Death…the Tick Tock Time Bomb

Yama, God of Death

–Tick Tock…Strike One–

I have seen death too many times in my life. He’s been with me all along.

Honestly. Really. Nothin’ to brag about. But it’s true.

I know Lord Yama, the god of death, all too well. I can’t say I like him a lot. But because I’ve accepted the fact that I can never get rid of him, I have resigned to un-dislike him. Or, is it dis-unlike him?

Anyways.

You see, it’s not easy to explain. This guy is like the distant uncle from the village who’d show up at least once a year, totally uninvited, and wouldn’t mind our very obvious unwelcoming gestures…until he decided to travel somewhere else, to be someone else’s guest. Some years, he’d show up even more than once a year. Gosh…really annoying!

What can I say: he’s always been quite whimsical.

When I was a child, I didn’t know him all that well. Growing up, I heard strange tales about him…where he lives…what he does…where he goes…how he makes a living, and all. I never paid close attention to those tales. I never believed I had to. I was least bothered.

Slowly but surely though, his presence became matter of factly. Then, one day, he volunteered to introduce himself. I saw his face up close when I was only in sixth grade. He said to me, “Hello kid…I am your Lord Yama Uncle.” He said, “Pleased to meet you.”

I was speechless.

He said to me, “You don’t look very happy meeting me, do you, kid? That’s okay. I’m leaving you now for a while. But you’ll see me again, don’t worry. I’ll be back.” And just before he left, he grinned, uncannily, and said, “You’ll see me over and over again. You better know me well, kid. Or, you’re gonna be miserable.”

He was right. A few years went by.

When I just got into our M.Sc. program at the University of Calcutta, Uncle Yama for some reason decided he’d now be our guest for a quite a while. Maybe, he didn’t have no other place to visit. Maybe, his village had a drought and he must eat and sleep at somebody else’s house. Maybe, he realized he didn’t see us for a long while and started missing us too much. So, one early summer evening, around seven thirty, he showed up and knocked at our mezzanine apartment door.

In fact, he banged hard. He wouldn’t wait no more.

Ma was dying of cancer. Uncle Yama took her first…and left…

He left…but only for a short while. In Ma’s death, he’d struck a gold mine. He saw with his unearthly, uncanny eyes (see his profile photo above) that this was a place where he could come back now…quite often…over and over again…uninvited…and these people wouldn’t say no to him…couldn’t say no to him.

He knew we were too good and too powerless to dis-un-dislike him.

[…]

(to be continued. please come back.)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

23 thoughts on “Death…the Tick Tock Time Bomb

  1. “He knew we were powerless to un-dislike him.” I love this line! It is a great way to end a “first installment” about a subject that most of us DISlike.

    I really appreciate the sincerity with which you write, and am curious: do you generally write fast, or slowly?

    1. Am I getting a famous writer’s interview, Karen?

      🙂

      Love your writing style also: you know how to make your reader happy…in this case…me 🙂

      I write fast. But I think about it for a long time…slow cook it before I actually sit down and pen it. It’s all there…all the recipés and ingredients and masalas. It’s a lifelong process.

  2. As someone who lives in a body that doesn’t work very good anymore, I am intrigued by death. I would never do anything to shorten my life, but dying to me would be freedom from this body and that is something that I definitely look forward to!

    1. Neva: Very, very touched by what you said here. We’re *all* waiting for the inevitable. In Hinduism, where I belong, death is actually not something to be afraid of: that’s what our scriptures teach us. My problem is that I have not been able to cope with the deaths I have seen in my life — they just have been too many and too unwanted. Will write more. Thanks again for your heartfelt comments.

  3. You may have slow cooked this one before you actually sat down to pen it, yet it’s very hard for me to digest. Can’t just get myself to click on the ‘Like’ button – it’s too sad.

    1. “Like” it or not, it is what it is. Slow-cooked in a deep-down pressure cooker. Raw emotions served. Come back for more; I hope you do. You know me: it’s all truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.

  4. nice composition. interesting idea. you are like Nachiketa or some others who met Lord Yama on their own to seek knowledge of boons. you got his friendship! cheer up. other lords are all waiting for your friendship too.

