Oh yeah, it’s time for that annual sojourn and plan a trip someplace. London, Paris, New York, Geneva, Rome? ad nauseam? yawn?.. How infinitely boring and predictable! The same old places, the same old monuments to ignorance and mendacity, the guano-spattered bronze/marble busts/statues of some best-forgotten schmucks of yore smirking down for all posterity while the unfortunate klutzes mill around – posing, smiling and clicking with their Nikons, the bland and inedible food at outrageous prices?.pretty much routine & mundane stuff that one can indulge in while on vacation!
After slogging it out for 70 days in a row and some 20 days of vacation staring me in my ugly mug, I need something radically better, don’t I? Probably it’s time to hightail it to some exotic place in the Caribbean or S. America or the Orient and take in some peace and quiet, substituting those Hail Mary’s for some Bloody Marys? Hmmm? sounds alluring, doesn’t it? But on second thoughts, no sir, I’ll pass!
Numero uno, the cost factor is prohibitive and stands way high up on that list! Couple that with a remuneration that advances at creep-speed and you might just about have an inkling of what I’m talking about! To top it up, despite the booming economy all round my career hasn’t taken off into the stratosphere as envisioned when I’d inked my contract! Yup! I should have known better that I’m a just another klutz – it probably runs in the family! No excuses there! And oh, everybody else’s grey matter jells with that of Stephen Hawking, except mine of course! To add insult to injury, Uncle Sam’s greenback is losing its clout thereby depreciating other currencies linked to it, spiraling inflation and whatnot. Probably there has to be some correlation between that and global warming? No wonder everybody’s tempers are rising and I’m no exception! Oh yeah, sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction, cant it?
My gasket seems to have sprung a leak and I can feel the back-pressure build-up! Ah! The wife seems to have taken on the crusade of weeding out my only vices – puffing and chugging on a beer or two. Oh, how she knows that I love my daily beer alongside my daily bread! But sadly, I suppose that even after almost 8 years of near-blissful wedlock and a couple of years of courtship prior to that, she fails to realize that I can resist anything but temptation! Nonetheless, the poor soul relentlessly perseveres and God bless her for that! I’m sorely tempted to feel that cool refreshing brew down my gullet, now, but rather than risk some higher octaves I decide not to fall prey to my vices for a change!
"Relax" I tell myself. I head out for a long walk to ease off the tension building up inside. A bit of peace and quiet, far-flung from the hustle and bustle of city life would definitely do me a world of good! Palms jammed deep down in my pockets I amble rather aimlessly, deep in thought and oblivious to everything else around me. But unknown to me, my date with destiny has been cast in stone & I find myself irresistibly drawn to one of the most peaceful places on earth – a cemetery.
Still lost in thought, I amble in and take in the epitaphs:
‘Here lies so and so?. Born on so and so?.. Son of so and so?. Loving husband of so and so?..Gone to the Jolly-Maker on so and so? Leaves behind his sorrowing so and so??.. ‘.
…Why do so many of us bust our chops by working ourselves to the bone, penny-pinch and hanker for the big bucks and material trappings?….
Oh, I’d heard of this fellow, a spindly little miserly geezer who had made his zillions before he kicked the bucket. He was the kinds my mom usually reserves the word ‘Vodlo Munis’ (Big Man) and there I used to think the chap was some sort of a modern day Goliath – somewhere in the vicinity of nine feet on the vertical and four horizontal!
"Vodlo munis nai, poisheywalla, mummy", (not a ‘big’ man, moneyed man, mom) I used to often correct her but she still hasn’t outgrown that habit!
"Hey Uncle Scrooge, bro, your kith and kin – are they really sorrowful, or are they happy to see you rusting in peace so that they can get their paws on your hoarded loot?" I mutter to myself as I go over to the next one. And then to another one and then another??.
‘Step softly, a dream lies buried here’.
"Ah, this chap must have been a dreamer all his life. Did his dreams ever reach fruition or is he still in pursuit, a lost and wandering soul dreaming on? Or is he ruing his lost opportunities as he journeys through eternity?" I wonder.
‘The song is ended, but the melody lingers on’.
"Now there’s definitely a musical lilt to this one. Was this chap some sort of a musician or a philosopher or both ? a touch unsuccessful perhaps?" I ask myself. Strangely, there seems to be a melancholic air to it and the soulful melody is almost audible – like the dead reaching out to the living for some unfinished business or a parting word. Was it telling me something? For no apparent reason, I feel weighed down.
‘Your love will light my way, your memory will ever be with me’.
This one knocks the wind out of my sails with the brute force of a sledgehammer! It is sheer poetry in motion and with its simplicity, speaks volumes and tugs at the vast corners of my heart. She must have loved him so! I can relate to the emotions articulated here and can literally envision that last final leave-taking moment with a loved one amidst the pain and the agony, as the light faded from her eyes on his Final Sunset!
