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A reminder of our vulnerabilities

Amid the rat race, we are missing glimpses of the divine in the ordinary

A reminder of our vulnerabilities

FUTILE: There is no mythical success that will make us immortal tomorrow. This tomorrow is uncertain. PTI



AVIJIT PATHAK

Sociologist

EVERY death is a reminder: we live amid uncertainty, and the phenomenal world we take for granted—our power and glory, or our material possessions and success stories—can crumble any time without a prior notice. Yet, even though intellectually we cognise this fundamental truth of our fragile existence, we love to forget it, and carry on our normal activities—participating in the rat race, giving our consent to the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, nurturing our inflated egos, and assuming that life can go on like this. However, when a celebrity dies—and that too at the peak of his/her career, it becomes ‘news’. It becomes difficult to believe that a star with such aura, glamour and wealth can die: the way you and I die every day.

Sidharth Shukla’s demise has shown that death can knock at your door any time, even if you are a star, a billionaire.

No wonder, Sidharth Shukla’s sudden death shatters us. He was young and healthy. He was glamorous; his body used to radiate the fragrance of his fitness; he looked pleasant on the screen; and above all, he was loved by his innumerable fans. Yet, he too could not escape it. In a way, his sudden death makes all of us uncomfortable because at a deeper level it shatters the worldview that many of us accept, adore and normalise: Be ambitious and glamorous, be visible and popular, and be wealthy and eternally young! The fact is that the truth of our fragile existence does not discriminate; and death can knock at your door any time, even if you are a star, a billionaire.

Yes, we loved Sidharth; and we are shocked. And this pain has its own depth and intensity. Whenever there is death—be it the death of our loved ones, or the death of a neighbour, a political figure, an artist, we pass through psychic bewilderment and a sense of loss. And this is also the time for us to send our prayers to his mother. But then, the moot question is: Will it ever be possible for us to live with the full awareness of death, and yet make this very moment—when you and I are alive—meaningful? Or will we continue to censor the idea of death, and assume that life is the way we live with our egos, ambitions, fear, violence and insecurity? Newspapers, television channels and social media will soon forget Sidharth; his fans too will come back to the world—office, career, money, shopping, boozing….

If we live with the full awareness of death, does it necessarily make us pessimistic, ‘other worldly’ and life-negating? Or does it enable us to redefine life, and make it tender, meaningful and soft? It is important to reflect on what we have done with our everyday existence in a world that valourises material success, glamourises egotistic achievements, equates living with ceaseless war, and abhors the idea of ‘slowness’, calmness and tranquility. We are running and running, and adoring the ‘successful’ achievers—billionaires, sports/film celebrities and narcissistic political personalities. Be it our family or our school—we are constantly instructed to be ambitious, competitive and achievement-oriented. Do we really live deeply and gracefully? Or is it that amid this rat race and striving for the mythical ‘success’, we miss the glimpses of the divine in the ‘ordinary’—a sunset, a river flowing, a cup of tea with the whisper of trees, and the art of discovering the ocean in the beloved’s eyes? Is it that we are living with anger and stress, broken relationships and psychiatric drugs, and the chronic fear of losing what we possess—fame, glamour and money? This is the pathology of what we regard as ‘life’.

If we acquire the courage and wisdom to see the entire absurdity of this rat race and accept that the blind attachment to these temporal victories is proved to be meaningless amid death, we need not commit suicide, or promote the cult

of nihilistic meaninglessness. Instead, we can live—and live mindfully and intensely—at this very moment as we walk, read a book, work in the kitchen, or play a guitar. And this very moment becomes eternal and divine; at this moment of intense living, there is no separation: the dancer becomes the dance, the singer becomes the song. There is no mythical success that will make us immortal tomorrow. This tomorrow is uncertain; none can predict it. It is only at this very moment we can transform the mode of living as a celebration filled with love and wonder, humility and creativity. We are not immortal ‘stars’; we are like tiny flowers blooming, and then withering away: the way the floating clouds transform their form, and bless us as monsoon showers.

Generally, we are trained to bribe what organised religions regard as God; we urge Him to arrange a bridegroom for our daughter, a lucrative job for our son, or to perform some miracle to control the blood sugar of our nearest ones. These prayers do not elevate us; nor do these prayers give us the strength to realise that there is no God except the nuanced art of living and dying, and there is no tomorrow when we will become happy. To love is to live at this very moment, and realise the death of ego, or the death of the burden of fame and success.

Can we reimagine our prayers as a kind of preparedness for the merger of life and death, and form and formlessness?


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