  5. There is nothing special about death or about lording over it. It is just like permanently shutting down of a computer without having to click. Every minute so many onlinr live computers get permanently shut down and much larger number of new computers get button-pressed to open.

  6. Parth,

    I got a major shift in paradigms when a friend (another bong, wouldn’t you know it..? 🙂 ) explained to me how he views death. I made friends with death that day… and I am at peace.

    Waiting for more.

    Dagny

      1. A pointer. Only, I hope you will not conclude that I am trying to preach. I assure you, I am not. Just giving you a pointer that was given to me. I am passing it on to you merely in the spirit of helping a fellow traveler.

        The peace you speak of, it isn’t out there. It is within.

        But I know you know that, just needed a reminder, perhaps…? 🙂

        Dagny

  7. Time n tide wait for no one they say …..Death is the only guarantee we have in life of life …..breathe in your experiences breathe out your choices ….who knows when it may stop ????..learn to live and live to learn, as we are born to do….life for me is truly all about. making those heart and mind agreements without the need or fear of creating suffering upon anyone or anything on the planet. that’s what Peace on Earth, ‘Good’ will to all men, – Global Peace – is all about. not the end of death, but the living fully to the end, with the least amount of suffering possible….To prevent or eliminate others suffering, we have to make choices that provide safety to Self first, while considering their safety as well. Since only that which is Natural in Nature is beneficial to all Nature, and since we are all born knowing the Natural Truth instinctively, and it cannot be modified, we must pay close attention to what we pay attention too and what we allow inside as intuition, which can be modified by others. If the most Natural choice is made, that automatically is beneficial to all life, then safety is assured to all others. Otherwise, the choice automatically creates suffering…in others as THEIR way to know ‘no’. !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Hi: Thanks for writing. I’m not sure what death means to me…yet. Maybe, I’ll know some time…chances are, there won’t be time to write about it then. Other than death, do we not have any guarantee…anything to depend on? There must be. Love is definitely one such guarantee. I believe it is.

  8. Your piece on death was a whole new way of seeing death for me. I was touched by your writing and felt that I hated this Lord Yama. Trouble is we are not able to escape his eventual visit. I plan on dodging him as long as I can. I have much to do before I let him into my dwelling. I would rather concentrate on living and enjoying life. We all know our fate but I want to concentrate on the adventure of life.

    1. Hi LaDean: I’m greatly impressed by your strong, positive attitude toward life. I share that optimism. Yet, I can’t help lamenting the losses and the way these precious lives were taken from me. I hope you read my continuing episodes on death and other such heartfelt emotions. My only solace amidst this sadness is that all I say is real and true. I hope the honesty creates more awareness and a new way to look at life. Thanks again.

      1. Partho, Lord Yama is such a nice and understanding friend that he visits each person only once and only at the time when the person has completed the person’s menu of activities irrespective of whether such activities were completed or fully satisfying the person. Lord Yama keeps waiting for varying period to meet his different periods till each friend’s basket of work gets full. He does not ever interfere during his friends’ tenure of experiencing life.

      2. So true. In fact, through all these pains and tragedies, I’ve come to believe that he has rescued these people I loved so much from extreme sufferings. The only major gripe I have against him is why is he so whimsical as to which one to choose regardless of their age? When I finally meet him, I shall ask him this very important question.

