Each death notice tells a story
Since selfies are the rage on social media, an out-of-the-box (one could say coffin!) idea is that of a ‘self obituary’. Sounds like a spooky oxymoron, right? Not if one leaves a ‘Final Exit Will’ crafted in advance, before breath becomes air.
I wish to spell out clearly how I want my mortal remains to be handled while I am alive and kicking, before I kick the bucket.
With search engines at your command in this digital era and AI ready to do your bidding, there are unlimited step-by-step guidelines on how to ace your obituary. No ex post facto pleasure in this, hence one can enjoy the glory of composing an impressive obituary before one is under the sod.
I sometimes wonder why people read obituaries about unknown folks in the newspapers? I suppose each death notice tells a story and perhaps it gives us a sense of schadenfreude that one has escaped the Grim Reaper’s scythe.
As a purported English pedagogue the obituary notices I see splashed across the national dailies tug at my heart strings for the loss of people’s loved ones, but they make my eyebrows go up in linguistic disdain at the poor syntax on account of grammatical lapses.
So let me savour the satisfaction of a perfectly worded self obituary instead of leaving it in the hands of grieving(hopefully) kith and kin to send out some shoddy construct. And I certainly won’t indicate my otherworldly abode as Heaven.
Hell! It could be a toss up ! Who knows how the Supreme Ledger Keeper has totted up my deeds to assign me my berth in the afterworld? Let’s not be too smug as the pearly gates may not open for all.
Poets and philosophers have always twirled the idea of death in their minds and writings. John Donne, the metaphysical poet , in one of his holy sonnets gives death a bad rap: “Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,/And dost with poison, war,and sickness dwell,…./Death,be not proud, though some have called thee/ Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…”
The inimitable Dylan Thomas near his father’s deathbed wants him to shake his fists at death: “Do not go gentle into that good night,/Old age should burn and rave at close of day/ Rage,rage against the dying of the light .”
Death is a living and flourishing industry. From obituaries that write ‘the end’ to our narrative on this earth to cremations/burials with their attendant paraphernalia and the services of a priest during cremation and burials, death has become unaffordable.
Prayer meetings are choreographed with event management skills. The floral garlands, wreaths, aroma candles, a framed picture, montage of pics from the life of the deceased in a video clip, some devotional songs and some remembrances from family and friends followed by a cup of tea is enough to assuage the soul to send it to eternal rest in Baikunth.
In Rajasthan, during the feudal days, the rulers expressing raw grief in public was not considered kosher. So this was outsourced to professional ‘Rudaalis’ (literally a female weeper)who did a powerful cathartic act of mourning the dead attired in black.
Driving on interstate highways way back in the seventies in America, I found the most attractive houses on the road were funeral parlours, rubbing shoulders with motels and food chain restaurants.
One name stands out in my memory for its quirky nuance, ‘Amigone Undertakers’. These undertakers who prepped the bodies for a dignified burial were either just a name or a ‘dead pan’ pun on the query ‘Am I gone?’ from the dear departed!
In an age of pervasive selfies, why not an advance textual, selfie on shuffling off one’s mortal coils?