Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Of ordinary days and milestones

It was the date when Columbine happened, it was the date 168 people died in a plane crash, it was Hitler's birthday, the anniversary of the day 76 perished in a fire in Waco, Texas, the date of the Oklahama City bombing...it was also just an ordinary day which some celebrated and others mourned.

Joan Didion in "The Year of Magical Thinking", her memoir of the year following the death of her husband, writes about life changing in an instant on an ordinary day.

It was an ordinary day for us too. Typical English weather - a light drizzle from a murky sky. Saturday. The weekend. The boys didn't want to have their hair cut so he went to the barber alone. He was being teased at work for letting his hair grow 'Einstein-ian'. I had my own agenda; a glass shelf that had broken during our last move had to be replaced. On that ordinary day, we did ordinary things.

That night, events happened and our lives were forever divided into a before and after. The day marked, here on forward, to be mourned.

When it had just happened, I kept saying everyone should know when they are going to die. After all, it is the only certainty in life. That way we would live more meaningfully and the ones we would leave behind would be better prepared for this eventuality. Or so I thought at the time. But having carried death on my shoulder for the past year, I have realized that it is too heavy a burden. That is why we relegate the certainty of death to the corner of our minds, living each day with the hubris of time eternal.

About the time of death, our scriptures say :

Tith vaar na jogi jaane

Rut maah na koi

Jo karta shrishti ko saaje

Aape jaane soi

Which roughly translates to:

Even the yogi does not know the date or day

No one knows the season or month

The one who made the world

Only He knows

Only He knows and this was the day He chose. So here we stand at another series of milestones - this was the day he died, this was the day he was cremated, this was the day his ashes were immersed in the Southern confluence...the days, dates, milestones pile up and I wonder why we mark them. Do we think of him more on these days and less on the others?

Actually, it is not the remembering that marks the day but the reality. On those other days it is easier to fool oneself into thinking it never happened...to pretend that it is just an ordinary day.

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