      3. By the time you meet Him, you may not find your question any longer relevant or interesting. So better to ask yourself and find out why does He appear whimsical or how does He chose. You will certainly get an answer but the answer to the same question will differ from person to person and over time. I tend to think like this: each living entity has at any point of time two possible outcomes for the next time point – continuity of life or end of life. Thus the a priori probabilty is 50:50. So the probability of death at time point T after having lived up to time point T -1 is 0.5. Also, if there are n such living entities at point T-1, and x entities have to stop living in time point T, then there are nCx ways of choosing the x entities. Thus, probability of one particular combination of x entities being chosen (choice w) is 1/nCx. Next level is to think in terms of probability distribution of w. Finally consider that while we indentify each living entity by a name or number, but for Him all entities are indinguishable just like all the nine white coins on the Carrom Board are indinguishable. The He hits with the big strike again and again and some white coins drops in the one or more of the pockets. When you play Carrom do you try to find out how you chose what angle to strike the coins-set with what force and exactly which of the white coins drop in to the pockets. For Lord Yama, the work is only in collecting the coins as they drop in the pockets with care and love. He has no way of deciding the which coins to chose. Even the great striker cannot choose the coins that get dropped in different pockets. He even has difficulty in choosing the angle and the force with which to strike. Even if He had such perfection and accuracy, the way the white coins get arranged on the Board before each strike remains probabilistic and for Him immaterial because He cannot distiguish one white coin from another. He can think the way we can, but His perspective is much more wider than us. The question that arises in our mind from a local, narrow perspective is solved as part of a much larger question of how the entire creation goes on and on with simultaneous new creation. transformation and destruction. So, by the time you meet Him, your current question will get lost in a bigger question that will arise in your mind then. I guess that Nachiketa Story points to the same transformation of question as one evolves from a narrower perspective to a much wider perspective about the Creator, His creation and what goes on in the Creation over time. Maybe I am completely wrong in this but you will still have to find out the answer to your question yourself and need not wait till you meet Lord Yama: much before that you might meet the Lord of Lord Yama.

      4. Dr. Sen: That’s an incredibly novel way to look at it. Never thought about it this way before. The probability question is all-pervasive; however, if you take a more “biased” sample group — such as the poor and the vulnerable — the probability game will not be so much complex. Think of these deaths and these populations I talked about — let’s say, samples taken from those dingy alleys of North Calcutta where I grew up. You could use other samples such as Rwanda, Haiti, old Delhi (the Jama Mosque area) or even here in East Brooklyn — you’ll see similar, more predictable death probability. On the flip side of the coin, let’s say you took population samples from Upper West Side of New York, or the Embassy area in New Delhi, or even in Calcutta the posh Salt Lake area — you’ll see even more predictable death patterns — a less traumatic landscape. Death in the uppity areas, compared to the underbelly areas, is almost an aberration. We can cite countless examples from all over the globe.

      5. You are still in the realm of distinguishing several identities of human beings – individuals and groups. One could look at all human beings as dust particles n relation to the entire Universe and then there is no point is talking about dusts in New York or Kolkata. As for probability, it does not depend on the sample or the population that is constantly changing here. Sampling can get into problem of estimating the true probability. But if the final Lord is bound by a mathematical model that sets the probailities of different occences on its own, there is no need for sampling and estimating probbilities. The Universe may be an integrated and interdependent system. That is why still no oe can stimate the the probability of iccurrence of euath quakes and Sunamis or floods and droughts and cyclones or intense snowfall or spread of viruses that kill hundred of people. So when you are in search of your answer to your question to Lord Yama, you need to do some homewrk on the relationship of deaths with the entire natirau\ral system to makes you question relevant to Him who looks at the death from a much broders perspective of transformation and change that continues in the cretion unabatedly.

      6. You are still in the realm of distinguishing several identities of human beings – individuals and groups. One could look at all human beings as dust particles n relation to the entire Universe and then there is no point is talking about dusts in New York or Kolkata. As for probability, it does not depend on the sample or the population that is constantly changing here. Sampling can get into problem of estimating the true probability. But if the final Lord is bound by a mathematical model that sets the probailities of different occences on its own, there is no need for sampling and estimating probbilities. The Universe may be an integrated and interdependent system. That is why still no oe can stimate the the probability of iccurrence of euath quakes and Sunamis or floods and droughts and cyclones or intense snowfall or spread of viruses that kill hundred of people. So when you are in search of your answer to your question to Lord Yama, you need to do some homewrk on the relationship of deaths with the entire natirau\ral system to makes you question relevant to Him who looks at the death from a much broader perspective of transformation and change that continues in the cretion unabatedly.

  9. I understand your point and I am delighted you’re taking so much of your time writing.

    This is a post that got the maximum number of responses. Thank you, all. Somehow, I have a feeling that maybe…maybe, my little personal expression on death stirred the readers up deep inside.

    As someone who’s done a little bit of science, I get the broader perspective. But I cannot be philosophical: the deaths have been too many and too painful mainly because of their premature and traumatic nature. I keep saying I’m out of it; but I’m not really out of it. It’s deep wounds that never really healed. They still bleed from time to time.

    And I’m not just talking about myself. I’m talking about people like me. I’m talking about the “us” in me.

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