Today has been a bizarre day. It brought in the thought, sight and sound of death. Of all days, I chose today to revisit my poem "Totentanze," published in Dance Macabre Issue XXXIV. I had written the first draft of the poem when I was sitting in a hospital one day, looking at my grandfather's bag of bones lying on a clean sheet. I wondered what the tubes running in and out him were for. They kind of looked beautiful as they crisscrossed in red and white, going here and there, and looked like American freeways seen from some height. I had sent this poem to Danse Macabre when they called for submissions on the theme "Dance of Death."
Propelled by self-love and the desire to re-read one more of my published poems, I read this one again today. No sooner had I finished reading it than a mail arrived from a friend informing me of the suicide of a girl we know of. The reasons for which the girl terminated her life, and the several ways in which those reasons could have been better engaged with by her family came and hit me like a tidal wave. I refrain from sharing more here for fear of disrespecting her privacy. But this girl, whom I did not get to meet, will haunt me as do several others who have given up their lives because they love differently than the majority of the world does and that is somehow a problem for the world.
The afternoon, as casually as it smothered me with its salty summer stillness, brought in the news of someone else's death; someone who was old and had suffered. As I went to pay my respects, I could not help thinking of this grand old mystery that is death. Faces of all those whom death has plucked away from me flitted past my mind's eye. They almost appeared in front of me suspended in the solidness of the afternoon summer heat. Faces. Not voices. As I wrote somewhere else,
"Death smelled of a million things.
Of coffee from a half-drunk cup, the soap
that smoothed out the fall in the bathroom,
the old starch of the saree that strangled,
the car perfume fighting the blood stench
on the steering wheel, etc.
But mostly death was sound for me. It took
voices away. Many dear ones I mourn,
I have forgotten how they sounded.
I hear them in my own voice now,
as if reading them from a book..."
If there is a most respectful way to remember the dead, I would give anything to learn it. Until then, the aspiration should suffice, I guess. That and the desire to love and honour the living.