Death — Be Not Proud, You are just as Universal as any of HIS other creations!

Death — Be Not Proud, You are just as Universal as any of HIS other creations!

Tejinder Singh Bedi

We are all born to die, after we have completed a life cycle we are packed into. Birth or Rebirth may not be a reality but death surely is. All creation, Seasons, Ideals, Relationships, Jobs, Life Phases — as the prompt said too.

Having lived close to 70 years already, I have experienced and learnt about death in its multiple forms time and again, more than many others -I believe. And each leaving its own distinct and indelible impressions on my mind.

As a child, I first learnt about death from the tales of the mass scale shooting of an uncountable number of Indians at the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 from my grandfather (Bawa Shiv Singh Bedi), who himself was one of the fewest and the most fortunate survivors of this massacre rising up from a stack of umpteen corpses above and all around him as also of even the far more gruesome killings of millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims due to a mayhem caused by the Indo Pak partition of 1947. Though in the 1947 partition, my father and a few of his siblings had another similar miraculous escape from Death while fleeing across the Indo Pak border on a bullock cart, a man sitting just next to him was attacked by a few armed rioters and brutally murdered. Another lost his arm with a few others close by falling like pins. A divine blessing had saved my father and other members of the family as the attackers fled on seeing an army of young Sikhs following them to combat these butchers. It was a second so close a shave with death in the immediate elderly family that taught that if HE wishes to prolong lives, HE can ensure how death gets dodged too! There are many other real life references to such deaths and much better covered by my litterateur Godfather #KhushwantSingh, whose picture along with me I use in all of my write-ups as for this platform too.

Alongside these have been the awe inspiring stories of our freedom fighters and martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Chandarshekhar Azad, Sukhdev, RajGuru and many others done to death by the Britishers for they raised and lead a formidable fight for freedom for all Indians but like in my religion, we celebrate the sacrifice of life of our SikhGurus at the hands of the Moghuls — who wanted to forcefully convert Hindus to Islam, all such moments of death too have been a cause of celebrations in most of our communities.

As I grew up, I learnt about the death of many of our Indian soldiers in the first Indo-China war of 1962 from my father’s uncle Major G S Kapur — when he returned safe and sound after being released as a POW in captivity of the Chinese Army for more than 2 years but with all of his toes mutilated. Despite the massive deaths in this one sided war for our complete lack of preparation for such expansionist attacks on a neighboring country by China, there were many stories of inspiration to learn that even such a death can not deter a noble soul that believes in the freedom and dignity of life of one and all irrespective of the caste, color, creed, community, religion or the nation one comes from. Death for such causes as such has always invoked celebrations!

Immensely inspired with these stories my father Bawa Amarjit Singh Bedi offered my and my younger brother’s services besides his own for enrolment in the Indian Army on a call given by the then India Prime Minister asking for more civilians to join the nation’s armed forces.

And both myself and my brother were just 10 and 8 then. (See the scanned copy of my father’s consent to this effect, above). Obviously, death had become a respected word for us all just like birth by then, at least in our generation of kids with the stories of the subsequent Indo Pak wars of 1965 and 1971 further strengthening the same.

In the 1965 war, Adampur Airforce station just about 12 kilometers from my place of birth and schooling was a favored target of the Pakistan air force. And our preparations to spend long spells of nights completely blacked out and long hours spent in Z, U shaped trenches dug up in our house and the adjoining vast school complex of a Middle School run by my grandfather and famously known as #BediSchool today seem more like a thrilling adventure rather than any fears of death in war torn situations.

One of my uncles, Col M S Khurana had participated in the most famous war of 1971 under leadership of our General Sam Manekshaw & Lt General J S Aurora, leading to partition of Bangladesh post surrender of 99000 armed soldiers of Pak-Bangla on our Western borders. But fortunately besides the deaths caused by war there were no stories of any mayhem.

