Fear of Death


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A prose poem

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Fear of Death

  1. 1. Fear of Death In Berhampur the tall silk cotton tree was in full bloom with eccentric -smelling flowers whose scent haunted you for a furlong as you walked the road. In the evening his friends used to gather near the lake for gossip. The water glistened with lights from the nearby garden restaurant where he and his friends used to sip coffee and if the money permitted , some pudding or other snack. Nothing much happened .The water in the tank stayed still with an occasional ripple caused by a dry flower from the acacia tree .What was his mission ? Sit still on the cement benches with his friends wisps of whose chatter entered his ears like the occasional breeze which rustled in the leaves of the coconut tree in our village? There was this danger of the dream coming to a close as the lights went off and the curtains were down. Did he come here for nothing ? For two months the typhoid worm cornered him and excised him of the devils that had taken permanent residence in him as he went through the labyrinth of his experiences The temperature would not go down despite medication as his body emitted a warm charcoal-burning glow which he started celebrating as though he was basking in the December sun. The body did not matter ; the after-glow of 102 degrees of temperature mattered . A sort of catharsis happened . Nothing really mattered , not even the rumble of the large intestines leaving behind a disgusting feeling in the pit of his stomach or the autumn-fall of thick dark hair . The smell of the slept- in pillow with strands of fallen hair mocked at the very basis of his existence in a most overt manner. When the time came the physical existence came unstuck like so many hairs uprooted from your scalp. What was there for him to do ? He drifted rudderless in the high-seas of uncertainty and pointlessness . There was this double-think which gnawed at the very vitals of his soul. He laughed at himself , at his own essential stupidity which formed the logical basis of his daily transactions. The thought meandered ; the dichotomy between thought and “under-thought “ was growing as dialogue proceeded. The soul fizzled down in thin slow-flakes of rationalism . Nothing was certain ; not even the perceived solidity of the three-dimensional world . Then , one day , as he lay supine facing the greyness of the September sky he thought he was slowly sinking into the viscous blood-and-sand , his own breath becoming more and more difficult with the vital fluids draining away from his blood vessels. He lay there , alone , living the horror of the nightmare as women opened his clenched fists forcefully and thrust a bunch of steel keys into them. Years later , when poetry came to him , he recalled the nightmare : “Lying supine I experience fear-pain Passing through death-tunnel Oxygen-drained, slowly Embedded in whirl-pool Of viscous blood-and-sand Clenched fists Cold sweat Horrific visions Of tail-dropped lizards Existence-erasing Fear clutching at the throat Draining the last drop of blood
  2. 2. Slowly snuffing out life.” He started to love death . He wanted to die slowly entering the darkness of the death-tunnel savoring every bit of the delicious self-obliteration .It was a dream within the grand dream . There he saw the floating aura of his own soul escaping its physical bondage through the half-open window of the bed room .He saw it as a flickering oil-lamp slowly burning like a floating paper lantern in the sky above our mango tree. In Berhampur Savitri-aunt never gave even a hint of the unceremonious way in which she would leave this world. Her eyes were confident and full with a power of which she was deeply aware , the arrogance of a dignified woman who mastered all the rules of the world . In life she complemented her husband as if they had come into this world together. Who would imagine that one day she would trip on the moss-laden surface of the well in her backyard and slip into the twilight world of sleep from which she would never wake up ? Sleep became her in life , as it became her in death. Nobody ever thought that there was any need for any ceremonies preparatory to her final journey. It was natural that she died , something as natural as the fact that she had lived . When he heard from her children that she had passed away he merely said quot;oh , she has gone !quot; as if she had gone to a relative's house in Sompeta. That was how everybody who knew her reacted to the news of her death. His own aunt Vinodini lived full forty five years of her existence on the surface of the earth as if she had come here with a clear mandate for a life of that many years. When she laughed the sound came from her deep throat so tragically that he thought she carried death with her as though it was a part of her existence. He knew that she would one day be struck by a cancer of her innards . It lay encrypted on the copper-plate of her destiny that she would go it alone in the vast wild wastes of her terrestrial existence. She laughed at the thousand and odd trivialities of life including the volcano in her stomach , which would eventually erupt and overwhelm her , obliterating her existence. Deep inside he wanted her to make a difference to the world not because she mattered to him so much but merely because he was afraid that she did not matter to the world .Once when he was traveling , as a 12-year old , with the family to another town to attend a marriage he slept on the bare wooden bench of a third class railway compartment with his head in her lap. She mattered to him then very much because he needed her , as a child ,as an extension of his dead father who had existed only in his dreams. She had come from the same womb from which his own father had emerged .He believed that she carried something of him having shared the same dwelling for nine months as an embryo in the amniotic fluid of her mother's womb. How long would the dream last ? He thought , again and again , that it was drawing to an abrupt close .He had sat on the low guava branches in Srikakulam , at the age of sixteen, and looked into its sky-spaces , terrified . The changes that had come over him overwhelmed him and convinced him that he was not different at all from other specs of consciousness that roamed the world . There were millions of those tiny luminescent particles , each one of them so much like him, floating about in the ethereal world like multitudes of flickering fireflies on a moonless night . For a brief while the idea that he was the chief protagonist of the dream-play that was being enacted receded to the background and was replaced by a terrific fear of the whole show coming to an abrupt end .