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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