Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

On Death and Dying

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On my next birthday in February, I’ll be 62. That’s in real time. My CNIC has me two years younger however because back in 1967 my father decided that I should not retire at age 60. Well, to begin with, I cheated my father and worked for only six and a half years (army) and another equal term for a multi-national firm. After that, it’s been a long holiday in which I have been very fortunate to make a sort of living as well.


In October 2000 my uncle, the only paternal uncle, died. We siblings called him Chan (our abbreviation for Chacha Jan) and some of my best childhood memories are associated with him. His death, naturally, had a very profound effect on me. That was the first time I actually thought of death and dying and that one day I too shall go into the long night. To be truthful, until then I had looked upon myself as indestructible and immortal.

Less than six weeks after Chan’s death, I was in Fort Munro with my friend Raheal Siddiqui from where we planned to walk down to Choti Zereen along an old mountain track. On the walk, I talked about death and asked Raheal to please write my obituary when I finally went. Such a thought had never occurred to me prior to Chan’s passing away.

Since that time, I have thought so many times of death; it has become sort of an obsession. It will come one day, I know. But I do not wish to die in a bomb blast or by a terrorist’s knife. I would like to live my life to the fullest and pass away not by disease but by simple old age. And I wish, oh I wish, that I can, as Dylan Thomas exhorts, not go ‘Gently into the night’ but, ‘Rave, rave against the dying of the light.’

Ever since Chan’s death, I have also indulged in another practice. Whenever I read of a death, I quickly work out how many years that person lived. And then I say to myself, What, only 89? That’s no age for someone to go. This means I have only so many more years. Today David Frost died. He was 74. What? Only 74? That gives me just twelve more years.

Postscript. My grandparents, aunts, a great-grandfather and the family’s servant and his wife and children died violently in Jalandhar at the time of Partition. I do not claim any prophetic qualities, but sometimes I see a violent end for myself.

The last lines of my unfinished autobiographical novel go like this: Soon the howling mob was at their door. ‘Don’t you think it would have been better to have migrated to Canada in 1993?’ said his wife.

But before he could answer, the pounding on the door was too loud for him to be heard. With a splintering crash the door gave and the crowd surged in. He saw the clubs rise and he did not even attempt to parry them for he knew it was futile. Blinding multi-coloured stars danced in his head as the first bludgeon came down. And then there was darkness.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

9 Comments:

At September 3, 2013 at 11:07 AM, Blogger Sajini Chandrasekera said...

Death is common to all living beings and when you loose some one dear to you it is obvious that you want to die with them and end all pain. What matters is not dying or counting the days but to live the life to fullest and when you reach the end of the road you can turn back a be happy of the life you lived ..

 
At September 3, 2013 at 1:27 PM, Blogger Deb Sistrunk said...

Wow. The imagery is powerful.

 
At September 3, 2013 at 5:26 PM, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

This is serious. Very serious.

 
At September 3, 2013 at 10:27 PM, Anonymous Tariq Malik said...

"Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see."

~ Helen Keller

Cummon, Salman Sb!

 
At September 4, 2013 at 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay ... I seriously need to watch this space now ;-)

 
At September 4, 2013 at 4:44 PM, Anonymous Kaptain Korner said...

Very heart rendering Salman Sahab. Death is just one chapter to an unlimited avenue of possibilities..!!

 
At September 4, 2013 at 9:19 PM, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

But your work will live for a long time.

 
At September 5, 2013 at 2:59 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you all, good folks, for your kind observations. But please don't watch this space for an obituary. I have no plans to go just yet. It was the British PM, Lord Palmerston who said, 'Die, my dear doctor, that's the last thing I shall do!' I want to follow Palmerston. Until then, I will carry on as I always have: living life to the hilt.

 
At September 12, 2013 at 2:35 PM, Blogger srikanth major said...

Nice one.

 

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days