How Facing the Death Changed Me for the Better

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One day, I was lying on the couch at a friend’s place pondering about the absurdity of my ongoing life. The Film-school days were over and I was stuck in a nine to five job, making ends meet and wandering afar from my film-making dreams. It happens to everybody – constantly getting out of the track and feeling powerless to define one’s destiny. Most of the people find it hard to go back to the pains of walking the path again, and tries to build a new identity around what is available, eventually forgetting the true calling of the heart. And some other people get back to the track of following the dreams, no matter how lost they are in the current situation.

So lying there, bunking office, I tried to find solace in the most obvious temporary solution – of going somewhere, of taking a ride. Luckily I had my brother’s scooter with me, and in a few minutes I was heading towards Ponmudi. The hill station of Ponmudi was only less than 60 kilometres from Trivandrum city. The wind gushing on my face, soon I was enjoying the solo ride to the nature.

On the way, before the hairpin curves start, some ten kilometers before the hill station, there is a place called Meenmutty, with a waterfall of the same name. It’s a place of narrow trekking trails of up and down gradients, amidst a forest and aside a stream of water. After a hike of around two kilometers distance, one reaches a small but beautiful waterfall.

The stream is a good place for a refreshing bathe on clean water. I got into the trail and despite not knowing how to swim and not having anybody together with and not even having the guards anywhere near the site, I folded my pants up and got into the water. But I was not too cautious as the water was only my knee-length height and I was just walking through it having no intention to reach the deep pool a few meters apart. Since the water was only knee-length deep I did bend my knees and walked so that now almost up to my neck I can have the feel of the cold water. The feel-good refreshing cold water.

I walked forward just like that, with the knees still bent, my pants and unbuttoned shirt still on, assuming that the water level is similar throughout unless I move forward closer towards the deep pool section near the rocks. But, suddenly, my legs slipped and I just drowned into the nearby pool, something quite unanticipated. I never guessed there would be a pit like that nearby. Beyond the initial surprise, however I did not panic. By moving my hands as if trying to swim I thought I could just snap out of the situation. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

The water was only less than a few inches above my head but my strong arm movements to rise above just went in vain. I tried again knowing that the rock-cut from which I slipped is just a few inches apart from my feet and all I need to do is to reach my one leg there and pull myself forward. And I succeeded in reaching my one leg, and I pushed upward. Things got worse, as I slipped again and moved a little more away from the slid area. I tried hard to swim again but couldn’t move my body an inch forward. I went panic.

Panic is not a good thing, particularly in dangerous situations. The panic will only add fatigue and indecisiveness making you inescapable. Being in a situation which seemed light at first, but later felt like life-stealing, I gave another shot of paddling and lost all of my energy. And I just remained there, under water – water under my feet, over my head, and all around me. Neither was my feet touching the ground underneath nor was I going up. It was stillness, absolute stillness. And I kind of accepted something nobody accepts until their last moments….

Death was nearby, ready to embrace me. It was only a matter of few more minutes. Nobody wants to die; like the saying – even the one who wants to go to heaven doesn’t want to die to get there. Even though we see some people we know leaving us forever, or read those newspaper snippets of people dying daily, or even knowing the irreversible fact that birth leads to death eventually – we still just can’t accept fully that we will be dying too. That one day we have to leave back everything that we fought for, everything that we piled up as our assets, every grudges, enmity and love, all those dreams and aspirations – all just vanishes into thin air. Like star-dust.

The acceptance but comes for many, only in their final moments, when you finally know that you are going to die. That you are going to face the ultimate truth you were running away from all the time. And I had come to that moment of my life, of total acceptance and letting go.

And it was peaceful, a no-thought realm that one rarely experiences in life. The no-thought no-feeling Zen meditative state. And I just stood like that in water, my arms spread like wings, like the pose of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

A few seconds passed, I would say, though the sense of time was out of the equation. And, when the fate was accepted, the breath was over, and hope was far away, I suddenly began putting a final effort to just get out of the water, moving my hands forward with the maximum force and every ounce of energy I could sum up to save my life.

The thumb of my right leg touched the slid area of the rock and I pulled myself upward. To my luck, the thumb had found a small crack at the side of the rock. Making use of it I gathered all the focus on the tip of my right leg’s thumb, exerting force to make myself move upward. And it worked, but moving me a only a little upward. But that was enough for me – gathering more force I pulled myself out of the pool onto to the knee-length water again.

I moved towards the shore and lied down on a rock and gasped deep breaths, throwing out the tensions and fears that popped up all of a sudden. I just got mad at the idea of what would it be like if I had failed to escape in the last-minute. What became acceptance and a moment of clarity a few seconds ago now became a terrifying thought.

After some time, I got normal, walked to the waterfall, and set out to the golden hills of Ponmudi.

The climate was the best ever I saw in that place. The mist was all over the many hills, making it difficult to even see somebody standing a few meters apart. And the wind was blowing continuously, carrying the never-ending mist all around. It was energizing.

It was energizing mainly because here was someone having the luxury of enjoying the most wonderful climate he ever felt, as a surprise, after having narrowly escaped from death only less than an hour ago. I never felt so alive in my life ever before. It was like re-birth. It was like dying and going to the heaven. The place did feel like heaven. I walked, unbuttoned my shirts and ran through the trails from hill to hill. The wind was continuously blowing so fast that my shirt just flew all the time trying to escape from my body.

I felt gratitude for being alive, fresh, energetic and out of the ordinary…And I felt more gratitude towards life for letting me know that these things can be felt at all….

The death-facing changed me, big time. I just got affected by the thought of what if I died right there, right then. I would have just ceased to exist and all my years of surviving and existing would have been for nothing, because I had never done anything worth remembering. What about my dream of travelling to the Himalayas if I died right then? What about the unexpressed love and the unfulfilled desires? What about dying without ever living the life I wanted to live, true to myself and jumping out of that preset box of expectations and directions of others?

And I thought about the Time I had been taking for granted, the enormous amount of Time I had wasted in my life, thinking that there will always be Time left to do whatever I wanted to achieve. I thought about all the worthless shit I had been doing for time-pass without knowing it was the only time I got here. With each moment of existence, we are one moment closer to death. And the death could strike before we even realize it.

Time is finite for us. And if we are not doing what we should be doing for achieving our dreams, soon the life will make us so numb that it will be like dead-walking – living without being alive. A state of just existing without being able to do anything about our passions and dreams. A state of having no enthusiasm at all. And taking at the least one single step, or doing at least one thing that I always wanted to do, became the immediate purpose of my life from that day onward.

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