By Fayaz Ganie
Human life is strange; to live it, the same things you need to forget, you require to remember! Without delving into the entire list of these things which demand such treatment, it would be appropriate to mention here only one of them: death. Death certainly demands this treatment where to live one has to forget it and again to live one has to remember it. It doesn’t matter how little the duration of forgetfulness is and how long the period of remembrance is, they (remembrance and forgetfulness of death) are there and they must be there. This constitutes the fundamental paradox of death.
Howsoever, one may try to forget death but it hurts one, in one way or the other. In the same manner, even after trying to remember death always and every time, it moves out of one’s cognition, of an ordinary individual, for some time. About the period when death is in a person’s mind, memory and cognition, that period is painful and the time when one sees people actually dying is even more painful, if not unbearable.
Anyway, death is a complex subject. The nearer it is to us, the farther its understanding gets. And, as they say to understand death one must be able to experience it but once death is experience how can the experience be shared for the moment it is experience a person ceases to exist, and all the abilities to share any experience stop working! Dead people are unable to do that for they are dead! Therefore, it is better to leave that topic for some other time to deal with and come to the one which is the main theme of this write up.
Today’s topic is the higher rate of deaths in a period of the year which ranges from late fall to the onset of spring season in Kashmir. This rate of natural deaths goes up from almost negligible to quite high during this period. In every village and locality , we see people heading towards attending the funerals of people who die during this season. In fact, it is an accepted phenomenon in this part of the world that there will be deaths in the winter months, and many of them. These deaths mainly constitute the people who are at the last stages of their lives, or the ones who are suffering from some chronic illnesses.
However, in last few years, it is being observed, from a lay perspective, that the share of young people in these deaths is increasing, which is a disturbing trend. These deaths are unexpected, sudden and without any visible signs or history of any fatal chronic disease. Seeing the increasing number of deaths of young in my neighborhood and the extended neighborhood, and when one hears about such deaths in the entire Kashmir, it seems that it is now a phenomenon that engulfs the whole region. Cumulatively, these deaths, of the elderly and the young, are turning the winter season not only into a season of cold and, precipitation in the form of snowfall mainly, but also a season of death.
Many reasons are given about this unprecedented increase in the number of deaths of people in this region during this season. Most of them are associated with cold, and other environmental conditions related to this time of the year, which create and complicate the conditions of the elderly. There is nothing to dispute about these stated causes and causative agents of deaths but are those the only reasons, are somewhere links missing? What about the increase in the deaths of the young?
Here, the intention is not to raise questions about the credibility of the research and studies that have been conducted, or are being done by the concerned quarters about these deaths. The real intention is to remove the chances of complacency which might set in. Even, if all the causes of the deaths in this season have been found yet it never leaves any space for us not to be vigilant. We must always be vigilant and try to reduce the rate of death in this season in particular which so far has not been reduced by any means.
If I am not mistaken, nowhere in Kashmir, any government agency, concerned with the health care of the people, or the one which conducts research in this area, visits the homes of people who have died, to find out any links which the death might have with the immediate environment of these places, or the psychological state of the people, which may be a contributing factor. Conducting such study become imperative in case of the deaths of the young but nothing of that sort seems to be the case. Once there is a sudden death, it is forgotten with the burial of that person and nothing done to stop such deaths in future!
If we say that the rate of deaths in this season in respect of the elderly has also increased in disproportion to the increase in population it would not be an overstatement. To cite an example, in my own village, where not long ago, there used to die a person or two in one year, or more than one year but in the same village around twenty people died in a single year and the rate seems to have been maintained since then. The population of this village has not increased by so many folds, as the rate of death. Nobody has ever visited at least to find out any possible links which might be unique to this place save the politicians who visit in bundles to outsmart their rivals!
For faithful, and religious people, death is predestined, one has to die. This, however, never gives us a reason to sit still and do nothing in this regard. The same religions which say that death is predestined have made it obligatory upon their followers to take steps and initiate all the measures to try to delay death for it cannot be avoided. The highest authority to do that in the world is the government of a place, supported by the people in these endeavors. When the government is of a democratic type, achieving this feat becomes even more urgent and important.
The government here should conduct, long term and short term research programs, and study programs, in order to prevent preventable deaths in future. All the natural and artificial reasons and region specific and case specific causes ought to be identified and corrective actions taken. The NGOs, civil society and common masses need to work in cohesion to achieve that.
A day of death avoided means a life of one day created. Creating life otherwise is not yet humanly possible. Plus, a day of diseased existence is a day of human life wasted and a curing of a diseased person who lives only for a single day in the latter state is also a day of life created. Let’s all contribute to become partners in this endeavor of saving precious lives. Life is both precarious and precious, so let’s value it. Who knows next time it may be someone among us, or somebody near us.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]