Friday, August 13, 2010

The final destination

Dear Brig Kamboj,
The reference to the inevitable journey on 'the long road to nowhere' which I posted in the memory of a friend, who passed away on the 7th August has evoked considerable response from the 'netizens'. My friend, Virin Bajaj says we are all in the queue. The destination is the same, and we are all in possession of confirmed 'one-way' tickets. Only the date is not known. For some unknown reasons, the Issuing Authority is rather secretive about it. Virin has added that this is perhaps the only queue which no one wants to jump!

Vijay Mayadev of the XIX course, has written in to remind us that the first one amongst our course mates to elbow his way into the bus on the ultimate journey was Hardhir Malia. I dug out my diary to discover, that by a queer coincidence, we lost Malia exactly fifty years ago, on the 11th Aug 1960. He met with an accident on Sunday, the 7th August 1960. I should know the exact details because I was riding the pillion of that ill-fated motor cycle. The late Pilot Officer Rajadhyaksha (He was the elder brother of the eminent writer, Shobha De) was on the other bike, and the two of them had challenged each other to win that wretched race. Rajadhyaksha was leading, and Malia was in no mood to accept defeat. His last words to me were,"Ghabraain naa" and then he turned the throttle...

He was in coma for four days, and the end came on the ensuing Thursday. Every single person in the Academy was shocked, from the commandant down to the humble peons and safaiwalas. For several days, Malia was the talk of the campus. His mother and sisters were inconsolable and the pain on his father's face could be sensed from miles. I still remember the words of the obituary of No. 2847, Cadet HRS Malia which was published. There was a detailed reference to his sterling qualities as a sportsman and his achievements as a daring rider.

Rajadhyaksha suffered from a sense of guilt. He believed that he should not have overtaken Malia, since Hardhir's driving experience was much less than his. At times, he would say, "I killed him..." and then, he would sob inconsolably. Raju, as he was affectionately called became a fighter pilot, but soon after earning his wings, died in an air crash, in 1962. I think Thomas or Jimmy Bhatia should write about him.
I compare Malia's death with those of the senior citizens who go after having lived their lives. There is a world of difference. I may be mistaken, but I have rarely seen a sense of shock on the faces of the offspring. The spouse is the principal mourner and the colleagues seem to be mournful, but for the younger generation, it is merely a logical conclusion to life. In cases where the person had gone through a prolonged illness, there is even a sense of relief! A six-line poem by Ogden Nash is worthy of being quoted to end this little piece:

People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different.
People look at them with eyes, that wonder when…
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.

I wish I could play 'rouse' after this sad 'last post'!
(Maj Gen Surjit Singh, Chandigarh)

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