Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Man who Certified Death

"He is dead" he said.

"He is dead?" They repeated.

"He is dead" he asserted

"He is dead?” they questioned.

"Yes, Yes, he is dead". He declared.

"He is dead", they admitted.

"Can I get a cup of tea while I write my certificate?" he enquired.

"What!" they exclaimed.

Manubhai Patel wondered at these exclamations. He wondered at the fact that a fresh bout of disappointment and despair fills people around him when he declares a person dead. Not like he kills them. When he is called for, the relatives already know the person is dead. They just need a certificate.

But still whenever he proclaims the well-established fact that the person in question is dead or mildly put, no longer alive, there is an expression of surprise and fresh grieve on those faces. As if had he not been that cruel and claimed that the person in question is not dead, he would get a new lease of life. He hated acting god.

Manubhai Patel started his career as a compounder to Zilla Municipal Hospital. His initial duties included prevention of unlawful entry of live humans inside the hospital campus and unlawful exit of dead humans outside the hospital campus. Sometimes he confused between the two that lead to heated arguments and infrequent suspensions.

Over the time on the basis of his matriculation certificate he rose to the ranks of clerk and then to medical officer's assistant over a span of 15 years. But what really bought out his craft was his ability to figure out the faintest of pulses or the mere absence of it.

The medical officer was quick to recognize and nurture this rare talent. In these confines of rural India, death is more frequent than diseases, and the certifying death is a nonprofit but necessary exercise.

But that did not in any way reduce the frequency of death. In a country of billion, too much of happiness called for death, so did too much of sadness. Death was a neutralizer, like an alkali for an acid. In the grant probability of things, it was the mean that kept Manubhai Patel and others busy.

Strange was Manubhai never experienced death. Now people like to believe that death is experienced by only those who die. But in reality it is quite the contrary. For the dead, the death itself is nonexistent. A mere botheration, a comma probably. Surely not a full stop.

But for people who loved him, or pretended to love him, death constitutes a whole chapter of their life. They were actually alive to experience death.

This simple fact was clear to Manubhai, but what puzzled him was how it eluded everyone else. Death is not the opposite of life; it is just a chapter of life. You have a fixed set of rules you need to play by when it occurs and then forgive and forget.

Hence, we come back to our original assertion. Manubhai never experienced death. He had seen people die out of old age, out of accidents, out of love and out of sheer boredom. But they just died without remotely affecting him.

He has sat beside dead bodies when they are shriveled in winter and when they emit a faint smell of rot in the summer. Still the deadness of being always eluded Manubhai like a morning mist after a humid night. One can always see the mist at an approachable distance, but as soon as one reaches that point, the mist conspicuously takes equal steps back to maintain a threshold between themselves.


That day the morning was similar, the mist was just outside the window of Manubhai's home. Outside the gates the mist stirred invitingly. And like wise Manubhai felt enticed. But with 40 years of knowledge by his side, he knew he cannot chase the mist. He sometimes did regret this surety of his knowledge.

But as soon as he begins to trace a path back through his nostalgia, there was an urgent beckoning at his door. Though it may have sounded urgent to you and me, but it was not urgent to Manubhai. He always wondered why people are always in hurry of sharing the knowledge of someone's death. As if it was not told within a certain limit of time, the dead will rise again, and question the lethargy amongst his relatives.

The dead will stay dead for the rest of their life or better say rest of their death. So Manubhai calmly got up from his armchair and took measured steps towards the door, like a schoolboy does while approaching the final steps of the school gate. As if deliberately delaying the entry to the school he can somehow magically, quicken the out time.

It was still daybreak when Manubhai dressed hurriedly with his briefcase with broken left lock clutched between his shoulders approached on his journey to nearby village to certify a death.

In first glance, she looked 17 or so, but that is just because the heavy makeup crusting her expressionless face. One careful look revealed she is not beyond 11. Draped in a starched cotton sari, which looked rich enough to respect the dead but not rich enough to be wasted on a funeral pyre. She lay at the center of the room, unperturbed by the commotion and squabble all around her.

Her half smile on face was like an inner joke she was sharing with death that we mortals were denied to know or understand. It’s kind of maturity that just comes with death. He knew this smile from all the dead faces he has scrutinized over period. It’s like a game they play with him, and once he stayed back till the person was charred to skull and few bones in the pyre before he wrote off the death certificate.

Two basil leaves adorned her closed eyes as guarding the last secret of her thought like hell hounds. Suddenly, he felt the immense urge to see her eyes, to understand that secret. He copiously looked around the ill-furnished hut to find a picture of her that will tell him the color of her eyes. He needed to know the color of her eyes, as if it is the ultimate answer to all the questions that need answers.

He grappled a bit for her left hand under the sheets of shroud. Her cold palm still retained a bit of the moisture that death forgot to seep out. Etched deeply were the long lines of life and fortune that failed to keep their promises. Still with a frantic hope Manubhai punched on her array of veins to chase an elusive lub dub that he believed existed. She could not cheat her of the secret, she needed to tell her everything she knew and he needed to know. She was the lover he never had, she was the daughter he always craved, and she was the teacher he wanted to obey.

