Death of a friend

The maestro of Urdu ghazal, Mirza Ghalib, had a life full of suffering. When none of his own children survived, he adopted his wife’s nephew, who also died at a young age. This tragedy led him to write one of the most painful ghazals ever written. I’m sharing a few couplets:            

lazim tha ki dekho mera rasta koi din aur                   
tanha gaye kyun, ab raho tanha koi din aur       
jaate hue kehte ho qayamat ko milenge              
kya khoob! qayamat ka hai goya koi din aur     
haan ae falak-e-peer jawan tha abhi Aarif         
kya tera bigadta jo na marta koi din aur?            

The agony of losing someone close to us leaves us beyond repair. We try hard to forget, but there remains inside us a void until death takes us too. Death exists with us and around us as a fine reality, but it always keeps us unsure about its timing.                        

This last Friday, one of my closest friends passed away. He suffered a massive cardiac arrest and never made it. It was devastating for our close and extended circle-of-friends to realize that a young man of 20 who had spent a great part of his life with us was no more.

The world for him and the world between us had come to an abrupt end. The thought of his death brought back painful memories that we shared and regret that he left with a million dreams unfulfilled. At his grave, we were all silent.

The deafening silence that we adorned meant that we understood how broken we were and how our emotions needed to stay unexplained. Our friend, like all those who leave and have left us, died with secrets left inside him. But it was shocking to imagine that his secrets were young, like his young body. They died with him, like him: young and unfulfilled. God, I cannot imagine.                               

Death is perhaps the only subject that continues to fascinate writers to this day. Even though the literary giants through all the times have attached themselves to the subject a great deal, the most important questions associated with death still remain unanswered.        

When Murakami said that death existed not as the opposite, but as a part of life, he precisely meant that it existed within our being. For many of us, whether we are religious or not, doing good deeds in life means getting rewarded in the afterworld.

Thus our life revolves around death in a way. Similarly, Edgar Allan Poe, whose literary works had a constant presence of death and melancholy themes, also thought that death was not the end of life. In The Premature Burial, Poe writes, “The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” To Poe, death had a metaphysical meaning. ‘Death’ dominated the works of Dostoevsky as well.

In Crime and Punishment, life and death appear as dominant themes. In our part of the world, death is the only constant thing. Over a long period of time now, we have been seeing death as a normal. We eulogize the martyrdom of our young while also giving them a bridal farewell. We see death as a process, of transcendence as we play our part in making our ‘worlds’ better- here and over there.                 

At the grave of my friend, these questions kept me bemused. As our circle-of-friends will meet tomorrow, we will never meet with the same enthusiasm as we used to.

His death made us alone in our lives and it may take a long time to fill the void. Until it is our turn, perhaps. How do we grieve your loss, my friend? This grief of yours stuns us. Rest in peace, Sajid Javaid.                                
kitne hi ped khauf-e-khizan se ujad gaye                 
kuch barg-e-sabz waqt se pehle hi jhad gaye     
~Anis Moin.