what can i say?

My friend’s nineteen-year-old son was found dead under the balcony of his dorm room. The very first time someone called us to give the news, they said he was found dead in his room. Later on we found out the news paper had reported it as a case of suicide. The medical examiner said there was no evidence of foul play. The police wrote in their report that it was either an accidental death, or suicide.

The parents say they spoke to him around midnight and he sounded happy. His friends say he was a friendly, energetic, active young man. If you needed any help, he’d be there for you. The best of human beings.

He was a History student and wanted to be a teacher. Both his parents are doctors. Perhaps this is what made him choose his major in college; because he wanted to give his children what he didn’t get. I am not saying that his parents didn’t love him, but I have known and seen doctors having emergencies and rushing to their patients’ sides when it was important for the child to have his parents with him. I have seen a disappointed innocent face when a father had to leave in the middle of a ball game. But tell me, where is one supposed to draw the line? How do you choose? On one hand a person will die if not given proper, timely medical attention, and on the other, a person carries the disappointment well into old age.

But this is not what I was going to write about. And to think about it, I have no idea what I was going to write. The only thing I know is that it is disturbing when there is nothing there to say, to tell, to blame, to explain. He was not sick, there was no foul play – it was either a suicide or an accident. That’s all.

They say all the doors leading to the balcony were locked by the authorities because there were some previous mishaps. They could only be opened with a wrench or some other such tool. He was an upright religious person. If he was abiding by the laws set by religion, then I would believe he’d respect the rules and regulations set by the school authorities too. Why did he wrench open the door? If he was the God fearing, law abiding, religious kind, then he definitely knew taking his own life was one of the worst kinds of sins in God’s eyes.

Nineteen years old – dead before he even lived. The Moulana said , “Pray for his soul – for his Maghfirat (forgiveness).” Maghfirat? He was not even old enough to have any sins on his soul for crying out loud!

All so pointless, so futile and – cold.

We were all sitting there, some on the floor and some on the chairs – surrounding his mother. On her ashen grey face her eyes were swollen. Dead eyes – no recognition of anybody. People would come, sit beside her – say a few words of condolences – hug her, cry with her and get up for the next person to sit beside her. During all this, she would suddenly let out a cry and try to reach for something, something that wasn’t there… Or, pushing away the person beside her, she would sit up and try to listen – listen to something that no one else could hear. Once she touched the air around her and said, “I feel him – he is here” and she touched the space around her face. “I smell him,” she said. “I know he is here – right here,” and she looked up and smiled.

At moments like these, what do you do? Feel hostile towards death?

We left their house at 9:30pm. It was a good three-hour drive back home. We didn’t talk much. My husband mentioned the car was low on gas, better we fill the tank before we hit the highway. I said yes, why not. He filled the tank then bought two bottles of Zephyrhills water. We drove much of the way in silence. I discovered two new stars in the far horizon. A very pale crescent moon was dangling over the vast, hollow and dark space, and I don’t know why but I kept humming one line of a very old song of a far away place that once was… over and over again –

Chandni raton mein jisdam yaad aa jatey ho tum

Roshni ban kar meri aankhon pe chha jatey ho tum.

On moonlit nights, I think of you

And your memories flood my eyes with light.

At some point I took a break from my humming and said, “We should be more careful, you know.”

“Yes. We should” he agreed looking ahead at the fast receding road.

I didn’t know what I meant by that; neither did he ask me what I meant by it. But whatever it was we both seemed to understand it perfectly well.

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