Our Self-Written Obituaries – Aanchal Malhotra, Bahrisons Booksellers
The 78th death.
[Text by Aanchal Malhotra; photo by Navdha Malhotra]
How often is one presented with the bizarre and melancholic task of penning one’s own obituary? Well, since that was The Delhi Walla’s demand of me-a self written obituary-it got me thinking. How did I wish to die? Where? When? Doing what? Strange questions to ask oneself, are they not? Nonetheless, the issue of a preordained cause of death danced around me.
Surely, I would like to depart in some eccentrically tragic way; none of those ordinary dying-in-bed or getting-hit-by-a-bus situations for me, please. Just like life, death too, demanded something more unconventional of me. My work as an artist and now in literature had taught me better than that. I had not labored day after day in the name of art, knee deep in inks and acid in a printmaking studio, to die a seemingly dull death. Nor had I pored over manuscript after manuscript, reveling in the lives and deaths of book characters, to assign myself a colourless demise.
The only problem was… all the good deaths had been taken! History was littered with creative endings! Where was I to even begin from?
There was no chance of dying of pneumonia like John Keats at a time when pneumonia wasn’t even a fathomable disease. Nor was I as brave or miserable as yet to pull a Sylvia Plath by placing my head inside an oven. Virginia Woolf certainly added her own signature style of melancholia to the act of drowning, but I was so afraid of water, let alone even beginning to imagine what trash might have accumulated at the bottom of any water body in Delhi fit for drowning in! Emperor Humayun’s death seemed somewhat appealing, yet foolishly accidental; but then again, dying in your library does possess somewhat of a charming invitation. I had also heard of an interesting incident once, where several people danced themselves to death [for no apparent reason] during the month-long Dance-Fever of 1518 in Strasbourg. Surely dancing was an odd way to die-very interesting, but pointless.
No, you see, a death has to mean something. I would prefer my death to be simple, somewhat elegantly poetic. This is, after all, a self-written obituary; where else can I fantasize about my own death being a poignant affair, if not here. Someday, like everyone elses’, my death too, will become me. ‘So-and-so died on so-and-so day in so-and-so way’. This is what will linger on after us.
We certainly cannot predict our deaths, as some have tried to do in the past. But what we can do is hope to be remembered a certain way through our actions during the course of our lives. I would like to be remembered not only as someone born into the literary family of Bahrisons Booksellers, or as someone that was once an artist for a while. Alongside all that, I think I would like to be remembered as someone who did something of consequence [which of course is yet to be done], and [though this may be wishful thinking] as someone who was able inspire the people around her.
However, I can say one thing with certainty-I would like my death, in some way, to be inextricably entwined with the history, oddities and beauty of my beloved Delhi.
Our Self-Written Obituaries invites people to write their obituary in 200 words. The idea is to share with the world how you will like to be remembered after you are gone. (May you live a long life, of course!) Please mail me your self-obit at firstname.lastname@example.org.