Enjoying Obituaries:

Churchill  Not Alone

By Someswar Bhagwat

When I wrote on the benefits of writing one’s own obituary,  the only thought I had was the thrill of making an assessment of that journey and counting the  milestones, real if you are old and imaginary if you have miles to go before you rest (for ever)

I recall that  two friends, both in their sixties now, writing my ‘obit’ decades ago, remembered the weekly I edited not knowing my publisher friend had a shady financier. They forgot the four new dailies whose first issues I produced or that I entered the Street of Ink as a minor  with a celebrity mentor

So you remember only your achievements and others only the  eminently forgettable events. As a news agency’s regional head I recall how obits of celebrities are kept ready weeks in advance and released with an :embargo:  when the count down begins. They are the only life sketches about those alive we write in the past tense

Having worked in both the rival news agencies l created a joke when one if them “killed” celebities hours before they died  Spurred by the urge to ‘beat’ the rival by  few seconds, operators “jump” the embargo only to  “kill”  the item itself after a few seconds .

I used to say one presumed the celebrity dead on seeing a follower in tears while the rival,  being over cautious, waited for the death to pinch the  celebrity or ask him/her to say if (s)he was really dead.

So that was making a joke on death – which we are warned never to do.  But it did make a scribe ‘enjoy’ death like Churchil  The rule aboui death and fun concerned headlines — never  give a funny headline to a death item 

Responding to my article on obits it’s only reader Mr Vemkat Raman  wrote:  “About obituaries, Sir Winston Churchill wrote to a friend “I could not attend the funeral, but enjoyed reading the obituary “. 

“Once   when The  Hindu used to  publish  obits  in the left hand classified  column of page 4, it was the most read page by many readers.. They were happy if the age of the dead is higher than their own age.

“Even today when someone mentions that so and so died, the first question asked is about the deceased’s age. There is a natural feeling that death of a senior person is something not to be grieved.” To die is one of the most common duties of  the old  This is what  the seniors have to do – one  grows old and   duly dies  It is  natural and normal 

After-all  “old”  is ones age plus some days. And it was normal for the old to die. l am ONLY 84, not ‘old’ .

“When I read the highly paid obituaries with photographs in all editions, it makes me wonder, is it worthwhile to grieve for such an old person, who lived long enough , achieved something and duly passed away at ripe old age.They have contributed a lot to the nation and attained a good  age”. 

Thanks to mushrooming retirement homes and much more cash, they are at least

 taken  care of. The end is a relief….to all.


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