I wish the dead could speak. I don’t want to listen to family members talk about how much it hurts that they are gone. Or whatever their friends have to say about all they have left behind. Instead, I seek to find what went through their minds during the last few minutes of their lives. And I want to hear about it from them.
I dearly hope there was some pleasantness in the process. Perhaps, a well-produced vignette, capturing some of the best moments of their lives. A beautiful and haunting cello composition that picked up its pace for the second half. Faces of children, lovers, and pets. Sound-bites of promises kept. Pencil sketches of childhood vacations.
The poster on the bedroom wall. The second kiss that meant so much. The feeling of how someone’s palm always felt safe, no matter how wrinkled it was.
When they first fell off a bicycle and realized, the hard way, that “wounds make better lessons than lectures”.
How frightening and exciting it was to realize just how far away the stars were from their bedrooms.
The vastness of the hills, the aloneness of the ocean.
A Black Eagle disappearing above the clouds. A House Sparrow outside the front door in search of a melody. A sky filled with Swifts, Swallows and Dusky Craig Martins practicing for the big dance at night. The last time the morning sun shone a light on the iridescent plumage of a sunbird.
I would like to think that it all just came back for a short while. Just enough for them to sense a warm glow permeating through their insides.
They may not have been physically capable of smiling wide. But their hearts would have erupted with joys, large and small, that gave meaning and purpose to the lives they had led.
I know I can’t be sure of any of this. The truth may even be bitter.
They might have just felt a lot of pain, sadness and fear before fading away. The frantic knocking on doors. A piercing whistle. The loud crackling of bones. It could have been very scary. And the only reprise might have been that it was over soon.
But I don’t want to think of dying that way.
Hope, as fragile it can be, does lend itself to some interesting conclusions.
Before 1897, people thought that atoms were the tiniest things that ever existed. Maybe someday in the distant future, when we are dead and gone, others would discover that death has its moments. It’s not all that bad.
It’s why I want the departed to come back just for a while.
I want to find out what it means to be alive one second and gone forever — the next. And whether some part of it feels alright.
(Photographs: Chennai, Vedanthangal, Munnar, Kodaikanal, Palani Hills)