"Is it easy to let go of a loved one, knowing very well that you would never see or touch or have them around you again", I ask myself as an involuntary shudder courses down my spine – as though I feel somebody walking over my grave!
I know the answer & it’s not an easy one to grapple with! The sinking feeling intensifies, probably owing to my vehement state of self-denial about the mortality of my earthly being?
I stroll around and observe more testimonials meant for posterity.
‘Death is the golden key that opens the palace of Eternity’.
‘Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal’.
‘The soul that suffers is stronger than the soul that rejoices’.
That speaks of excruciating suffering and immense pain. Once again I can instantly relate to what screams out from the epitaph, though ingeniously masked it is. The sheer magnitude of emotions displayed, albeit subtly triggers off something in me and registers in that empty void that passes off as my brain!
Hey, hang on a minute! In their heydays, weren’t they blokes just like me? Were they ‘prepared’? For that matter, is it ever possible for anyone to ‘prepare’ oneself for that Final Sunset – especially when it comes creeping up on you like a burglar in the dead of the night?
Were they harried – be it at work or at home or by the mere hectic pace of life? Maybe they had tyrants for bosses – the kinds who think that the sun rises and sets on their posterior orifices and all the hired help are blithering idiots?
Were their wives nagging them each time they reached out for an extra beer or lit up a smoke? Would their wives feign a headache or one those mysterious ailments that precede and succeed that particular ‘monthly maintenance’ time of the month?
Did they too have myriad aspirations, needs and wants, plans for their children, the desire to provide and care for their near and dear ones?
Were they too saving up and planning an exotic trip someplace, an exercise that was religiously done every year but abandoned due to some constraint or the other?
Were they or their loved ones suffering from maladies; something terminal perhaps, which at some point of time would bring about their premature end?
Did they ever think that some fine day their journey through life would come to an abrupt end and another one would one begin?
Sure as hell they did! Dumbo Klutz me! So this is what awaits me and every one of us despite our myriad petty ambitions, wants and needs trials and tribulations after we journey through life, eh? And for what – for a final abode, a 6 x 6 x 4 cubbyhole in which we are to be blissfully ensconced in stygian darkness as we wait out eternity or whatever comes next? And yet, right through our journey through life on earth one has to aspire, to dream, ask to receive, knock for the doors to be opened. But despite your best foot forward and a positive outlook on/in life, will the doors really open? To get someplace, does one need to couple that with some pleading, whining, back-stabbing and scheming as well?
That’s it! My circuitry; which even at the best of times is haywire, is overloaded with these paradoxical notions on the futility of life.
Why do so many of us bust our chops by working ourselves to the bone, penny-pinch and hanker for the big bucks and material trappings? How much does one need in this life to lead a comfortable life in the twilight years? And whatever of the hoarded wealth and assets that remain – the stocks, the bonds, the fancy cars, the jewels, the property and the villas, or loved ones – do we take them all when we go?
Strangely, riding on the cool air I think I hear strains of Ronan Keating croon ? "If tomorrow never comes?.Will she know how much I loved her?Did I try in every way to show her every day?.That she’s my only one?..And if my time on earth were through?..And she must face the world without me?..Is the love I gave her in the past?..Gonna be enough to last?..If tomorrow never comes"
The melancholic strains seem to waft and hover on the mild breeze in the peace and quiet of the cemetery. Sobering thoughts, and suddenly a jaunt to the exotic orient looks as enticing as a bowl of stale and cold porridge with flies buzzing around it. There are more pressing things at hand, loads to do and not much time left coz such is the ambiguity of life!
But for now, there is still life in me and I have my loved ones to cherish and behold. That brings a smile on my wan face. The show must go on. I’m bogged down no more by contemplating on the intricacies of life. I return home much wiser.
Oh yeah, each time I think no end of myself and get complacent, I have indeed found a place worth visiting – a place where Death, the Great Leveler has the last say and the last chortle too! After all, someday, that’s where I’ll lie for all eternity, just as the Good Book says – ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’.
This is once again a work of fiction but the thoughts are real and I’ve often dwelt on them.
The narrative at times might come across as meandering but that’s on account of writing this article sporadically in bursts and spurts over a span of almost a month ? something that I never do!
Someday, sometime there will come a time when my shelf life will be over. It will be my hour of truth – The Final Sunset as I call it & I’ll simply fade into it.
And what would I like to have on my epitaph? With my guarded and yet carefree approach to life and a marked proclivity to be philosophical at times when I’m not irreverently satirical, I guess I’d settle for the following:
I too was young, vibrant and so alive
For many a trivia, I too did strive
Never thought the Final Sunset would contrive
To render me a mere thought in some earthly archive.
Take a good look, my friend, as you stroll by
Alive and kicking, once upon a time was I
From dust to dust; you too shall be like me
That’s the way it is always meant to be.
Author: Chris Rego- UAE