April 30, 2012

The Opportunity to Defy Death

I am scared of death, truly, genuinely. It is difficult for me to believe that one day I’ll be gone. This world, in its limitless expanse into time and space, exists because I exist – I, in my case, and in your case, you. Before me, the world didn’t exist at all, and it will cease to exist once I’m no more. One day, everything that matters to me, every truth, will turn meaningless. And this is scary. More disturbing than the mystery of “what will happen once I die” is the realization that everything that I’ve paid importance to, including myself, will end, and be lost forever.

I watched ‘Titanic’ today. I’m not a big fan of the movie and the decision to watch it was purely academic. I wanted to see how the 3D conversion of a 2D movie looks like, when done by the person who is an authority on 3D film-making. What I had not imagined was that the movie will also trigger the memories of watching it for the first time fourteen years ago. My brother says it was the first time we were sitting in an air-conditioned movie hall! Today I was reminded of that tender age when I was too innocent to believe that an actress can pose nude in front of the camera. They had chopped off the shots of full nudity and I was to wait several years to finally see Kate Winslet as proudly and defiantly exposed as the pencil sketch of her character.

Those shots were deleted in today’s show as well. The film had not changed much, despite the irritating 3D glasses, and a new ‘depth perspective’. But I had changed, and today the most affecting image for me was neither the erotic and gorgeous beauty of the leading lady nor the helpless surrender of that gigantic creation of man before the might of frozen and fluid water. Just before she is rescued, and seconds after she has let go of Jack’s dead body into the ocean, Rose blows into a whistle in order to attract the rescue boat towards her. That image of the young girl, surrounded by hundreds of dead bodies, blowing not helplessly but purposefully, to fight against death with an uncompromising and relentless desire to live, was for me the biggest moment in the film. In order to fulfill her promise to Jack, she had decided to live, and embrace life with all strength and passion. Today wherever she goes, she carries the photos from different stages of her life – Rose riding a horse, Rose posing like a black-and-white screen diva, Rose with her kids – the photos which are testimony to a life she has lived proudly and fully, a life that has stood firmly against death as long as it can. 

Last year a stupid mosquito had infected me with Dengue. In the hospital, it suddenly dawned upon me what I today consider to be the most valid definition of life. What is life? In my opinion, it is the opportunity to defy death. The best way to live is to honor life, feel blessed that it is with you, and to live as if there is nothing after it, because this is your only opportunity. And if you live it well, without letting any regret haunt you and remind you about “what could have been”, your existence will go beyond the body containing you, and the time defining your tenure as a living organism. A life thus lived will turn into a blissful memory or an inspiration for others, and survive well beyond death. When I listen to Celine Dion’s rendering of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ or when I watch the celebrated cinematic moment of Jack and Rose ‘flying’ with their hands stretched at the bow of the ship, the blissful tears brimming in my eyes are stronger than the fearful sight of hundreds of people dying their premature deaths. Embracing life lovingly and passionately is perhaps the only answer to death, and the only code to immortality.


  1. What is the point of even leading an inspiring life when everything will be gone with you? Even the regrets will be gone with you. I always have problem understanding how a life is better lived than other.

  2. @reversemigration: I have made a choice not to think that way. It doesn't provide me any solution. It doesn't comfort me. I would rather look at some of the examples from history.

    Vivekananda continues to live 110 years after his death. In fact, he will outlive most of the people of our generation, or even later generations. What death did to several humans after him could not do to him.

    Let me clarify here that the immortality of an individual 'identity' is not important for me, the immortality of his achievements is. Imagine the guy who thought of the concept of 'zero'. We don't know his name, but doesn't he continue to live through his 'discovery'?

    Also, let me clarify that I'm not only talking about being immortal as a public figure or as an innovator. Consider the basic duty of a living organism - to create a progeny superior to himself. If we just do that - marry a suitable person, give birth to and raise children, and devote our lives as good husbands and fathers, we'll continue to live in the hearts of our progeny for a short while, and in their genetic make-up for a long, long time. The world does not know my grandfather, but I know that he is the reason behind all my past and future achievements. He continues to live.

    All these people, in my opinion, have defied death in varying degrees, by what they did when they were alive. I don't think an inspiring life ends with the person.

    And I have a theory regarding "how a life is better lived than other". :) Will talk to you in detail about it over phone.

  3. Too much confusion for me. A suicide bomber might be inspiring to some people and a life wasted for others. How do we decide which point of view is correct?

  4. Its not only the intention but also the outcome that is important. A suicide bomber may inspire some but his intention & outcome of his action can never be positive. I think what the author wants to say here is that death is certainly a reality, but accepting and embracing life with all its challenges, is also a harsh reality. To live life with dignity & peace takes a lot of strength & once one recognizes that, there is no looking back.
    Kudos to the author again!!!

  5. saraansh yaad aa gyi bhatt sahab ki aapka aricle padh kar. 'himmat marne ke liye nahin jeene ke liye chahiye.' anywys nice post.

  6. I must mention here that I didn't want to bring morality into this post of mine. My post was about how I can think of overcoming my fear of death. It in no way suggests the ideal way of living, ethically or morally.

    I do not give much importance to morality anyway. The suicide bomber is just participating in an intra-species struggle for existence. Time will tell who is the 'fittest' to survive in this struggle, which I consider completely natural and evolutionary.

  7. Nosh Farmaiye.....