About a week ago, I was at the customary 21 day funeral ritual of a colleague’s wife who passed away rather prematurely. She fought a brave battle against cancer but towards the end, she could hold onto life no more. Hope wasn’t enough to cling on to dear life. The cancer was too strong, and it won. Although death is inevitable, it is shattering when it comes too often and too soon. I often feel that death is just there lurking at the next bend; the thought of it simply sends a chill down the spine. Death is, although an unwelcomed guest, a great teacher. It puts life right into perspective and suddenly you are a magnifying glass, a scanner, a mirror. You seem to register even the tiniest of matter and hear the faintest of sounds. Suddenly you are there, in a state of above-consciousness. You are there and yet you aren’t there. You are over and above yourself, looking down on your own pity self bombarding yourself with a volley of inquisitions. I say inquisition because the strength and depth of inquiries annoy you, strips you of all ignorance and for a moment, you are on the path to the coveted state of Nirvana. But then you are back on earth with your worldly proceedings. You wish you were not you, you wish you were some awakened beings. But in the end, reality is the truth. You are just there reading and I here writing.
Now, back to where I started. I was there amidst the solemn faces and melancholic sounds of the ritual instruments, seated under a betel tree ruminating about reality – lost in silent contemplation; the essence of life; the impermanence of life; the uncertainty of life; and the pain of the end of life.
The somber atmosphere on the day had my mind churning up a million thoughts and a million questions. It roused the petty poet in me, and I was there churning out this poem albeit on the pages of my mind. Today, in retrospect, I take it down on black and white to etch it onto the pages of my blog – my almost half-dead blog – for it to remain there for eternity. The power of words, the simplicity of language, the vast depth of the meaning, I only wish if all readers could feel the feel that I have felt that day.
So it begins…
In the southern foothills of the malarial plains
Under a doma tree I mused on human gains
The air was a heavy hot and humid mix
Still and blank I stared needing a fix.
Through the thicket of the greens, birds sung
In the vastness of the sky, ghostly clouds hung
The burden of the somber day, in the lowly clouds I did see
Beyond the yonder clouds, I pray sure heaven-bound is she.
In a collection of weighty hearts and welled up eyes
Your mind is a wounded and broken bird, yet it flies
Scaling peaks and diving troughs in an aimless flight
For we know that she battled with hopes at high height.
Heavenly sounds of drums, shell, oboe and cymbal
Well-wishers in prayers and fingers on the beads ever nimble
The heavenly sounds playing a fitting track to the profound prayers
Serene and marooned row prayed her through the bardo layers.
Every lip in the sanctum worked the prayer mill in unity
Calling for the guidance and grace of the holy trinity
Each time my reverie was broken when the clapper hit the bell
Petrified was I of my deeds that would have me dragged down to hell.
As the heavenly sounds lulled and faces thinned into the rain
I was but all bared to the death-induced pain
The most universal of all truths that all beings will have to pass
But all we care when living is the feel of a fair lass.