Recently, I was reading Like the Flowing River, by Paulo Coelho. True, there were many thought provoking stories in the book, but there was one titled "The Dead Man Wore Pyjamas", which jolted me the most.
Coelho begins the story by stating that he?d read in an online newspaper that a man was found dead on June 10th, 2004, in Tokyo, in his pyjamas. He goes through the various possibly ways in which the man died, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. Then he throws to us what was the most tragic part of the story – that the dead man was merely a skeleton wearing pajamas.
The newspaper beside the dead man was dated 20th February, 1984, and there was a calendar marked with the same date. The man had died almost twenty years before, and no one had noticed. It had taken twenty long years for the world to take notice of both his absence and his presence, after it was brought to light by the media.
Coelho also outlines the various reasons why people had not noticed – the company that employed him had gone bankrupt (and hence did not find it strange when the man hadn?t turned up for work), his wife had divorced him (and hence did not bother to get in contact with him again, which is why she did not learn of his death) and his friends simply thought he?d disappeared because he had borrowed money from them and was unable to pay it back!
There were two things from this story that really shook me up. One was that the man had died ALL ALONE. With no one to care for him, no one to even show him that they loved him. Worst of all, no one who missed his presence enough to enquire about where he?d disappeared to.
To quote author Coelho, "Worse than hunger or thirst, worse than being unemployed, unhappy in love or defeated and in despair, far worse than any or all of those things, is the feeling that no one, absolutely no one, cares about us." I shudder to think how that man must have lived the final moments of his life with that feeling. Even worse (with the belief that once we die, our souls go up to Heaven/Hell and are able to watch over all that happens on earth), how he must have felt up there when he realized that no one missed him for twenty long years, and probably would not have either, if it were not for the fact that the media had brought his demise to light.
And this is the right time to realize how valuable the people who surround and support us are. Let us thank God for the friends we have, and the fact that they love and care for us. For the fact that we are not alone, and that if anything were to happen to us tomorrow, we would be missed.
The second thing was that the man?s mortal remains were returned to his ex-wife. One can only imagine how terrible she must have felt when she learnt of what had happened to the man who had once been her husband.
Coelho wonders what must have been going on in her head for these twenty years, one such thought being whether there was simply no point in continuing a relationship once it has been legally terminated.
True, all of us are humans and have our own weaknesses and strengths. Many a time we have bitter arguments with a loved one, so much so that we decide to terminate the relationship then and there. But, as this story has made me realize, it is important to stay in touch and value the bonds that we have formed.
It matters, both to us and the other party, that we forgive, though we may not fully be able to forget. There is a line from the song Affirmation, by Savage Garden – "I believe the sun should never set on an argument", which is fitting here. Rather than harboring ill-feeling in our hearts, we should ignore the bad and see the good. I know it?s easier said than done. But think what would be worse – a death which no one notices, simply because no one who loves you enough to notice is around, or a few slights that are ignored in lieu of a sense of satisfaction that, at the end of the day, we bear no malice towards others?
Kimberly Fernandes, Qatar
Author: Kimberly Fernandes- Qatar