But there was calmness in her veins, there was a silence inside her that wise men down the ages wanted to own. But for her it was just everyday silence, which comes with the responsibility of holding a secret.

A tap on his shoulder made him conscious of his surroundings. With the rising heat of the sun, the body was starting to rot, and it is time they will take her away from him. Even the eyes of customary mourners were running dry. He knew the only thing stopping them from carrying her away was his signature. She was not dead until he proclaimed her to be.

He was her god; he needed to let her be dead for her death to be complete. But sadly, there was a gap between death and life, and as much his power be from stopping her for being dead, he was powerless to drag her back to life. It was just an infinitive existence in between, a limbo.

So Manubhai Patel sat there with a bunch of coarse papers and a pen full of ink, when he realized, they who pretend to worship him has the power to take away life, he was just granted the power of death. So it will be he who will have to grant death to his lover, his daughter and his teacher, because he was the make believe god of death.

"She is dead?” he questioned.

P.S: Shhh...I am like hiding from bullshit in this mystical city of Gujarat known as Vadodara...Wonder Wonder...bullshit still follows me i got nothing better than to share it up with you.

You know solitude can force a man into great depths of thought...actually every person always passes out into his or her thoughts, but most of the time an outside intervention jerks him off to reality...but the best part about solitude is the absence of intervention...which leads you to drown inside certain darkness you dont want to intrude...i guess thats why people daydream most on toilets...toilets are therefore greatest invention to mankind..

imagine...we were perfectly happy species doing out chores in the field and day dreaming...and suddenly one day we found that privilege snatched wen our neighbour cam to the fields and hunched beside us...and then start talking about last night's dinner...i mean who wants that kind of intrusion...hence we build ourselves a toilet just so that the first thought of the day is reserved in solitude...

But i am all alone i do my business with the toilet door open and its self revealing...its kind of dramatic too...anyways back to the point...lately i am thinking a lot about death...getting scared with it and den getting desperate to the point that i want to get over death now and here...and den again..i m curling myself up in a ball and sleeping on and off...but i guess thats thats normal..isnt it? please dont tell me otherwise...

and wen you think about death, you write about death...actually writing is the best way not to think about death, because wen you write about death, you start to think about the plot and then stop thinking about death....but now that i am done with writing and publishing the post...i will have to think about death all over again...but den again i can just kill myself and stop thinking about death...but den i will be death already...kinda loses the point...anyhow...jabber jabber!! wat do u think?? wat i wrote that even fiction or does that even meant anything to u? critic me please, will you?


Suruchi said...

You've given me soooooooo much food for thought that I almost don't know what to say*and yet you'll see what a long comment this would turn out to be*

The narration was awesome like always-I guess once you attain the flawless writer image, that you have in my eyes, it is difficult to shrug off. Some of the lines are outstanding and quote worthy.

I liked what you feel about death...We do experience death though when loved ones die-a separation from a life, would that not be death?

And yes, you are normal-as normal as solitude can leave thou with :D
Think less, get would come only when it has to and reveal things only when it must.

nil said...

"Her half smile on face was like an inner joke she was sharing with death that we mortals were denied to know or understand. It’s kind of maturity that just comes with death. " ---> What a beautiful line.

MAN. I have to say, this was so dark, gory and gorgeous. There were a lot of lines that made me stop and re-read them, because they just made so much sense.
Might I also add, you're back with a bang. And I hope you write a little more often, because you, my friend, indeed have made me think a huge deal, after this post.

buckingfastard said...

@suruchi: yet again...i can expect you to be super generous as always.

trust me death is a big thing...there are pretty small stuff that gives us loads of food for thought...well atleast enough thought for me to daydream my day off..

about death yes, i think death is more relevent to us only wen we r alive...and death of loved ones are the game changers really..they kind of ultimately builds our own perception of death...

and finally...i am hanging out here with all my might till my neck breaks

buckingfastard said...

@nil: u have no idea abt the amount of respect i have for people who use the word 'gorgeous' with 'dark' and 'gory'...

haha...never expected anyone to say it made so much that is as big as a compliment that can be...

and thou not sure about the bang..but i m back alright..just a bit shy to get out of the shadows

manisha said...

Just the mere thought of death makes people so scared,to have gone a step ahead and pen a piece of fiction on death is amusing! Great job!
Loved the analogy between death and mist..
"Her half smile on face was like an inner joke she was sharing with death that we mortals were denied to know or understand" Amusing!

Loved the subtle irony in the last sentence:
"She is dead?” he questioned.

Nikita Banerjee Bhagat said...

Death is always interesting, at least to a writer. I love the way you have started the narrative. Very interesting!

der Bergwind said...

isn't death really the ultimate solution; eventually doesn't the 'romance in bliss' of a life get mired?
nice read... been back after a long time

buckingfastard said...

@manisha: the fact is death is one thing that we think about the longest part of our love...we dont fret about anything more than death...

and as u cant possibly begin or end to despair abt death...u need to be subtle about does lurk in the shadows :)

buckingfastard said...

@nikita: yea i guess the start is the high point of the story..even i loved the emotions of the start..though is sacrilegious to like self writes...after that it was pretty much downhill :P

buckingfastard said...

@der Bergwind: been back after a long time will be an understatement...welcome back after an ERA!! :D