About ten days ago on Sunday morning I left the road on Trou-O-Cerfs after completing my rounds and was walking on the grass to a spot where I would do some free hand exercises to wind up. As I was doing so, I was followed by a friend who started to engage me in conversation. Up there we all have our own little groups with whom we walk, and that friend was in the group who can go round and round the whole day and talk nothing but Liverpool and Manchester and the league matches going on – that friend happened to be a Liverpool diehard –, which is not my cup of tea.
But that morning as our respective groups were dispersing, he decided to chat with me, I do not remember exactly what about. Anyway, I started doing my exercises, and soon he told me, ‘OK then I will let you carry on and get going too.’
Next morning when I reached Trou-O-Cerfs, a common friend announced to me that our friend had died during the night. He was a little over 60, one of the most regular fellow walkers, and was a teetotaller, non-smoker and very meticulous about what he ate. He was a dedicated primary school teacher who was adored by his pupils, and on many occasions in the past when we had just come to know each other, he shared his passion for teaching with me – which resonated as I was also of the same disposition – as well as many bits and pieces of interesting information culled from his extensive reading repertoire, again something which found echo with me.
Two days ago, came another sad news – another friend had passed the day before. He had not been coming for walks for the past couple of years because of illness, though he still kept working in his shop. I met him about weeks ago at the clinic waiting to see his treating doctor, when he told me that ‘things are not good.’ Sometime before that I had met him at his shop, and he was proudly showing me the latest pictures of his grandchild born to his daughter in France and was hoping to visit them later this year. A dream that he could not fulfil…
In the past couple of years, we have lost some other fellow walkers to Covid, despite being otherwise fit – at least as we could make out from their lifestyle habits that we knew about, such as being regulars at the crater.
But alas, disease and death are the levellers, irrespective of who we are or think we may be. Human lives are indeed very fragile, and it is a reality we have to reckon with. Though we need not mull over this hard truth 24/7 or allow it to frighten or depress us, at the very least it should inculcate in us some humility and inspire us to make the best of our limited time on this planet. And also, spread goodness rather than the acid of hate around, as many people around the world do.
I am not the only one who thinks along these lines, as evidenced by the touching note of appreciation sent by my friend Michael, a retired teacher, which reads as follows: ‘I have finished reading your wonderful article on the state of war in this world. You stress the need for reconciliation and healing. This can work provided both sides come with goodwill. In my prayers I pray that a third world war does not break out. It will be apoplectic. Beyond imagination. Thanks a lot for this enriching article.’
Who can deny that the most pressing need of our times is goodwill, peace and reconciliation? For that matter, such sentiments are urgently needed here. Indeed, charity could begin at home, in our parliament, where there seems to be unending acrimony if we go by the declarations of the members of the opposition after their walkout on Tuesday. We do really need a mega fresh wind of change in that august house don’t we. If only a huge fan could be installed at Trou-O-Cerfs that would blow the cool morning air in the direction of our temple of democracy! I am sure that that is what is needed, both in actual fact and metaphorically. Cooler temperatures and tempers…
In the meantime, life must go on, though beneath the semblance of normalcy there is much distress and stress being caused not only by the loss of loved ones – Covid-related or not, sudden, and unexpected or as result of pre-existing illness – but also by the increase in the cost of living that has been happening step by step. The same amount of money is buying less and less, despite the targeted measures that do not appear to be reflected on the shelves of retail outlets.
Human lives are precious, but also fragile and precarious. The precariousness is enhanced by anything that deprives us of basic needs or the affordable access to them. Decisions and policies which may lead to such deprivation should be carefully weighed before they are implemented. That’s the very least that citizens can legitimately expect from those at the helm of the country, and we pray that the appeals and voices of concerned stakeholders will be heard loud and clear.
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