It was just one of those mornings when you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror and life hits you smack in the thought, “What purpose does your life hold anyway? Why don’t you just roll over and die?” The casual passing thought of death fails to unnerve me anymore. I tried to flush down the thought with all the other morning shit.
I am a morbid person by nature. I think about my impending death at least 20 times on a Sunday, so you can imagine other days.You are sitting down working in your cubicle while your mind wants to running in mad hysteria screaming down the aisle like a town crier informing people of an oncoming storm “How many of You people are alive? How many of you people are really alive?”
I went on with my day like nothing was on my mind. There is something comforting about your daily routine which lets you sleepwalk through your day because you have done it a hundred times before. That’s the feeling I had when I left from home that morning.
The morning rush of office going robots make it all too easy to follow the same dreary routine. As I starting walking down the same path I always took, I recognized an unfamiliar stench.
I looked around to find the source of the stench. It came from a dead cat lying at the side of the road and I went towards it to inspect it. I had never seen a dead cat before so I began checking for signs of life. The chest wasn’t heaving. Its eyes were wide open. It had to be dead. There was a man sitting next to its body. I looked at him and said, “This one is dead, isn’t it?”
He looked offended, but recovered and said, “It’s not dead, it’s sleeping.”
To further prove his point he began nudging the cat to wake it up. The cat didn’t wake up. He began to tap the cat wild with bewilderment constantly repeating, “Get up! Get up!”
Then he took it in his arms and began sobbing over it. I hurried off. I was shaken but not stirred, not yet.
The day at work passed uneventfully as it always does. The boredom almost makes me understand why people do weird antics knowing well they would get fired for that from the job. I didn’t do anything obviously but I understood it well.
As the day was about to draw to a close I received a call saying that we had to go visit our old grandfather who had contracted cancer and had only months to live. I rushed over with a sense of foreboding.
When I reached the place the mood was a sombre one. Not the one which is just silent, but one which has impending disaster waiting at the end of a prolonged silence. I saw the reason for it. There a doctor bending over my frail grandfather’s body inspecting it.
He just shook his head and whispered to the elders at the side that any moment could be the last. I walked up to my grandfather like a person would to pay his last respects. I wanted to remember that moment forever so I took every measure to notice everything.
I began to look at the moment the same way I saw the cat. I searched for signs of life to know he was alive. The chest was barely heaving the nostrils barely breathed a breath. I found myself timing my breaths with his just to know how it must feel. The only sure sign on life were his palms which he held tight.
He kept loosening his palms and closing them shut again, I imagine he was in a tug of war with death himself. I just couldn’t figure what made him want to hold on. This thought bothered me till I could take it no more. I wanted to just wry his palms open and tell him to let go, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that either. Cursing myself I walked away from him.
The doctor said that we should let him rest for the night and we could see him later on. But to everyone it sounded like, “He’s going to his final rest. I hope you said your last goodbyes”
Nobody spoke on the way. When we reached home the family sat eating dinner and dealing with things the easiest way possible by switching on the TV and watching anything that comes on it. No one was really looking as much as they were just staring at the screen hoping that our thoughts would just go away. Mine didn’t.
‘TV death’ this phrase kept repeating itself in my head like a child that has learnt its first words and keeps repeating it. When could take it no more I stood up and declared that I had to go out and take a walk. Nobody protested.
I went to this dark alley near my house frequented by drug addicts and drunkards whose despair I could understand or even share. There was an unused park which had a few steps leading to it’s entrance here I sat and smoked a cigarette while 2 watchmen off-duty, sat down drinking a peg of cheap whiskey from plastic glasses.
One of them resting his palms behind him and stretching his legs looking up at the sky while the other had his hands on the other man’s shoulders and was speaking to him. I presume they were talking about their day.
Then suddenly the man staring at the sky suddenly got up and threw his drink and looked straight at his partner saying in all seriousness, “You want to know what I am thinking? I will tell you what I am thinking.”
He then got down on one knee, took his partner’s hand in his hand in his and began singing
“Salaam-e-ishq meri jaan, zara qubool kar do. Tum humse pyaar karne ki zara si bhool kar do.”
He fumbled in his drunkenness and inched closer to his partner’s face.
The other man looked at me awkwardly and caught me smiling. The other man held his chin and made sure they could only look into each other’s eyes. The shy man smiled shed his inhibitions and threw his arms around his partner, kissing him.
They stood up rejoicing and I found my mood considerably uplifted and I began clapping for them.
They looked at me and laughed as they took a swig from their whiskey bottle. Then waving me goodbye they put their arms around their shoulders and walked off into the darkness of the street.
I found myself walking off feeling lonelier that I had ever felt with nothing but my own mind for company. But now it didn’t seem to matter. I began humming ‘Love is all you need’ like it was a chant meant to solve something and maybe it did solve something.
As I walked back I saw the same man who was crying about the cat. I couldn’t believe the luck of co-incidence call it what you want. He was sitting by the pavement feeding another cat a few biscuits. I sat beside him and stroked the cat which rubbed it’s head against my leg then went for another biscuit.
“You were right. That cat was dead.” he said.
I nodded. His breath smelled of alcohol too. I wished at that moment that I could be drunk too. But this would do.
“I swore I could never take in another cat to care for.” He continued, “It was not like I didn’t care about these strays anymore. It was not that I swear. I was almost like… like…”
“Like death scared you from showing your love.”
He looked at me and said, “Yes! Fuck. That was what it was. I was scared to lose another person that was close to me. So I decided to not have anyone close to me. But you end up becoming what you are in the end. So here I am again.”
We sat there in silence playing with the cat till the man decided to take an auto home while the cat sat outside his shop. As I walked back home, I felt a sense of profound sadness or joy or a mix of both. I wished I could cry but couldn’t. Yet as I slept that night, I was just glad that this day was not like every other day.