Mourning the death of any creature is mourning the nature of the world itself — it means not accepting and appreciating the world for what it is
“But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a
It was a time when I was singing the songs of autumn. Trees were shedding leaves and people had turned broody and melancholic, for they saw the green leaves dying and they thought the leafless trees useless. They possessed not the wisdom that everything has its given time and every thing in the cosmos comes and passes away within the time that has been ordained to it. As the saying goes, “time and tide wait for none.”
I often wonder why people are so selfish and egoistic that they want to cherish happiness and detest grief, when both are two sides of the same coin? Is it possible to have day without night? Is it possible to be happy without knowing grief? It is impossible to recognise what it means to be privileged without witnessing deprivation. One cannot fathom life without death.
“Where are the songs of spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast their music too”
Autumn has its own songs, like spring has. Hoisting only the flag of spring would be against the constitution of nature. Lovers of nature like Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, Southey and Hughes would worship each season and consider them equally charming and captivating. Literature students, who study life, are considered crazy by the advocates of pragmatism and realism, because the scale with which they measure earth and heaven is very different. For them, being at peace is the best blessing. They don’t turn gloomy when hearing that a person has passed away. For them, it is a process which every soul of this planet goes through and has to endure. The tree which sheds its leaves sheds them for a purpose, so that other, younger leaves may sprout. Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi said, “Our death is our wedding with eternity.”
So, mourning the death of any creature is mourning the nature of the world itself — it means not accepting and appreciating the world for what it is. Nature shows all of us how in spring the shoots appear, how they grow through summer, and in autumn, before they fall, they change their colour, giving the sign that they about to bid adieu to us. But before their fall they teach us, in the beautiful lines of Shelley, “If winter is here, can spring be far behind?”
It was 13th September, 2017, when a friend called me to be part of the funeral of a man whom I had seen during my childhood as always neat and tidy, attired in smart clothes, most often in a three-piece suit, with glittering mirror-like polished shoes. I had migrated from Srinagar then to get enrolled in the local school where he was the only person who had impressed me with his dressing sense and extraordinary hygiene. The man had the sense and understanding that besides education, other things too are important. He was not only a senior citizen of our village but also the most trustworthy. I knew him from before: he had been the principal of the school where I was enrolled for a few years. I had an even earlier attachment with him, as he had been the teacher of my father also. My dad would always mention him at home and he held him in high regard. I didn’t know then that this teacher was associated with the Adabi Markaz Kamraz (AMK), nor did I know what that meant. I came to know very late that he was the founder member of the said organisation and of many more. What I knew about him was that he had been a government teacher in his younger days, had retired as an officer in JKAACL, and was part of a Kashmiri language association.
He would always surprise me with his intellect in the class that he would sometimes take in the absence of a teacher. He would teach all the subjects with command. If I say he was jack of all trades, as a compliment, it won’t be wrong. I still remember by heart that he taught us drawing, for almost took 5 to 6 months, and made us so efficient in it that not a single student among us failed in that paper. He served as MD of the Hajini School for more than a decade, since its inception, besides remaining the patron of Awqaf Hajin. He groomed countless personalities and chiselled their talent in different ways, besides giving them platform to showcase their talent. He was a visionary man with diversities in him. I identified him first as the man who was not only part of the committee which held the annual Kashmiri language examination so that many would remain in touch with their mother tongue. But he also worked hard to create passion and enthusiasm among the scholars of Kashmiri literature, who otherwise would belittle it by considering its scope as limited. When I recall his personality, I am reminded of a quote of Ben Johnson: “He was not of an age but for all time.”
So, I don’t turn sullen while observing that he is no more among us and has passed away; rather, I feel happy and am thankful to the lord for his great contribution to his native land and its people. Whenever I visit his grave, a line flashes before my eyes: “In my end is my beginning.”
After his funeral, a couplet from the holy sonnet of John Donne was reverberating in my mind and heart:
“One short sleep past, we
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”