In the movie Rockstar, the protagonist wants to be a singer and is advised by his friend that he must have his heart broken in order to get the depth and pain in his singing. What follows is the hero’s bumbling efforts to get dumped by a girl that he is not even in love with in the first place. They become friends, spend a lot of time together, she gets married and goes away, he gets thrown out of his home and ends up homeless for a time. Being a man, the hero is unable to unravel some pretty heavy hints from the girl and wastes years before realizing that the sorrow and pain that pours out of him in his songs is love.
Like Jagjit Singh, the greatest gazal singer of our times, who had such melody and depth of feeling when he sang that it almost elevated people to another spiritual plane. He was always great but it has been said by critics that after he returned to singing after the death of his grown up son was when his gazals vibrated with a whole new pathos and emotion.Even someone like me who was a merry-go-lucky child in college, not given to closely scrutinizing life, his music could give pause.
Yes, personal tragedy changes all of us in some way or the other. It makes us more religious, maybe even to the point of fanaticism or completely breaks our bonds with the divine. It might give us a deeper understanding towards our fellowmen and push us to explore hitherto closed doors of the human psych or completely alienate us behind walls that we create around ourselves. Every human being has his/her own layers and they can only be pulled back by the individuals themselves. Artistic people have many ways of expressing their spiritual uneasiness and confusions but what of the common everyday people? Not everyone is capable of expressing their grief or their strife with the mundane life that surrounds us. People internalize and cork it up and slowly let it fester their souls. Is it best to suffer in silence or should you talk it all out? And who should you share your grief with? Other family members, friends or complete strangers?
A year ago I said goodbye to my mosi, (mother’s sister) after an accident that left her in a coma for 9 days. It was the first death that I witnessed in my family and it is numbing. Sometimes I just think she is still there at her home, rushing to school, cooking up new delicacies and asking her son to study. I remember her at the oddest moments when my thoughts are nowhere near her. I think of her when I see a short woman in high heels. I think of her when I am frying pooris. I remember her when I see school teachers walking fast to catch public transport. I remember her when I hear the word ‘convalescence’. But most of all I think of her when I speak to or look at her husband. He is a stronger proof of her living to me than even her son is. My grandparents who were her neighbors for the last 15 years and literally reared her son are shattered, but they have seen too much of this world for too long and seem to be deal with it better with acceptance. I have never seen my mosa broadcast his grief to the world and yet its as if he carries her around with him all the time. Maybe in a few years he will be able to laugh when we all sit together and recall her little idiosyncrasies and all her little foibles but for now he remains in his cocoon.
I have no claims to being spiritual or deep and have always woken up to each day as it comes and yet this was an incident that has made me think on subjects that never bothered me before. I wonder what will happen when I die. Who will remember me? My husband lost a cousin of his more than a decade ago and never fails to remember him whenever something happens to remind him of his ideologies or his views on life be it politics or work ethics which is usually once a week. And I wonder if I have done anything in my life that would leave such a strong impression on someone when I am gone? Have I loved someone strongly enough? Have I been a person with such strong morality in everyday life that would make people who knew me proud?
I also have thought a lot about the last rites that take place. I have a horror of being buried somewhere in the south and emphatically state that it raises the hair on my neck to even think of that eventuality. When my time comes I would like to be cremated in my beautiful Kangra valley like a proper Hindu and leave no more trace of my physical being in this world than a few ashes.
Yes, things I never worried about.
Like my religion, Hinduism. I never really bothered much about the doctrines of the faith I have grown up with before but now I want to learn all that there is to know about it. I want someone to clarify and teach me the philosophies and the spiritual messages in the Veda’s and the Bhagvad Gita.
Happiness. What a plethora of meanings it has for different people. For my Mosi, it was just a posting to a school near home. For the farmer in my husband’s village it the running water in the canal. For my Dad, a round of golf. For me, a trip back home. For my maid, its getting a good match for her daughter. Happiness. Such different meanings indeed.
So, the only thing that I have concluded from all this is – I might never become a very elevated being and will probably always have petty irritations in life but I will try . Try every day to be a little better, a little less selfish, a little more understanding, a lot less confrontational. Yes, try…………
When my tomorrow comes I hope to have no regrets and be at peace with all that life brings my way.