Amid quite the tamasha that ensued Aamir Khan’s ‘intolerant India’ remark that hogged headlines all of last week, a smaller news item on the inside page of the newspaper caught my eye. And then my breath.
A 39-year-old software professional in Noida complained of chest pain and uneasiness in the morning. When taken to the hospital, the doctors declared him dead due to a massive heart attack. His 36-year-old homemaker wife was in utter shock. She came back from the hospital, went up on the eighth floor of their apartment building and jumped from the terrace. And died.
It was an unbelievably sad piece of news but reading till here still didn’t numb my senses. The next sentence did. The couple left behind their only child, a five-year-old daughter, who was blissfully playing at the neighbour’s house when the cops came knocking, broke the news that both her parents are dead, and handed her over to relatives. There. The piece of news ended but left me, and I’m sure a million others, with a deep sense of sadness and a sinking feeling for the child.
Now I know nothing more about this particular case, and it would just not be right to sit on judgment on the circumstances that made the woman take such a step. But the incident does leave me with a lot of stress, and a lot of questions. And one big, dark truth — We, the smart, savvy, forward-thinking, wise human beings plan every little detail of everything, but not our death. Death is negative, death is dark, death is not to be thought about. The younger we are, the more taboo a mere mention of this word becomes in our discussions with family or loved ones. But you know what, someone up there clearly doesn’t believe in bumping us off in chronological order. A few months back, I wrote in this column about our ill-preparedness in terms of most people not keeping their spouses informed about how to deal with finances in case of their sudden death. This week, I want to talk about our ill preparedness in terms of never getting our loved ones emotionally ready for something like this.
1 Don’t run away from the mention of death: Yes, it’s a disturbing thought to even ponder about. In a survey about what people fear the most in life, ‘death of a loved one’ ranked among the highest, across the world. So it’s perfectly understandable if the thought itself stresses you out. But then do think of the stress the same loved ones may have to undergo if you suddenly vanish from their lives one day. May such a day never comes before time, but preparing ourselves and others around us by talking about it isn’t a bad idea. Just do it sensitively — you don’t want to get everyone senti and have a crying drama around you. That’ll take away the focus from what you wish to do.
2 Empower your family: We don’t know the real reason but a lot of people would think that the woman who committed suicide right after her husband died may have completely panicked thinking about how she will fend for herself and the little daughter. It may sound clichéd but that’s where the need for all adults in a family to be financially independent takes prominence. It doesn’t necessarily mean both partners need to be employed. Being a homemaker is a lovely, important occupation in itself. But this means that if a couple has consciously decided that one of them would take up a job and the other would stay at home and take care of the kids, the income still gets divided between the two. A friend of mine followed a neat system of transferring 50% of his income (after taking care of the expenses) in his homemaker wife’s bank account every month. Some of us used to joke about why is there a need for him to do that but his logic was simple…both of them are working, and both of them have to be earning. Why should his wife be asking him for money every month when she’s an equal partner in the running of the household. They may have been leading life a bit too formally but never once did we see a flicker of financial insecurity on his wife’s face. And God forbid if something were to suddenly happen to either of them, the other one would not have to run around looking for bank passwords to take care of immediate expenses.
3 Don’t glorify suicide, even as a joke: Dhyaan se suno ek minute. Since time immemorial, our films and popular literature have expressed deep love through a declaration of romance that’s logically, scientifically, and practically faulty — ‘I can’t live without you’. The hero or the heroine profess love and claim through songs and poetry through decades that they won’t be able to survive a single minute without their loved one. One manifestation of this otherwise romantic thought is that common people started equating the extent of love with the expression about the inability to survive without each other. This, when everyone knows that no one dies, or should die, if something unfortunate were to happen to their partner. The seemingly harmless romantic jargon sometimes clouds our common sense. Here’s an actual conversation between me and a couple when I asked them what exactly will they do if one of them died suddenly (sorry I know I sound so heartless doing this, but look at the answers!)
Wife: Oh God, what a horrible question. Bhagwaan na kare inko kuchh ho. He will have a long life. Touch wood (touches the sofa, made of wrought iron!).
Me: Of course, he will. But asking what you’ll do, just in case.
Wife: Gosh, I don’t know. My life would end. I’ll somehow survive only for the sake of the kids.
Me: Okay, but how will you deal with the finances?
Wife: Kuchh insurance wagarah hogi. Papa ko pata hoga (referring to the father-in-law who is already 82)
Me (to the husband): What would you do if she died suddenly?
Husband: (shakes his head, smiling)
Wife: He toh will remarry within six months.
Husband: No, no. I can’t live without you. I’ll end my life to come right after you.
Wife: Sachhi? Wow, I love you Jaanu.
Sonal Kalra has nothing to say after witnessing the above. May everyone in love have a long life. But just in case…. Send your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonal.kalra. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra