Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Death seems to be a lot closer, and more present, since we returned to Bangladesh over a year ago.

For example, some months ago I was at a local Club signing up for membership. I gave my money to the accounts person in the office, a polite young man, who took care of my paperwork. A few days later I was at the Club ordering food at a counter, when I noticed a collection box at the far end of a table. You know, a cardboard box with a slot on the top for collecting money for a cause. Moving closer, I noticed a picture on the box - and as I got even closer I see the same young man. It was a collection for his family, because a couple of days after I met him, he was run over by a bus on the road while jogging.

When we were living in the US death seemed far, but here it always seems to be lurking around the corner.

Part of that is because here we have many more older relatives and friends than we had in the US. Partly, it is because we just know more people, and their older relatives die, and so on.

Statistically, the life expectancy is less than the US, which also contributes. Not sure about the per-capita accident rates, though.

When I go to the prayer services for those who have departed, those leading the prayers also talk a lot about death.

Newspapers have "nth" death anniversary notices for eminent people almost every day.

My favorite story about death:

Many years ago, in the Middle East, a rich man's servant comes to him one morning, shaking with fear. "Master, master, I was in the market and saw Death. And he looked at me in that special way. I want to run away as far as I can from here."

The master, who liked this servant very much, said "I'll give you my fastest horse and you can go all the way to fay-away Samarra." So the servant takes off.

Later in the day master goes to the market and looks for Death. When he finds him, he says, "Why did you startle my servant this morning?"

"It is I who was startled," protested Death, "because I'm meeting him in far-away Samarra later this evening. What was he doing so far away from there?"

(Another version of this story, which I heard at a recent Kulkhani (a prayer service for the departed father of a close friend), has Hazrat Idris (AS) in it. He feels that he has not worshipped Allah enough in his lifetime and asks Allah for an extension of his life so he can complete his prayers. He is taken all the way to the fourth heaven where he has a chance to ask Azrael (who is responsible for taking the life out of each human.) He asks Azrael for the extension, and Azrael says, "Funny, I just now got the order to take your life right away, and I was wondering how I was going to go all the way down to earth from here in time to do it.")

1 comment:

Zafa said...

This is so very true – you can never outrun death – it will happen when it will happen.

Many of us living so far away from home worry constantly for our ailing parents in BD. I am one of the extremely fortunate ones to have my parents living within miles from I. But my hubby and I constantly worry about my in-laws who are in their 70’s and late 60’s and just refused to migrate.
Our concerns sometimes turn to guilt and a feeling of neglect for not being around them physically. I know personally I would’ve gone crazy if I couldn’t see my parents regularly, to make sure they went for their check ups etc.
I know no one can stop the inevitable but the distance really puts a stress on all of our minds -- on both sides. A phone ring in the middle of the night makes our heart jump at the anticipation of the worst kind….