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The mortality talk — (ii)

Image credit — Google Images

As Mum goes back to her stitching and Dad gets busy on his phone, the news of sudden death of Mum’s distant cousin sinks in slowly. Mum keeps guessing the cause of death, remembering how sick one can get with stress & tensions. She checks her phone, tells Dad not to post anything about in on a family WhatsApp group and checks facebook for updates from the extended family. As the Indian lilac leaves rustle in the soft cold wind, and the sun beams through a cloudless sky, the inevitability of death seeps its realisation quietly into this moment. So does the surprise of its suddenness.

I have sometimes wondered, why are we so ill prepared of death. The end of life is the biggest certainty. And yet when the news of someone’s demise arrives, it is mostly accompanied by shock, surprise and curiosity. The moment one hears of a person passing on, the next question is, how? If the how has not been confirmed, speculation takes its place. Must be stress. Or a bad lifestyle. Can it be old age? Was he/she that old? Did they have financial troubles?

Gradually, as those questions get answered in the following minutes with corresponding information, people start remembering the person gone, his/her qualities, the last visit, the last discussion, the missed opportunities to meet, the best characteristics, the best moments spent together, the anguish, even the pain. Mum, while delicately threading pearls on a client’s dress, reminisces her young cousin, the close dates of their weddings, her kids, her difficult marriage years. She drafts a list of features she can recall from their childhood together. She pauses, goes back to her phone, then mentions the last time she met her in the 80s.

As heartbreaking as it feels, I ponder, about my Dad and his absence. It makes me uncomfortable, like a suffocating thought that you want to get rid of and never recall again. But it stays. The harder you try, the longer it sticks.

Dad has so much warmth and laughter inside him, that throughout his life, everyone he’s met, has always recalled his cheerful nature. His ability to always get stuff done, never shy away from going out, and keeping the spirits of his company alive, has earned him the tag of the most jovial member of our family. And that’s always going to stick for him.

I look up to Dad and he’s busy with his phone, still. I keep looking at him, embracing this moment, as it is. The sun shines brighter, the wind stronger, and the leaves rustle more. Dad adjusts the chair moving it towards the shade, asks Mum if she wants to speak to her cousin’s family, texts her brother, and checks WhatsApp. I just keep observing him.

He turns to me and says, “Bring the cheque book packet; have some bank work for you.” I get up and bring it to him. Dad and Mum have some transaction talk, he fills up a form, hands me the documents and tells me to deposit some cash in Mum’s account. “I’ll get your passbooks updated too,” I quip. “Do that yes. Anything else you need from outside?,” he asks Mum. “I’m good”, she adds.

I collect the documents, pick up the helmet and the two-wheeler keys, brushing aside any other thought.

“I’ll be back soon,” I say. “Okay. Khuda hafiz,” says Dad.

That thought’s gone, for another day. Another time.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. The first part of this mortality talk can be read here —

This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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