Birth and death are the only realities of life By Usha Sri
I was barely six then. My paternal grandmother passed away. When I saw her body lying on the mat on the verandah, with people silently mourning her passing, I was scared. I didn’t want to die and didn’t know who to talk to, about what I was going through. I started bawling from fear of death.
My grandfather wrapped his arms around me and asked me why I was crying. I said, “I don’t want to die. When l grow up, I’ll become a doctor and find a medicine so that people will never die.” In spite of the grief of losing his wife, he laughed until he choked.
After all the rituals were done, he called me into his room and asked, “Do you like stories?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He said, “I want to tell you a story about the God of Death.”
I reluctantly nodded, still unsure what death was all about.
He said, “One day, Yama, the lord of Death, was walking back to his quarters and saw Garuda (the mighty Eagle) and a little sparrow in conversation. He looked at the sparrow from the corner of his eye and walked away without uttering a word. The little sparrow panicked. The sparrow expressed its concern to Garuda saying, ‘Oh my God! My death must be near. The Lord of Death eyed me. I don’t want to die.’ Garuda, took pity on him and said, “I am the fastest flying bird. I will take you across the seven seas and hide you in a safe place. It will take Yama a long time to reach you as he has to travel on his bull. You will be saved.” Garuda took the sparrow across the seven seas and placed it in a safe place and returned.
On his way out in the evening, Lord Yama searched for the sparrow and asked Garuda where the bird was. Garuda said, “My Lord, you scared the poor creature. I promised to save him and so took him across the seven seas and hid him in the burrow of a huge Banyan tree. He is safe now.” Yama smiled and said, “When I eyed the bird, I was wondering how the little bird would fly across seven seas in such a short time. He had to die today because of a snake bite in the burrow of the very same banyan tree.”
I sat numb, staring at my grandpa.
“Birth and death are the only realities of life,” my grandpa continued.
He said, “Every one that is born has to die, whether they are rich or poor, young or old, healthy or unhealthy. Everything that has a beginning has an end.”
“If there is an end to everything, why do we do things? Everyone will finally die, so why try?” I said.
He smiled and said, “Because you will be born again. And your hyphen is what will make you immortal, not some medicines.”
“What is a hyphen?”
“The small line that is made between the day you are born and the day you die. That small line is what makes you immortal. That will be the summary of your life. And if that small line is filled with love, empathy and honesty, people around you will remember you forever and keep you alive in their memories.”
(Usha Sri wakes up, reads, writes, reads some more, writes some more until she hits the sack and the sequence repeats).