Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bucket List

Now, with the big 3 O looming ahead of me, I have got to thinking about life experiences. There’s no doubt that it’s better to burn out than fade away. Use up the breath allotted to you doing stuff, experiencing the things which comprise life; rather than just blamelessly, joylessly doing what keeps your heart beating (eating, sleeping, working) and then be washed away from the earth as easily as a speck of dust.

I’m not talking about fame, that’s a very narrow gauge of a life lived. (I don’t know of any famous Eskimos, does that mean no Eskimos lived life to the fullest?)

I admire people who go out and DO. Of course the moment you’re a do-er, there are things which you do wrong, people you upset. You change the course of some events, which in retrospect, might have been better left undisturbed. But that’s a small price to pay for making every breath count I think.

I’m ashamed to admit I fall into the blamelessly eating, sleeping, working category of person. But I could try to change perhaps. Say I did change (…say), what would my bucket list be to make up for nearly 3 decades of inertness?

Bucket List
1) Look like I did when I was 21. (Maybe I could aim to be a little better dressed than I did in university. Tutoring brats doesn’t get you a great wardrobe.)
2) Travel !
3) Publish my novel.
4) Er…write it first.
5) Quit soul-killing life sucking job.
6) Find alternate source of income. (preferably not soul killing or life sucking)
7) Smile more at people.
8) Not care if they don’t smile back.
9) Buy little, thoughtful gifts for friends and family (especially husband who’s always getting me thoughtful things). Make sure they get it, i.e, doesn’t go the way of some of the gifts I’ve bought in the past…given away to other people, used by self, lost or thrown away on deciding its hideous.
10) Buy little but well-appointed hut by the sea: (my friend Hillary has promised to visit) and live bohemian life. (9 and 10 hinges on point 6)
11) Be happy! (hinges on 1, 2, 3, 5 most definitely, 8 and 10)

Will let you know in 40 years how many of those I managed to cross off.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Memento Mori.

How does one get to know a person after he’s gone? I recently lost a close relative by marriage whom I’d never had the occasion to get to know.

I’d seen him in various hospitals over the last two years. And a few weeks ago, I was there when his son brought him home for the last time to a dignified yet deeply mourning family. I stood on the sidelines, secretly thanking my stars that I needn’t share in the sorrow, but trying in every way I could to comfort those who weren’t as lucky.

But during the swaran shobha, when all his family spoke about him, I realized I wasn’t that lucky after all. I started to wish I’d known him, because he sounded like someone it would’ve been fun to encounter. I felt like I was the unlucky one, for not having seen him at his jokey, resourceful , leg-pulling best, and I said as much when I was asked to speak.

Apart from the memorial service, and all the stories told by relatives and friends who poured into the house on the days succeeding his death; it struck me that I knew him quite well in another way…through his son.

People made many references to certain qualities his son had inherited, and it fascinated me to think how one can leave little pieces of oneself embedded in the next generation; who then pass it on in turn; over and over. A quality I had always thought was exclusively my husband’s would turn out to be, from an anecdote someone would tell, actually his father’s.

I felt better, and a little less of an anomaly as one of the principal mourners, once I realized that.
He lived, by today’s standards, a short life; but it sounds like he lived it fully. When I go, I’d like to be remembered similarly -- with smiles and laughter and affection.
I’d say it would be a life well lived then.