Last year had a strange and sombre beginning, near the end of April I heard the news of an uncle’s sudden demise in his 60s. My friend had to bring his deceased body home from New York by herself. Words had left me stranded and every life lesson I had gathered in the 26 years of my life did little to equip me with the right things to say.
What are the right things to say in such times anyway, when a life has left the sublunary realm and moved on to a place of no return?
The shock of the news had me shriveled into a small ball. More so, because, since the moment I heard the news, I couldn’t do much else but think of my friend and the mountainous weight that must have set on her heart.
The clock kept ticking and the days went by with a new sunrise and sunset. She was here, with her father to be buried. I stood by, and like a selfish young child, thanked the heavens above for my own father’s health.
It was the age, too young for the earth to be its wrap -- and, that is what I told myself to console my fatigued nerves, carrying the consciousness of life’s fragility. Gone, too soon, and so the hurt was too chafed.
Months strolled in, and, one July morning, at the break of dawn, my grandfather, in his early 90s, passed away. I was home, on his bed, helping him breathe as he struggled for air. It felt as if he had died in my arms. In disbelief, I sat. Is this it? Is there no coming back? Has life left, left us all? He lived a full life, did more than most of his children and grandchildren combined.
So I consoled myself thinking just that, but it still ached to know why the room no longer needs the fan, why the television set is turned off. In his last days, under the clasp of fever and old age, he looked fragile and his frame became smaller than a child’s.
Months strolled in, and one fine day, news broke that one of the mayors of Dhaka was no more.
The city fell apart in a disarray of haphazard emotions, as the deceased 65-year-old body of one the most energetic and promising politicians in our history was brought home to be laid to rest.
I, with most other Dhaka dwellers, fell under a cloud of lament. It was hard to believe that a man who I had met a little more than a year earlier, back then, who spoke with such vigour and energy, had left us.
Months strolled in, a new year began.
We strolled through a month onto the next, and I heard news of Sabah khala’s sudden demise at the age of 49 on a February afternoon.
I remembered her as one of the more beautiful faces at family dawats, a woman who remained a mystery to me, who always sang in melodious rhythms, but went away, with no warning or caution, forever, to some other place.
Death came back to haunt my family, lurking a bit too close. And, again, I thanked the heavens above for my good health and the time I have in this world. After a little more than two weeks, a mail from the HR department at my workplace informed us about the demise of a journalist -- he had died at the age of 33.
He was soft-spoken and one of those rare gentlemen who would ask too politely for something. In my case, he had asked if I wanted to play a match of table tennis with him at our workplace rec room. I eagerly obliged as many times I had the fortune to do so. The news of his death reverberated in the office building, and, once again, death seemed too close for my comfort.
Whenever it comes, and however it chooses to creep up on you, wouldn’t it be better if we lived our last days in kindness, aware that life is fragile and the end may as well be near?
Within a few days, more than 50 lives left this sublunary realm in the largest aviation-related accident in our nation’s history. A first of its kind, in terms of scale, the loss had left the country bewildered in angst and sorrow.
My Facebook newsfeed had posts of the loss of people too familiar, too young -- and life seemed, again, all too fragile, like a glass animal.
Last week, news broke of two Garo women being found dead in their apartment in the city. Could it have been a feud related to ethnicity? Could it have been the way this country treats its indigenous community? Whatever it was, lives had once again been lost, and there is no return.
Countless others have died in between these deaths here in the city I live in and around the globe, but on the night of March 12, I imagined how it could have been any one of us on that plane, I imagined how it can be any of us anywhere dropping dead, moving onto another realm.
It’s nothing revelatory, but every time death comes around, either expectedly or unexpectedly, the living are forced to count their blessings, to take a moment to appreciate life as it is, and realize just how temporary life is. The living are left to live on, with a heavier heart.
In the wake of BS211, when we have been coerced by an unimaginable loss to mourn for a national tragedy, I believe it is yet another reminder for the living to value life, to do our very best in our already numbered days, and most importantly, to be kind to one another.
We are on the clock, death can be looming in the building you are in, waiting to eat you whole, or it can be kilometres away trudging its way to claim your soul.
Whenever it comes, and however it chooses to creep up on you -- in disguise of health failure, accident, or murder -- wouldn’t it be better if we lived our last days in kindness, aware that life is fragile and the end may as well be near?
Be kind, always, for no one knows what deaths may come.
Nusmila Lohani is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.