an email to a dead friend
Here is yet another article from The Desert Times, newsletter I published during my stay in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Zahid Chougle has written this article in August 1998. The article was originally written in Urdu for newspaper daily in Mumbai before that. He translated it for The Desert Times.
Zahid Chougle, his wife Aarishya and their children live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Zahid is working in Riyadh since 1993.
by: Zahid Chougle
My dear friend,
You always used to say, ...wish I could know what happens after my dead!
You had a hope that people will have sympathy on your death. With tears in eyes, they will discuss about your good habits forgetting all the bed deeds. But I am sorry to say that your wish remaind unfulfilled. Your hopes dashed soon after your death.
It was very painful to see your condition at the last breath. Your heartbeat was increasing consistently. Your eyes used to go still every alternate moment and both of your hands would shake like a baby bird making her maiden flight. When your family doctor gave signal of his helplessness, your relative started reciting Surah “Yaseen” (a verse from Holy Quran) so that your soul takes its last journey at the earliest (as such the community uses it’s Holy Book for this purpose... yaar!).
Both your children were silently sitting in a corner, staring continuously at your crying spouse. The last jerky movement of your body was an indication that you will no longer be with us.
As the news spread throughout the neighbourhood, aged men and women gathered at your house. The help of neighbours were never felt so much when you were alive. But now we need neighbours support as well. As you had died in the evening, we needed gas-lights for night as the electricity is not available that day. The water too has run out in the tank. Our major problem on that evening was to find someone who knew about last ritual procedures.
There were few people in your funeral procession. One was the Asthma patient whose coughs had left with sleepless nights... second person I can recognize was the doodhwala – the milkman. Third one was tailor master’s son. Fourth your landlord’s domestic help. And the fifth one Rafique periwala – street sweet vendor. We had informed Hameed Bhai who lived next doors. But he could not attend the funeral as he had an advance booked ticket for Salmaan Khan starrer “Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya”.
Youngsters from the block were busy discussing current affairs as your flowers-laden coffin passed by. The youngster did not took part in small walk in you last journey! They are not to be blamed, as they returned you the same coin what you had earlier given to someone else.
Do you remember? Indo-Pak Sharjah (cricket match) final had come your way when I had invited you to attend funeral of Shoba auntie. Anyway, if you consider Mustafa gas battiwala’s servant, who was holding gas torch, total twenty people were with funeral procession. I am sure that most of them did not know what to recite during the janaza ki namaz (funeral prayers).
How to offer Janaza Prayers
You will be happy to hear that colleagues at your office paid last respects on hearing about your dead. They prayed that your soul may rest in peace and that you enter Heaven without any difficulties. As a mark of respect, your office remained closed for half day. This type of holidays is rare to get and hence most of your colleagues opted for taking a rest at their house. Your assistant was given promotion. One vacancy got created and your boss received numerous references for the vacation position.
Your house for next few days was flooded with visitors, who were visiting to console your family. One of them was your regular Baniya (grocery merchant) who could manage to hand over a small chit to your wife while returning back. Do you know what that chit was? It was your credit list - purchases you have made on credit...
I am sure you must be eager to hear about your spouse and children and hence I am writing in brief.
As the days passed, some of your other family members have stopped contacting your wife and children. Your wife had to sell her jewellery and shifted from the bigger house to a smaller house. The school fees and daily expenses were a never ending problem for her. She even approached Saritha Auntie of women’s organizations for help. It seems that she and her organization were more interested in getting reservations in democratic ‘sabhas’ and receiving media applaud than lending a helping hand to women like your wife. This is not the story of your wife along! It happens to all who can’t draw attention of media. There are many who need money and moral support. But this mechanical and materialistic society has no time and will to lend its hand to support.
You were just a clerk by profession. Your death made no difference to your neighbourhood. There were several more before you... and more to come after. In this fast pace life, what difference it make to be alive or dead!