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     Volume 8 Issue 58 | February 20, 2009 |

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Self-obituary of an Incorrigible Fool

Syed Badrul Ahsan

Life must be lived in laughter, in a bit of harmless, self-deprecating fun. What happens, then, if I were to spare my friends the odious trouble of preparing my obituary or sending to the newspapers little copies of my death, along with (don't forget) a copy of my photograph that would not be remarkable and so would not be different from those of all those others who have already gone into their graves? Somewhere there would be mention of all the loved ones I would be leaving behind and a bit of news about a qul khwani or doa mehfil, in that mundane sense of the meaning.

No, I do not have the heart to put my family and my friends to that tedium. And because I don't, here is what I would like to leave behind, as a self-composed obituary, that no one will have to lose time or energy working over. Here it is. You might laugh at it for its pure silliness; or you could feel horrible because of the macabre, in your idea of things, underpinning the entire other item. The choice is yours:

Here lies SBA, under this rural mound of earth, right beside his deceased parents who he gave little of peace when they lived. They loved him, but he was always playing the fool, forever convinced that he was smarter than them. The fool that he was (and the grin he had on his face in death conclusively proved this negative quality in him), he thought he was wiser than the others. People laughed behind his back. He thought they loved him, for he heard their laughter at his back. He was too naïve to know the difference between love and mockery.

But as long as he lived, he tried to be a good soul. He kept falling in love; or you could say some women drew him into snares he thought were love nests. One loved him, so he thought, and then he discovered the terrible tale of how she had been badmouthing him to her tentative western boyfriend. He could have gone to war to reclaim her, but who wants to create a new Troy? And so he turned his back on that woman, forgot her in absolute terms, and went into writing serious editorials for newspapers. And what newspapers! He lies in his grave now, probably recounting to the visiting angels all the newspapers he has worked for, all the pompous owners he ran into, all the cashiers who did not pay him his dues day after day --- until he decided to walk out of the premises.

But that is one side of the story of his dissolute life. He considered himself a bohemian, though his friends thought he was really a vagabond. He had no children and happily did not miss having any. But he loved his nieces and his nephew, almost to distraction. In his grave, he misses them, misses the organised chaos they made of his book-filled room. And those books? He hits the ceiling of his grave everytime he thinks what happy feasting the worms must be doing. His Voltaire, Shakespeare, Tagore, Karen Armstrong --- he surely must be missing them. Worse, there is no light in that grave and the flesh is peeling away from his bones. He lifts a hand and is horrified at seeing the skeleton it has already become. A piece of the bamboo holding the soil over his prostrate body collapses on him. He groans in pain, but no one hears him. He taps on the walls separating him from the resting places of his parents. They make no answer.

Ah, he thinks he sees light at the end of that tomb. There will be a day of judgment, right? Which means he could soon be out of this dark where his family and friends have placed him and expect to be let into paradise by God and his angels? But, then, he has never prayed in his life. Redemption, he knows, is not for him. He lies back, thinking of the beauty of Tunimuni, of the way she called him B and exclaimed 'dhett' every time he irritated her. She must have grown prettier, may even have visited his grave and placed a little rose there as a sign of the quiet passion they shared in silence and stolen glances.

SBA in death is a spoilsport. His siblings and their children sit at table for dinner, with his chair empty. Laughter is gone; and the lugubrious is what has come into the home. It is all his fault. Fool that he was, he died all too soon.

Drops of water seep into his grave, into a face that is soon to be a skeleton. Ah, he reasons as the worms finish consuming the last chunk of his brain, it must be the seasons of floods already!


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