unlock her three hours later. She found Harriet chewing an arm, ripped off from a corpse.

***The reaper’s thirteen***

Debra always slept with her pet python. Its girth reminded her of her last boyfriend. The python stopped eating one day. She took it to the vet, but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong. She tried to change its diet but nothing happened. Then one night Debra found herself constricted by the giant snake. As her head slowly started to disappear into its mouth, Debra realised why the python stopped eating. It was getting ready to eat her.
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