The partitions of Pakistan from India in 1947 and later Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 offered many a historical lessons but what India witnessed in 1984 again through a near genocide on the Sikh community killing thousands of unsuspecting Sikhs, looting their businesses, properties and raping their women post the unfortunate assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought forth the ugliest scenes of death of many set on fire after sprinkling petrol, kerosene or after having been thrashed or attacked by mobs armed with sharp swords and other weapons until dead in the open for days across the nation though this time there was no partition within the country but of the human souls of the same fraternity. This was another form of death to be lived through in first person though generally better cinematographed in our social or war movies. This time death had lost its own soul too once again!

Within the closer family, I had to see my grandfather departing at a ripe age of 98, my grandmother at 80 and both my parents at 85 one after another. However, they had all lived long and survived longer with rich lessons and legacies left for us all and our mourning for each such separation was short and limited, soon turning to celebrations as soon as we started consolidating the massive work each had done for their families and the society too. A couple of years ago my younger brother, just about 63, passed away in sleep and his going away like this too reduced our grief to an extent. A death in sleep or at a place of worship singing hymns in HIS praise can perhaps be the best forms of exit.

Death of two workers in a Philips lighting plant in Mohali in Punjab due to a fire ball consuming them after leakage of LPG from one of its bullets, where I was serving as a Senior Personnel & Administration Manager and Factory Manager during 1987–1989 however left a lasting impact on my life for the acute agony and sufferings the two young boys in just their late twenties had to put up with for weeks together before getting freedom from this kind of a death. Perhaps this exposure to their prolonged fight with their burn injuries was the sole reason for me to support an NGO by the name #MakeLoveNotScars (#MLNS) later in life when I could really throw my weight behind one of many of such social service pursuits.

All these close encounters with death had made me strong to take up a challenging assignment in Patiala’s largest industrial unit as Head of its Personnel, Administration & Security streams for nearly 4400 headcount of its mass after a broad daylight murder of two of my preceding Personnel Heads. Even otherwise, Punjab being seriously affected with terrorism as a retaliation to Operation Blue Star attack on Golden Temple, both the police cops, civilians as well as terrorists were falling dead like pins in very unfortunate staggered attacks and encounters bringing news of death almost non stop every day for years together.

As if all of the above exposures were not enough to provide the insight required into the reality of death and life the outbreak of pandemic COVID last year on the planet has been further ringing in the news of a very large number of the old as well as the young ones in known circles falling prey to this notorious virus. In certain horrifying spells, there was hardly any day for weeks at a stretch when we did not wake up with the news of a very close relation, friend or an acquaintance having succumbed to this near fatal disease and in times when visiting any one even across the aisles separating two opposing apartments had become a great challenge for humanity. How long this phase will or can continue though still remains largely unclear. My entire family including our 18 month old angel granddaughter too had contracted COVID though with the blessings of the Almighty, we have been among the more fortunate ones once again so far to have successfully come out of this ordeal after nearly a month’s combat for all of us. Proving yet again — Jako Raakhe Saanyian, Maar Sake Na Koye — meaning the “Ones who are blessed by God, can not be killed by any one”, (except when HE alone ordains), for death not to be proud ever!

It is also during this phase that one of my close friends Jatinder Singh Shunty rose to the occasion to take up the gauntlet of completing cremations and last rites of many discarded COVID diseased bodies though having crossed 65 — senior citizens like me despite all the burning desire could not join him and his team in this selfless and noble pursuit to help them through our physical presence in anyways that prompted me to pen down a poetry piece on our Medium platform and also pay my tributes to such selfless, fearless souls through another recent write-up. (Sharing links for both below).

Death thus will indeed come to us all but only at the moments appointed by our sole creator, to whom we all ultimately belong to but I do wish it to be least traumatic or painful for anyone and that the ones who strongly believe in their creator go back singing songs in HIS glory proving Steve Jobs wrong who is quoted as having said , “Even people who want to go to heaven, do not want to die to get there!”

(*Author Tejinder Singh Bedi is a former technocrat, a people management, CSR Adviser, free-lance writer and a passionate singer)