Why are we so afraid of dying?

When I wrote this blog on death, sometime last year, I was sitting in a cancer treatment hospital. It was clean, official and bustling. It even had a coffee shop where doctors and families of patients and patients themselves came to get a caffeine shot before they head back to the patient they were overseeing. Like any normal office or mall, except it wasn’t.

There was a silent sea of fear that moved in waves, it moved from faces and bodies that walked and talked and saw reports and desperately waited for the doctors to arrive. The trepidation remained behind floundering smiles, a squeeze of a hand or an awkward attempt to fill a silence with an anecdote. Behind every silent glance, itching fingers that opened a touchscreen phone again and again, to look at it blankly, or a bored face waiting for yet another day to get over, there was fear. For all of them had someone from their family, someone who they loved, strapped in one of those rooms above, fighting with death.

There was guilt in those faces that waited, guilt for the fact that they were healthy while their child, spouse or parent was battling with that dreaded disease. The anecdotes that floated in the coffee shop were about doctors,  other deaths, other cancers and newly learnt medical jargon. And everywhere hung the unknown questions. What will happen today? God, please don’t let her go away.


I’ve written about it many times before (here in relation to immortality which I explored in the second part of Anantya’s series and here where I spoke about rituals around death, maybe a little unfairly), to the point of being morbid myself. But for most part, it’s in a scholarly way. Not like people through of it in this hospital (or any other place where they see death up close). Why is life so short and death so sudden and mysterious? Why can’t you connect with someone who you spend your life with in death? Why do they suddenly disappear? What happens when we die? Where do we go? Do the unbelievers who don’t have any multistoried apartments booked in any of the offered heavens go to hell? Is hell a desert or darkness with nothingness? What’s that fear? Is it the fear of unknown or the fear of things we cannot control, or a fear that someone might not be there for you, leaving an emotional or financial vacuum behind that will never be filled? A hole in your heart? What is the fear??

Everyone is waiting, either to take their loved ones back home, party and survive for a few more decades, or to get that final shock. But it’s the fear that gets to us all. The fear of death of our loved ones. The fear that we’ll lose them. For that’s something we’ve not understood or fully realized. That’s something that we cannot prepare ourselves for, that’s something we cannot provide for them. That’s a journey which everyone takes alone.

Death. Cannot be controlled, hand held, or won over. Everyone loses to her in the end. Everyone fails to find answers about her. She’s mysterious, alluring, fearful and scary. And her stroke is powerful. Nothing will save you from her. Nothing. Nada.

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Death and the desire for immortality

I so don’t like Death. I cringe everyday when I read about it in the newspaper. It happens to a stranger, unexpected when she’s just eating her food. It happens when someone is happy and shopping. It happens after a prolonged, wearisome illness. Every time I read it, I imagine scenes of violent (and can I add rather imaginative) deaths in which I imagine the people I love (not me, for that’s one thing I am not scared of, weirdly). I am not masochistic, I can’t help seeing these images. And they leave my heart palpitating with fear. Makes me cringe. Every time.

I don’t like to talk to Death. I ignore it when it is walking around my house. I wash my hands, again and again and I mutter mantras to protect myself from it. I pray that it would not happen to me or the ones I love. I don’t talk about it to anyone. If there’s a death in someone’s house, I don’t even go there. What if I or someone I love catches that disease? For Death for me (and if you let yourself accept it, for you too) is a disease. It’s a disease that cWilliam_Blake_Satan_in_Gloryatches all of us humans in the end. It’s there, hiding behind in the ends and beginnings of every story, every myth, every philosophy discussion that has happened and will happen. We live to question or solve the idea of death. Death is at all our doors, all the time. And it doesn’t need an invitation to come inside. (My fingers are crossed so that I can ward off Death as I write this blog, for some primal me fears that it will come because I am talking about it).

Death is the reason that immortality is such a fascinating idea to me. Escaping the clutches of Death! Living on forever, without the fear of dying! The very idea to live forever! As a brain in a box of metal, or a Russian avatar, or as a spiritual immortal canoodling with hot naked bodies in a fancy heaven, immortality is a soma which I want to drink from, given a chance. Do you desire it? How much would you want to sacrifice, to give away in your desire of it?



A few days ago, I created a character who is an immortal in the new book I have been working on. I won’t tell you who he is, but let me tell you one thing I realised as I was working on him. In all his dialogues, in the way he carried himself, the way he spoke, the way he just didn’t laugh anymore, but stared, the way he didn’t gobble up his drink, but just took a sip, as if he had all the time in the world—he just seemed so weary. That was one emotion that I could smell from him. He felt so tired. So weary of living. So exhausted with the idea of continuing to live, on and on, without refreshing himself, ever.

I was surprised at this. After all, he had a boon to live forever! Why wasn’t he enjoying it? Why did it sound more like a curse to me? I hadnt planned on making him to tired, but that’s what I could smell while writing about him.

My immortal character has made me thankful that I would die sometime in the future (small cringe). I don’t want to live through a lot of things—like world wars, famines, deaths all around me. I don’t want to live as the world completely changes around me—adapting again and again to these changes and continuing to learn, adapt, make new friends, see old ones die and wither away. I don’t want to live carrying all experiences —failures, hopes, dreams, successes, sorrow, happiness—as a burden on my bent back.

Nopes, I don’t want to do that.

So bye, bye immortality. I would rather start afresh. Feel differently? Tell me about it!