Aasha Mehreen Amin
Where do people go when they die? A question we ask ourselves regardless of what we have been indoctrinated by; religious texts give us some inkling about the afterlife yet they are still not enough to completely quell that nagging curiosity to know what really happens. When someone you love or know passes away it is most natural to wonder whether we will ever see them again. Death takes away in an instant, the security that we take for granted, that our loved ones will always be there to support, guide and keep us going. No matter how old or ill they are, the extent of grief does not lessen, for there are some people in our lives we want, even expect irrationally, to live forever.
A few days ago a close friend of mine had come to Dhaka with her sister to sell off her parental property; her father had passed away quite a few years ago and recently her mother had died too and since both daughters lived abroad, selling the house was the most practical thing to do. I did not realise the heartbreak involved until I saw my friend's face, ashen with grief as if her mother had died all over again. Selling the house meant letting go of all their childhood memories, all those precious moments they shared as a family, most of all, whatever little that connected them to their parents, especially their mother who was an exceptional woman, beautiful, gracious, loving and so independent that she would rather live all by herself in her own house in Dhaka than live with her daughters abroad. She lived alone with a few home workers and kept herself busy looking after the house, meeting her friends and basically living life as best as she could without giving anyone any trouble. She was a remarkable woman who left the world as gracefully as she had entered it. I did not know how to console her daughter or the sons and daughters and grandchildren of another lovely woman who suddenly died of massive cardiac arrest recently. It would sound so insensitive if I said they would someday see her or that she was in a better place. Who was I to say that, what did I know? So I kept silent, although I did want to tell them as their tears flowed unabated that people did not just disappear from one's life, they lived on in the memories they leave behind, in the work they have accomplished, the love they have showered on others and the genes that they have transferred on to their children and children's children.
Last week has been a sad one with the news of bereavement coming one after the other. Phone calls for me these days bring about a sense of dread, as it is often to bring the news of grave illness, accident or death of someone I know. A colleague called to inform me that one of our dear contributors, well known playwright Sayeed Ahmed had passed away in the early hours of the morning.
Most of my interaction with Sayeed Ahmed was limited to a few phone calls when he or his dear wife Parveen Ahmed (also a contributing writer) would call regarding articles he had sent to the magazine. Although a close friend of my parents and a celebrity, I remembered him especially from my childhood BTV obsessed days, which allowed me to watch “Biswa Natok”, a programme he hosted where he would introduce adapted plays from around the world. But it was much later when he started writing for The Star that I realised the versatility of his talents. A trained sitar player and a talented playwright, Sayeed Ahmed had travelled all over the world to take part in musical recitals, give lectures and attend various theatre events. He met well-known artistes -- playwrights, musicians or film directors, quickly forming friendships with his charm and wit, a glimpse of which I would get during our short conversations over the phone. A stroke had caused his speech to be a little impaired but he would always insist on speaking himself and despite his obvious difficulty his mind was just as agile and alert as before. Only the day before his death I had been leafing through one of his write-ups that we were to publish later with the flamboyant title of 'Atash Bazikars of Dhaka' about the craftsmen who made firecrackers for special occasions in Old Dhaka where he grew up. Now I realised with shock, it would be published posthumously.
Death is the most devastating inevitability that no one is prepared for but something that must be accepted. As humans we must make space for the others to come; the only thing we can do is try to leave behind something good to keep the memory of our existence alive.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010