He was close to 50 years when a sudden, vicious bout of pneumonia got the better of him. Staying alone in a big metro and respectably transitioned to the corporate world after a long innings in the Navy, he was the quintessential gentleman. During one of our brief encounters on the hurried evening walk, i learnt that his wife and teenaged children were settled in a different city for reasons of educational convenience. Not an unfamiliar situation for many modern families today.
So when I received news of his untimely demise, I rushed to the hospital where he breathed his last. A few good friends from his navy days and company associates were gathered outside the hospital for the last farewell. He suffered silently and did not seek medical attention in time, I was told. He was finally rushed to the hospital by a neighbour, with help from the building’s watchman.
His wife and daughter stood silently behind dark shades – the only family members present. They were remarkably calm and composed despite such a sad turn of events. As the body draped in a crisp white sheet was wheeled out to the waiting Hearse, a gust of autumn wind uncovered his face. Cold, grim and lifeless, it bore no resemblance to the smart ex-navy guy in tees, baggys and golf cap i was used to seeing. The only two family members present stifled a small gasp and impassively wiped the teardrops that streaked down their cheeks. For all the years spent together, there was little emotion at play, I couldn’t help but think. The hearse weaved its way to the crematorium through rush hour traffic, often overtaken, being an old, slow moving vehicle with little commercial purpose.
Then followed a longish wait for the priest to arrive and conduct last rites. He was alone, laid out on the bare, cold floor of the crematorium. In the adjacent waiting area, his wife and teenage daughter were thumbing through their mobiles, probably responding to empty messages of consolation pouring in on WhatsApp and Facebook from well wishers. Where were all these ‘well wishers’ when he was silently losing his last battle, i wondered. Blissfully unaware because he couldn’t update his status in time?
I couldn’t help but reflect on where the human race is headed. In a few moments, his mortal remains would be consigned to flames, never to return. But seven out of ten people present, including his closest relatives, were busy pouring through their mobiles and IPads. And he was not in any way an unpopular guy.
I sometimes wonder what good technology if it makes us so insensitive towards human beings – even in their last journey? Will the skies fall if we were to stay away from these devices for a while? Maybe the time is not far when we will have e-marriages, e-funerals and e-mourning. Already a substantial portion of our free time, nay family time, is being consumed by social media and banal exchanges devoid of any real feelings. What kind of soul-less humanoids are we turning out to be?
Perhaps, it is time to take two steps back & ponder over the perils of too much electronic time and ever dwindling ‘human’ time. It is a clear and present danger. And nobody, as it seems, is immune to it. As per reports, children as young as 2 are spending hours in the virtual world of mobiles and tablets.
The world will indeed be a sad place the day devices replace human warmth and interaction.
Think about it. Is this how you would wish to be seen off from this world?
“Look into my eyes. Touch me. Talk to me. Laugh with me. Enjoy me. I am not forever”