A relative who was planning to start a new business venture — which meant securing a hefty loan and investing time and energy — was talking to me animatedly about her future plans. I was puzzled. She was in her mid 60s, had been a busy and accomplished professional all her working life, and often complained of lack of time to do things that held her interest. She loved her profession too, and had won many accolades and awards that left her completely beholden to her work.I reminded her that she had talked of putting her feet up, get holistic treatments, travel at her own pace, watch films and shows she’d missed, catch up on her reading, spend quality time with family and friends, resume drawing and painting, and what not. How would she ever do those things, if she was going to plunge headlong into a time-consuming new venture? To which she replied that she would, once she had seen the proposed venture to its fruition.I gently reminded her that she was not exactly young; that she needed to now work backwards, fixing an approximate age of death – perhaps she would live another fifteen or twenty years? Why not plan for those precious years, now that she was financially and professionally secure and well established?I was unprepared for the violent reaction and onslaught that followed my innocuous, well-meaning suggestion. “You want me to die? Are you saying I am going to die soon? Until this moment death had never entered my mind. You are so insensitive, any cruel!” And she burst out crying. I was flabbergasted. I explained to her that I said all of this only because I loved her dearly and wanted her to fulfill all her dreams and relax, enjoy and find peace and contentment. I certainly did not wish for her to die! She stopped talking to me for the next six months or so. Her parting refrain was, “Everyone I know encouraged me and praised my new venture idea – you are the only one who has discouraged me and criticised me” Maybe I am the only one who truly cares for you, I mumbled to myself. Most of us are taken by surprise when Yama, the Lord of Death, beckons. We know that death is a certainty, yet we are totally unprepared for that life-ending event that spares no one.By Narayani Ganesh
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