Ode to Abba: A Kashmiri weaver’s devotional life
Of all things criminal in life, the criminality of withering relationships feels the worst.
Drowning the voice, which mustn’t stay unheard, like it always has been. The voice of guilt, wishes to shriek a bit more louder, to be heard and to be able to do, what’s always remained unheard, undone.
There are countless apologies to be sent to the dead, for never giving them enough dignity they deserved while living. Apologies, never made to the living, eternally condemned to not be understood beyond one’s own trauma limit, time limit and ego limit. Ego, why does it all become about one’s ego, one’s sense of self and the meaning we wish to squeeze from the last bit of sheer insanity…
There are some emotional maxims we get to hear often, for and from moments of grief and loss. Then, there are emotions we live during grief and loss. The same emotions hit hard, like a rock on head and ruminations follow, to be looked and relooked at. Death of a family member is one such moment which might and should change the living near-ones for life.
The changes, might not be immediately visible, but there is a spiritual ignition that some emotions ignite, like loss. There are waves of questions that circle the soul after passing away of a loved one. I don’t know how many decades will it take to make sense of these waves in my life.
What is this obsession with meanings and philosophizing of one’s own criminality? Or is it being too wicked upon one’s own limitations of all sensical, non-sensical?
Listen, how much time ideally does it take for voices, which you wish to unhear, drown? Drown into a sense of no demand for meanings and propriety with God and people and self…
Abba, my maternal grandfather, passed on 3rd May. I am not emotionally connected to my mother’s parents as much I am to my father’s. I remember when I lost Papa ji, my paternal grandfather back in 2008, I was crying hysterically and unstoppably. It was the first death of an immediate family member I had encountered. On witnessing second death of another grandparent, 15 years later, I did not cry like before, but I heard something unsettle within me, questions on life, living, death and dying followed in waves. Repair or answers are not in my near sight.
What outstands with Abba—a poverty-stricken, lower middle-class father—was despite of the insistence of his family members to not invest in his daughters’ education, he gave my mother, two aunts and uncle noor of eyes, which he believed education to be: the light of eyes. He gave them enough strength to settle their own lives.
The short-tempered weaver, became quitter as his children all settled down in their lives. He loudly made duas for them.
I never saw Abba with any extraordinary quality, except for his local take on global news. His radio was his constant companion. He listened to news from local to global and believed the world to be a very dangerous place, so much dangerous that he bolted the gate close at 6 in the evening. To me he was a very normal person with all his human limitations. His anger was a marvel, all the grandchildren of the house triggered. Abba would lose his cool and we would giggle in corners of the room, seeing him shout at us. Prayer was a constant in his life. He prayed until some years ago when he became weak.
The ordinariness of his apparent religious and spiritual life now contradicts with his extraordinary ease of death and the granting of his prayers in life. No one saw anything extraordinary in his spiritual and religious life, but everyone said only a Moomin (righteous Muslim) could die surpassing sakratul maut, the pain of dying. Poshik peith draas zuw (his soul left his body with utmost ease).
Why does your dying feel like a criminality on my incapacity to build a bond mightier than an accidental blood relation with you? I wouldn’t regret the connection I couldn’t make, a relation I couldn’t save. Is this relationship of failures where you left us with so many feelings, unsettling?
He woke up on the morning of 3rd May without any pain. As his muscles contracted for departure, he involuntarily passed stool. ‘I should owe no one a favour’, was a constant prayer on his lips throughout his life and it translated while his soul was leaving his body, cleansing his innards. He retained consciousness enough while dying and went to clean himself up in the toilet in his last few moments and threw the dirty lowers from the window of the toilet outside. Abba must have drunk last drops of water himself, before leaving the toilet and sleeping the eternal sleep forever outside his room. He didn’t owe us the favour of even giving him his last drops of water.
We joked about his hygiene and not having baths frequently. People who gave him his last ghusl (bath), who didn’t know of his hygiene, wondered if he had already cleaned himself for his next life. His body, they said, was glowing. Having become weak, from last few years Abba stopped praying and fasting, but this Ramadan, Abba fasted for all thirty days.
I don’t ask for answers anymore, I just wish questions don’t come, I wish the voices drown. I don’t know if my soul will be better after your passing, I don’t know if it matters, I don’t know how many more layers of inhumanity will reveal after your passing on the incapacity of doing this right with the living and not romanticising loss following a loss like death.
All the duas he asked loudly for and his passing away suddenly made me wonder at the limitations of our seeing and rationality in retrospection of Abba’s life. Was he really ordinary just because he lived an ordinary life? I am hit by the guilt of not understanding him enough.
In life I keep looking for some visible signs among people to side with the spiritual. I didn’t see it in Abba, but his dying shrieked louder of all the spiritual that remained latent in his soul and came out just to make visible my limitation of seeing what I see in people and saw in him. How less do we know of our physical and non-physical being, I wonder. I wouldn’t have known with his so much ordinary a life, how not so ordinary a soul it would need to surpass the pain of death and let every wish be granted in this world so visibly. There must be much more than our mere physical existence which takes us to our last destination, much more than what is visible with people throughout our lives and even with our own selves.
The physical being becomes an illusion before the soul but when the soul exhibits its power, like in the act of death, it becomes hard to restrain the voice within, which remains unheard till then. Only a tragedy like death of a loved one interrogates the living about the waywardness of their lives, purposes and understanding of life.
You never sugar-coated emotions when you were alive, you didn’t even die giving any semblance of peace. I am unsettled and amazed, more than ever on how shallow the lives of living are, how small this being of a few decades of searching for meanings and seeing is.
I couldn’t get the chance of making everything right, that Abba’s passing away makes me realize. Of all things criminal in life, the criminality of withering relationships feels the worst. I look at people around me with a fear of not being able to do my relationships right with them. All the love I pour about people in my journal and statuses is alright, but Abba’s leaving makes me realize the privilege of physical touch and closeness to the loved ones is unmatched.
I pray that in the culture of hedonism, self-obsessions, trauma-dumping era of terminologies and boundary-building therapies we are able to find the true meaning and solace of relationships.