Corona times are un­fair to life, and in death

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - NEWS - Sanna K Gupta san­ The writer is a Hoshiarpur-based free­lance con­trib­u­tor

Death is in­evitable. But in these corona times, a new or­der has been set in the rit­u­als of death. I got this queasy feel­ing soon af­ter hear­ing the news of ac­tor Ir­rfan Khan last month-end. I’m con­di­tioned to see­ing a fu­neral pro­ces­sion of public fig­ures such as an ac­tor or a politi­cian on tele­vi­sion for clo­sure. The ab­sence of it left me dis­traught.

As some­one who didn’t know Ir­rfan per­son­ally, watch­ing the last rites be­ing broad­cast is the way I’m con­di­tioned to bid­ding farewell to a public fig­ure. Sadly, there was none of it, ex­cept the news that he had died. His demise fu­elled the irony that corona times are not only un­fair to life but also in death.

Shouldn’t the fi­nal send-off be be­fit­ting to the de­ceased’s stature? The an­swer is, yes. But cur­fews, lock­downs and so­cial dis­tanc­ing norms have taken away the som­bre ro­man­ti­cism as­so­ci­ated with fi­nal farewells. They have van­quished tra­di­tional send-offs and brought in a new or­der where death has been ren­dered to just an­other event.

Be­fore I could fin­ish mourn­ing Ir­rfan’s death, along came the news of the demise of ac­tor Rishi Kapoor on April 30. The sec­ond con­sec­u­tive bad news also made me re­alise that these two deaths had sud­denly given a face to the name­less de­spon­dency that ev­ery­one was go­ing through. They gave a vent as I’ve never seen the world unite like this on so­cial me­dia to of­fer con­do­lences.

The out­pour­ing con­jured a be­fit­ting farewell to the two ac­tors. I started see­ing so­cial me­dia posts as a fu­neral pro­ces­sion. I felt flow­ers were be­ing re­placed by words, prayer meet­ings with si­lent prayers, and eu­lo­gies by Face­book and Twit­ter obit­u­ar­ies; very dif­fer­ent to the tra­di­tional send-offs.

In the West, peo­ple in­vest in fu­neral funds be­cause ev­ery­one wants their life to be looked at as a cel­e­bra­tion at the time of their death. Some even choose their place of burial. Alas! A new, equal or­der has been set. For in­stance, the fu­neral pro­ces­sion of a friend’s fa­ther around the same time had the same num­ber of peo­ple as the two celebri­ties. That death is a lev­eller never rung so true!

With strict laws in place, the num­ber of peo­ple al­lowed has au­to­mat­i­cally brought the num­ber to the peo­ple who mat­ter in your life. Maybe that’s how it should be, but I think, even peo­ple who go to fu­ner­als merely to mark their at­ten­dance play a role. It feels sad not to be able to of­fer con­do­lences per­son­ally to friends who have faced death in their fam­ily dur­ing the lock­down. No words can ever re­place a lov­ing hug, an as­sur­ing pat or a shoul­der to cry on. Grief is some­thing that needs to be shared with hu­mans not on vir­tual screens.

As much as I’m search­ing for answers to this new nor­mal, I think Yam­raj should fol­low the rules of the lock­down and post­pone his com­mit­ments un­til we can meet our friends and share their grief.

I’m still not con­vinced with this new or­der in death.


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