Death- The last enemy

mailHave you ever woken up to bad news?  If you have then you will be able to empathize with me and the hundreds of people who did the morning after Diwali.

A few mornings back, or specifically the morning after Diwali, as was habitual, I accessed my inbox on my phone.  I was scrolling through the messages in my inbox as I fixed myself a cup of coffee to start my day. Technology makes sure we hear what is up with the World even before we open the newspaper or fire up our computers.

I stopped short at an email that bore the subject- Bad news.

The sender of the message was a colleague from work. In the fraction of a second before I tapped that message to read the content, my mind raced with the possibilities of what could it be about. I had just returned from a week at ‘work’.  All had been well when I left.  The message had opened by then.

The first line of the email said it all. It revealed that the bad news I was just about to read was going to be shocking. I could feel the pit of my stomach cave in. I dismissed the feeling and read on further.  The mail was written in short sentences of five words each. And the third line revealed the shocking bad news. My team member had lost both her parents in a tragic road accident.

I had to sit down to make sense of the news. How was it possible? Didn’t she tell me just the other day that they were coming over to spend Diwali with her?

The email outlined the scanty details that my colleague had on him at that time and that was enough to tell me that the accident had indeed been tragic. They were run over by a speeding vehicle as they were crossing the road, it said. I had to shut my eyes close to stop the world around me from spinning.

“My ma says that I don’t feed the baby enough. If only she knew how much my two year old eats! When she is here the next week, I will hand over my daughter and ask her to take care of her”, her laugh rang in my ears.

The email further detailed how the parents were headed to the younger daughter’s house. She was going to be a mother soon and they wanted to prepare for the valaikaapu function the following week.

I am planning to ask them to move in with me, Arthi. It will be so much easier then both for them and me. We are looking to move into a two storied house soon”, she had said determinedly.

And now they were both gone. Just like that, while crossing the road, because a speeding car that was not able to avoid hitting them, had hit them and caused head injuries that had killed them.

The rest of the day is a hazy memory. I was listlessly floating about, imagining what was happening in her world every minute. I was unable to function. I was filled with a sense of remorse and intense helplessness.  I hoped that she had said a loving goodbye to them when they left her that day. What was the last conversation they had had? Was she regretting that she had not said something she had planned to tell them? The whole day I stayed preoccupied with what might have been and what shouldn’t have happened.

I felt restless as the day progressed, and worse as the details of their accident trickled in. They were hit by a car while they turned around hearing the cry of a handicapped blind man across the road.

Could it be any worse?

I hate conveying condolence messages. I am bad at it. There is no right thing to say to someone who has lost a loved one or in this case, two; loving parents who had been killed in a tragic road accident.

I had to let her know that I had heard; that I knew she was broken hearted, not once but twice over. I had to send her my thoughts, love, prayers and strength. I had to remind her to eat, to be sane, to not fall sick. I had to remind her to be strong.

It has been only 3 days since the incident. My thoughts are with her, hoping that she will allow time to heal the wretched wounds from the nasty blow life has dealt her, that she finds answers to the questions she has.

For now I want to sit quietly next to her, sharing her grief, just being there if that can lessen the pain.

Hang in there, Kuppu.

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Learning about life and motorcycles

words_of_wisdomI don’t read books on philosophy. I have never been tempted to visit that part of the library that shared truths about life. Recently though, the CEO of the company I work for, remarked that any reader worth her salt, should have read a few classic pieces of literature and mentioned this philosophical novel from 1974.

Having no previous knowledge of either Zen philosophy or motorcycles, I was intrigued with the title of the book and got my hands on to a PDF copy. I confess that I thought the book would be a drag.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.

I may not have understood what great philosophical minds can from such books but I have reflected upon a few things that jumped out at me and will stay with me as lessons. Here is a summary of Part 1 of the book  (I am still to read Part 2) from the perspective and understanding of a first time reader of books in this genre.

What I learnt from Part 1 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Life is a rush. Reflect on the way we all travel to work every morning. We take roads that are less winding, drive in fast moving traffic and reach destinations without really enjoying the journey. A few of us though, stop to smell the flowers. And it is at these times, in paths less traveled do we have these realizations of how simple and amazing life really is.

We take life for granted. How many of us take time to enjoy the little pleasures that life offers? We take for granted the little wonders of nature. The grass has always been green and the birds have always fluttered by. What is new? Even when someone points the wonders of nature to us, we are quick to discount them as ordinary.

We detest technology. Accept it or not some of us do not understand how things work and don’t make an effort to learn the basics. We are very superficial in our knowledge even when we do know. When we meet and interact with people with in depth knowledge, instead of respect, we feel anger and antipathy.

We rush to conclusions. When things go wrong, as they often do, we are quick to conjure up the worst reason why they did. We blame adversities and circumstances on underlying sinister, inexplicable reasons and always look for deeper meanings of situations when none exists.

We don’t share perspectives. Sometimes we don’t look at things in the same perspective as others we work or live with. We look at the same situation, want to understand and solve the issue that bothers us, but see, think and talk about it in completely different ways. We overlook some details that others consider important because they are so tiny and sometimes we don’t look at things because they are too huge. We are quick to reject ideas, point out why the other person is wrong and cannot believe that they are not able to look at the situation like the way we do.  This destroys and ruins relationships. The fact that the difference in opinion is because of looking at the same situation in two different dimensions doesn’t occur to us at all.

There is always more than one dimension to everything.  There are essentially two modes of thought. Some of us think about stuff in an aesthetic romantic, groovy dimension while the others analyze and figure things out more scientifically. Both these dimensions are incompatible, in conflict, not in sync and can be miles apart. The difference in this dimension is what we name generation gap, modern outlook or bias. Our vision of reality is largely dependent on what the mode we use to think – groovy or scientific. That probably explains why blue prints and schematic drawings don’t fascinate everyone. When you look at the world around you in the romantic mode, you are imaginative, creative and intuitive. You give more importance to feelings and less to facts. You aren’t governed by reason or laws. Leave the laws, reasoning and unemotional views to the classic mode thinkers.

The trouble is when we write off each other’s views as dull and boring or frivolous and shallow. When we think exclusively in one mode, we tend to underestimate the other mode of thought. Therein lies the reasons for the huge split or divide we experience with each other, both at work and otherwise. We alienate those who live with us, underestimate each other’s contributions to work and spread hate. We dislike intrusions in our reality. If something is not the way we believe it should be, we ignore or reject the idea, we fight it and look for another explanation that makes sense to our reality.

Will share more from Part- 2, when I am done with that part.