Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts on dying

My earliest memory as a child is of sitting in the back seat in our maroon Fiat, with my chin perched on the part where the rubber beading meets the glass of the window, looking out, and trying NOT to look down at the water. I was always afraid of heights and furthermore of water.

I grew up in Cochin, a quaint town (now of course a bustling city and a strong contender for the 9th or perhaps 10th Metro of the country) made up of several small islands. To go from mainland Cochin to Ernakulam, the district headquarters, we'd traverse two bridges built across the backwaters by the British.

The first bridge, the Mattancherry bridge was constructed by Sir Bristow somewhere in 1940. By 1980's the bridge had survived way past its original expiry date.

Often we'd get stuck in traffic snarls on the bridge which had a wooden drawbridge (which could be raised from two ends with pulleys to allow big ships to pass under it - although it was never used in anybody's living memory).

Due to the age of the bridge and the load of vehicles, the bridge would sway in a ripple like manner (almost like a wave), often scaring the daylights out of visiting relatives. My parents would, very matter of factly say, "Oh this bridge can fall off any day" lamenting inaction by the local authorities in constructing a new one as we'd stand on the bridge, swaying. The irony was never lost on us.

For many years, my nightmares fed on this fear... I am in the car and the bridge breaks and we're all sliding down to our deaths... Ofcourse, many times, a super hero would come to save us, but that would depend on whether I was recently influenced by an actor or not. (OK, I admit, most often it was Rishi Kapoor!!!)

What I do recall is that in my dreams, I was never alone. I was always with my family. This is perhaps because every time my parents had this morbid discussion of the bridge breaking, my mother would always say, "I only want that when it happens, we should all be in the car together. What's the point of leaving someone behind to mourn?"

Reading about the families that perished in the Mangalore air crash recently and the agony of those left behind,  I am veering toward my mother's thought process.
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