Life is worth cherishingEvery moment you breathe is worth celebrating. Life is beautiful even when it is bleak.
The clock struck 4:30 in the morning. The cry of a newborn baby echoed inside the maternity ward of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.
A flood of felicitations accompanied the cry, augmenting the reverberation. A feeling of camaraderie engulfed the ward where fellow patients and nurses were showering their love to the newborn baby and best wishes to the mother. In the same ward, Bhairav, whose sister had just given birth to her first child, was solemn and silent.
An uncanny feeling had taken over his heart dissuading him from feigning elation. He walked out of the room ignoring the trite wishes and went straight to the canteen. He ordered a cup of tea and cigarette. Leaving the empty cup and smouldering cigarette, he went for a stroll around the hospital and ended his walk in the parking lot. He put on his helmet, sat on his bike and headed towards his college.
His friends congratulated him on hearing the news of his newborn nephew but Bhairav was still lost in the meanderings of his thoughts. He left college at 10:45 am and went to his work. Bhairav worked as an accountant at a pharmaceutical company in Jamal. His colleagues also congratulated him but no wishes were capable of assuaging the lament Bhairav was going through. He had a doctor’s appointment at 3 pm so he left work and went to see the doctor for his recurring backaches. The doctor advised him to lessen his bike rides for a couple of days and to focus on strengthening his back and legs through exercise and walking.
He went back to the hospital. His mother admonished him for leaving without uttering a word. He apologised and went to see his sister. He didn’t congratulate her and she wasn’t offended by it. He merely looked at the baby while everyone was waiting in turn to hold the baby in their arms, especially the girls. He didn’t even care to stroke the baby’s head as a gesture of love for his nephew.
His father handed him a doctor’s prescription and asked him to bring some medicines unavailable in the hospital’s pharmacy. Reckoning the superfluity of pharmacies outside the hospital area, he took the prescription and went outside. As soon as he passed the hospital’s main gate, he bumped into an old friend. It was his friend’s birthday, so he invited Bhairav to celebrate. Bhairav asked him to wait, bought the medicines, went back to the hospital and came as fast as he could. They went to a nearby restaurant.
“What were you doing at the hospital?” his friend asked.
“My sister became a mother today,” Bhairav replied without a tinge of excitement in his voice.
“Oh, congratulations! This calls for a double celebration.”
They drank whiskey and ate food and talked about their life. Observing the conspicuous sadness in Bhairav, his friend asked, “You don’t look so happy, what’s the matter?”
“I’m searching for an answer to my question,” Bhairav replied.
“Why don’t you Google it?” his friend tried to joke.
“Google is technology, my question seems divine to me,” Bhairav said, gravely serious in his drunken state.
“Well, ask God then.”
Bhairav was startled at this answer as if his friend had illuminated light into the darkness he was living in. He thought he found a way out of the labyrinth he was trapped in. He thanked his friend and got out. He saw a taxi outside and immediately got in it. He asked the driver to take him to Pashupatinath temple, the grand ornate temple of Lord Shiva where, also, the funeral of Hindus takes place.
At the temple, the everyday aarati was being performed but he wasn’t there for any prayer. He sat opposite the arena where dead bodies were burned. The holy river, Bagmati, separated him from the burning. He sat there in deep contemplation, watching people mourning and crying for the loss of their beloved ones, pondering over the two stages of life he witnessed today. At dawn, he saw people relishing the birth of a man and at dusk, the mourning for a dead man.
He got up and started walking towards the forest area of the temple.
He saw a dreadlocked sadhu attired in a black robe sitting under a mammoth sacred fig tree. He was appalled at the sight of a sadhu sitting alone in a forest in pitch black darkness while others sat inside the vicinity of the temple for alms. He tried to ignore the saint and went past him.
“What are you searching for, my child?” the saint asked Bhairav.
Bhairav was shocked at the clairvoyance of the sage about how he could possibly know about his search.
“Why do you ask that, baba?” Bhairav questioned with fear.
“The enervation of your arduous quest reflects on your face.”
“I’ve learned that there are five stages of life—birth, youth, old age, disease and death. Today I tried to visit all the places affiliated to these stages. I went to study, to work, visited a doctor and came here at last. I tried to live all the stages of life to find a stage worthy of celebration. My sister gave birth to a child today and everyone was congratulating her but I don’t see any stage of life deserving accolade. Everyone who is born gets education, job, marries, gets old, succumbs to a disease and dies. Then, why congratulate someone who is just another sheep in a herd?”
“Education, money, marriage, disease are the trappings of life but celebrating the birth of a child doesn’t deduce the happiness of his life. Life doesn’t bestow only happiness, an equal share of sorrows accompanies. If you celebrate the birth of a child for his illustrious future, you might as well have to mourn for the distress and dejection he might encounter in life.”
“Then, which part of life is so special that provokes people to celebrate birthdays?”
“Every moment you breathe, every moment your heart beats is worth celebrating. Life is beautiful even when it is bleak, agonising, replete with failures and suffering. A blind man might complain for his inability to see but his existence in this world overcomes his sadness of blindness. A lunatic has no sense of the world he lives in, but still, he doesn’t want to leave this senseless world. A rich man’s longing for a long life doesn’t substantiate a poor would want to end his life.”
Having said this, the sage disappeared. Bhairav was dumb-stricken. His hands and feet became numb. He felt cadaverous as the cadavers were being burned in the temple. Gathering the fragments of his scattered audacity, he walked towards the temple. He stood before the shrine of Lord Shiva, prayed and thanked him for his life. He finally realised that life is a gift and every moment of it, indifferent to happiness and sadness, is worth celebrating.