Sand in the palms of time

The surprising thing about death is that we may see it coming but to an extent

Aftab Ahmed Khanzada October 11, 2022
The writer is a senior analyst based in Hyderabad

The reality of life centres around death that neither takes a pause nor gets tired. The surprising thing about death is that we may see it coming but to an extent. Because of the impenetrable darkness around it, there is no option but to accost the conventional hypotheses. So our understanding of death is restricted to the physical aspect only. Owing to this myopic approach, the countless chapters of advanced thinking have been scattered in the annals of humankind for centuries.

The religions however have given answers to the eternal queries about death — but in limits. While the proponents of science must concede their failure in figuring out the ultimate destination of soul; in sum, it transpires that life exists because of death only. Or, it would be a circle of persistent sameness. Great Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago’s novel Death at intervals is a wonderful piece of literature which portrays bizarre happenings in a country where on the first day of the new year, nobody dies; the terminally ill patients start living a healthy life once again.

Upon the disappearance of Death, the people celebrate their unending life. After a long time, when no one dies, the burial companies begin to protest to the government as their services are not hired by anyone. Their demand for incentives from the government for helping them survive forces the government to provide alternatives. Therefore, the burial of birds and animals is made compulsory. Together with it, the funeral of parrots, because of people’s fondness for them, is made to be performed in humanly fashion.

The business doom does not end here, it lengthens to the insurance, and to the church as well, whose rationale is that without fear of death, who would be afraid of punishment in hell? The churches and the insurance companies would be locked for good because of missing devotees and donations and premiums for the new churches and policies. It begins to be believed by all that death sustains life. Anyway, if death is sent packing from earth, life would be colourless. As human beings are fed up by straight way of living, they soon would cry for the re-emergence of the great reaper (death).

American poetess Emily Dickinson asks her admirers, “grasp silent sand in your palm, and ask yourself what it was yesterday — an animal in the Jurassic Park or the eyeball of Michelangelo — before changing its forms, because the structure and properties of matter are changing all the time.” Anthropologists make us recall “we are the food of tomorrow, as everything in the universe is going to be a lump of sand ultimately.”

Today, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Pharaoh, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Mussolini and the Shah of Iran, the cruel rulers and greedy clerics of yore are heaps of mud. Possibly, the soil that has besmeared your face, shoes, crockery, and clothes might have come from the remains of the aforementioned greats. It is farcical that the kingly grandeur and arrogance, which had no limits once, are for consumptions of historians and filmmakers, not for the rest, who term them as a mere shows off. Similarly, the fascination for the grand palaces of the erstwhile rulers is a case of criticism for using public money extravagantly.

Also, the forsaken palaces open eyes on the impermanence of power. It feels strange as to why the occupants were given to beseeching for an extended stay in these palaces, when they had to leave them for their final abode — a heap of sand. It is a question that the Sages and Saints have been giving to the powerfuls for ages, but their efforts have yet to bear results since their words of caution have been termed as interference in the state affairs.

If one seriously means to explore the truth of life, one must read the confessions of King Solomon who has described the reality of things as such, “I have learned that the value of things is an illusion for the beholder and agony for the soul; I have had the luxuries that people could wish for. And, despite enjoying their possessions, I have always felt a burden on my heart, therefore, have never enjoyed them fully.” The ultimate finding of King Soloman about people who spent their lives in quests of accumulating worldly glitter and power is that they have gathered sand in their palms. If we happen to visit the cemetery, we would encounter there an eerie silence and helplessness of the people who were kings and important being once, but are heaps of mud now.

What we owe to them is deference and muted intonation before their graves that how foolish their quests were for the magnificent palaces and fiefdoms, for which they had made others’ lives a constant punishment. It is misfortune that despite the existing examples of democracy in the West, the Sub-continent is still embroiled in the dynastic style of governance. As a result, the desired fruits of real democracy are still unharvested for people, for whom liberty is, as was the rule of the British and indigenous rulers for their forefathers, who after the oppression of centuries, had a dream of an unbiased homeland where they would rule.

But owing to the ingrained tendency to bow before the power, the dream became a nightmare soon, just because of the ruling elites’ uninhibited spree of loot and plunder. If they keep up their self-enrichment and indiscretion, everything would go to the dogs here. It is relevant if the narrative of Baghdad’s ransacking after the invasion of Mongols is kept in mind. Fortunately, for us, that kind of challenge does not exist, but this can’t be said about the ascending inner invasion against the system and creme de la creme of it. That if not handled immediately may cause a catastrophe in the homeland, what Halagu brought to the kingdom of Abbasid dynasty.

Thus, those who are at the helm of affairs now or those who would be tomorrow ought to look at the bursting seams of the patience of the deprived before it is too late. Even then if they cannot listen to the wandering calls of the potents of past, they would be in their leagues soon — sand in the palms of time


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