Friday, January 7, 2011

Death and the Divine Presence, and Ode to Nakesh and Cathleen

CIRRHOSIS. In 1985 I was a Form 3 student in Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur. That same year I learned the word ‘Cirrhosis’. Classroom gossip revealed that my friend Nakesh Singh was suffering from the disease of the liver. I blinked and just nodded numbly hearing that word. Nakesh has been missing classes, I know. First for a couple of days, then the days turned into weeks. But frankly, at 15 years old, we felt that we were invincible, the world is there to be conquered and death is something that happened to other people, and other people’s friend.

NAKESH, CHICKEN-STEALER (1970 – 1986). Nakesh was a popular classmate. He had a quirky sense of humour, and being the only Punjabi boy in class, he stood out with his sharp features, curly hair and height. Together with Rizal Shuaib, they were the tallest boys in class 3A1. It is also inevitable I guess that with the name Nakesh, he was also called ‘Naked Singh’ by our classmates. Oh, the wit.

Whenever we had P.E. (physical education), we always played football (soccer). Nakesh was what we called a “Curi-Ayam” (chicken-stealer). He would inevitably park himself near the goalpost of the rival team, waiting to score easy goals (I guess the phrase arose on the belief that it is easy to steal chicken, I have not tried it myself, so I cannot confirm this urban myth). Curi-Ayam is actually against the soccer rulebook, but we were young, healthy and we didn’t care.

BETTER FRIEND. I was not close to him initially (I thought he was a little irritating), but in Form 3 we somehow became better friends. I don’t know why, but I guess I figured out that beneath his strange wit and chicken-stealing escapades hides a boy of sensitive and kind decency. I liked him. That year I won the ‘Karya Islam’ competition (Islamic Essay) and in my absence during the prize-giving it was Nakesh who claimed the prize on my behalf, in front of the entire school.

OPEN DAY AND DEATH. The last project I had together with Nakesh was the school’s open day in 1986. The funfair games which we organized were a roaring success and the class mafia actually made money. Monetary success however preceded shock because a couple of days later, my class teacher made a special announcement – that my friend, Nakesh ‘Naked’ Singh, at the age of 16, has passed away.

CATHLEEN (1985 – 2011). I write this today because my friend, Zulfikar, recently lost a beautiful friend, Cathleen, who passed away in her sleep at the young age of 26. And in his Facebook, he asked that I write about death. Well, I don’t know anything about death. I have not experienced dying personally. So whatever I say here is based upon hearsay and indirect evidence…
152. The Gifts
The Gift is yours for the asking.
The Gift before the Gift is in you asking.
The Gift before the Gift before the Gift is in the Cause that impelled you to ask.
The First Gift is in your first breath
The Last Gift is in your death.
And the Gift after the Last Gift?
Ho! Only Allah Knows Best.
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED ON… Death is a gift, because after years of living and being separated from the Divine Presence, you are finally brought back to your Maker. Long did your God pine and yearn for your return, so do not feel too sad for those you have left behind on this Blessed Earth. You have fought the good fight already, and you have lived your life with love, compassion and honour. Those who still live will remember your face, your kindness and humour with a glow in their hearts. You, who have passed away - my mum, my aunties and uncles, my nephews and cousins, Nakesh and Cathleen, you have left behind beautiful memories in our hearts. You have helped sanctify the inner sanctum of our soul so that God and His Prophet may dwell therein. By your life and your passing, you have made us all better human beings. We thank you for all that you have shared with us.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE STILL ALIVE… I don’t know where my dearly departeds actually are. Maybe they are in the 1st Heaven? Or maybe the 7th Heaven? Perhaps having picnic under the Lote Tree, or just amusing themselves reading the Secret Tablet? But this belief I hold firm to – Wherever God is, the Prophets and Saints are there. And where they are, my mother would be there too. And with her, would be Nakesh and Cathleen. Now it is only for me, this foolish sinner, to live life well and decent, so that I, however unworthy, am allowed to approach their blessed company. If permitted, I will play soccer with Nakesh against the Angels Super-11, and for old-time’s sake he can steal as many chicken as he wants.

IN THE NAME OF DEATH. My dear friends, we who will one day taste death, we are all the same, you and I. I ask you now in the name of Death who is my Kinsman… really, how can we not be brothers and sisters too?

70. Death, my Kinsman
O’ Death!
Come to me gently in the Reality
Of what you are and who I am,
Come to me unmasked
And I shall wait for you unmasked,
Cast aside that face you wear
And I shall cast aside this face I wear,
For if ALLAH has in Truth, created,
He has created only Muhammad,
And in one body,
Can there beat more than one heart?

Have a wonderful Friday, sunshine.

Pax Taufiqa.
Cemetery Pic is from Balqies Arafia's blog.

No comments: