Sometime in my school days, I remember telling my sisters two things to be done after I die : one, not to latkaufy(hang) my picture on a wall, and second not to take me for cremation in that vehicle that they commonly use. My sisters looked at me stunned and asked me to stop it, if I was done with the thought. I also asked them not to sit around and cry for me. They had had enough.
It must have been weird for them to hear their eldest sister talking of death. For me, it was just what I wanted. It is something that I have told Arun too and both of us agree about the same. We would like our family and friends to be happy, sing and dance rather than cry. I am happy to have lived my life, however small it may have been. I am happy to have known some very nice people, to have family and friends who know me in and out and yet love me unconditionally. I would consider it a huge success if I have brought happiness to someone or helped someone even if it is in a small way; if I have stood up for what I have believed in.
We saw the idea live, in action after going to the P.R. Ramakrishnan Memorial Music Concert where Mrs. R. Rajeswari, his wife had invited Mrs. Usha Uthup for an evening of music. We were happy to see his family celebrating his life and admire their strength and conviction in doing so.
P.R. Ramakrishnan was a visionary. He setup industries and an educational institution which is 50+ years old. From what I have heard, CIT had a name for education and fun. I told one of my friends, 10 years elder to me, from Trichy that I was joining CIT, Cbe in 2000. He remembered how when he was a student, if he visited Coimbatore for something, he wouldn't go to a hotel for lunch. He would get his friends to buy guest coupons in the mess, for CITs food was the best you could get. He said it was the same with most students those days. He particularly remembered the 'morkozhambu' that CIT used to dish out on Thursdays and I could see his mouth watering at that thought. Imagine, one of his fondest memories of Cbe is of having lunch at CIT, though he never studied at CIT or Coimbatore for that matter.
So, it is right that we are celebrating the life of a man who has given so many people so much. Many people think that only those they meet have touched their lives. Actually, with an educational institution, you are linked to the founding fathers more than anyone else. For me, I have always looked up to Mr. Ramaswamy Iyer who started Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College at a time when women's education was taboo. I respect him for giving so many women the precious gift of education and through it empowerment.
When many people hear that I am from SRC, they doubt it and then ask me how I survived in that constraining environment. But I say, "Hey, I had the best part of my life there". We were girls given all the freedom to do whatever we wanted. Of course there were rules and our teachers were strict. They were however never unreasonable. I was a dayscholar, so not much known about the hostel. 25 departments having our own cultural fest for three days, a freshers party, sports, bhajans,..... if all this is not fun, what is ? Students used to bunk classes and get vada and bhajji from the canteen, sit under the trees away from the main campus and eat them to find Mr. Panjapakesan, the current trustee (Panju or Panju thaatha as we fondly call him to date) walk by and ask them if the food served in the canteen was good enough(this story is from a senior).
I was someone who didn't like the saree rule. So, given a chance I would wear a salwar-kamiz for the saree was revealing, and it was trouble in the bus. So, on sundays when we had class, I used to wear salwars, rebelling at the idea of wearing a saree on a sunday. Panju saw me many a time, but never asked me once. I hoped he would ask and I could tell him how it was difficult for us to wear a saree and travel in a bus especially with men touching and pinching. He never gave me a chance. And I gave up.
One other time, I followed Panju on his daily walk around the campus. I had heard he has a routine everyday, which he never breaks. He walks around, stopping by at certain places, watches us students go by, and in the middle of the ground, he takes off his slippers and prays. I admired him for that. The campus does not change radically but he walked around everyday. That was his commitment to keep in touch with the students I guess and be in touch with the pulse of the college. Stand at the gates of the college, and you can feel the energy. 2000 students walking in at 9:00 in the morning. Maybe, that must be why he walks, that energy, to know if we are on the move or relaxing. :) Commitment is something I guess I learnt from my dad and him.
At CIT, I respect the man who founded the institution thereby setting the stage for many a life to spring from. We have scientists, engineers, academicians and administrators who form the alumni of the college. That is a success attributable to the man who started it all. So, I think there is reason to rejoice in a life so well lived.
Coming home that day, I remembered those close to me and how they made me happy, taught me many things. Rudolf for being a gentleman, Thebar for what you can call 'first love', Mullar for being kind, taking care of us through our bad times, Betty for 'love', Vikram for being a brother who wiped away my tears many a time when I used to cry, Rufi, Kutty, Figo, Dafy, Wilys, Fori, Karumbi, Chandan, Thumba, Thumbi........ and Michel who I miss so much that it still aches and tears roll. He was someone who knew my joys and sorrows, my fears, my secrets and who stood by me at my very lowest. He loved me like no one else, he waited for me to return home and missed my absence. I would give anything today to see his face once again. To him I am ever indebted. I am happy I was a part of their lives and knowing each of them was an honour. They have made me what I am today. (By the way, my parents, besides the three of us had more children. Our dogs and cows always got priority over us and it continues that way even today. We were brought up to think that they were our brothers and sisters.) If I am passionate about life, it is all due to them. If you see me alive and smiling away, it is what they have taught me to do. If you see me even a bit strong, it is attributable to the strength of character they showed. So, my life has been defined totally by them. My living even a part of their ideas is the way I rejoice and celebrate their life. It matters to me that they lived and touched my life.
So, yes, someone's passing away is painful. For we can no longer talk to them, see them in person and interact with them. But life and death is a never ending cycle. I for one, would like my life celebrated.