Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category

I think I can write a thesis on this topic: How to deal with death on social media. But the problem is I can’t write anymore.

There used to be a time when you would find me in my computer room writing long articles on my favourite subject – technology. I have always been a computer freak, a whiz even, you could call me. In 1986, I imported a computer from Japan, paid through my nose on customs duty. I guess, being a steel magnate does have its perks. You can afford things that your passion desires. My computer room or my “Tech Room”, as my children call it, always remained my hallowed haven, where I would spend all my spare time. But it always remained my own space. I never felt the need to show it to anyone. In fact, except for my family and my staff, no one knew of its existence.

I guess precisely for this reason, I never got on to social media, despite being so tech-savvy. I loathed the whole concept of making your private life public.

As the stack of books on computers and gadgets grew on my book shelf, my acquisitions also increased and my Tech Room became a techno museum of sorts. My children found my room fascinating and I allowed them complete access to it only on one condition – my room, no matter how intriguing, would be kept away from social media.

Although I never stopped them from being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp, I just wanted them to make sure that I myself never got there, even through accidental photo bombing.

When photos would be clicked at events, parties, get-togethers, I would just vanish in the last moment. My repulsion of social media was that strong and my efforts to stay away from it that intense.

Some realized that I was truly a private person and let me be and some felt pity and spoke behind me, but I couldn’t care less.

I was in my Tech Room that day downloading photos of my trip to the US from my latest model Canon DSLR to my MacBook, listening to some old Bengali numbers on my Alexa, when it happened.

I died.

I had a heart attack. I wasn’t unhappy about dying. I had lived a full life. I had travelled the world, I had grandchildren and I still had school friends. So at 75, I didn’t have any last wish. I was actually raring to explore the other side.

 

My steel business allowed me to leave a Will that would make my wife and children secure and rich. But little did I know then that my ordeal has just begun. I would have to constantly live (or rather die) with something that I had despised all my life.

It all started on the night I died. My elder daughter lives in the US and son in the UK with their respective families. My younger daughter, who isn’t married yet, lives with me.

My son instantly bought tickets and took the next flight down to Kolkata to perform my last rites. My eldest daughter stayed up all night, vacillating between my death and my granddaughter’s upcoming exams. I sympathized with her situation and couldn’t bear to see her crying so helplessly. My sympathies dissipated the next moment though.

She shared the news of my demise on Facebook. Then the endless “RIP” comments started flowing in and she diligently answered each and every person who conveyed their condolences, as if her life depended on it. Her conscientiousness in dealing with those comments felt akin to writing an exam paper.

I always thought grief is personal, but it seemed my daughter’s grief was centered on Facebook and I was appalled how quickly she forgot my disdain for the medium on which she chose to share her emotions. She finally couldn’t make it to my last rites.

I wouldn’t hold it against her because she has been a wonderful daughter and loved me dearly when I was alive. Only a few days back I had spent three heady months with her, savouring her cooking and company at her home in the US. Photos of this trip still lie half downloaded on my computer.

But I could probably never forgive her for doing what she did, as soon as I closed my eyes for good. She ended up triggering a “Me Too” syndrome around my death. Distant relatives, close cousins, long-lost classmates started posting their “wonderful” opinions of me and how they already missed me. I cringed and cringed again when their posts about my demise were quickly followed by pictures of them sitting in the restaurant, coffee shop, movie hall, that very evening. Yes, unfortunately I died on a weekend.

Thankfully, good sense prevailed with my son and younger daughter. They didn’t make any attempt to share their grief on social media.

Or am I jumping to conclusions too quickly?

*

My body lies there in a cushion of flowers and the house is full of people who have come to pay their last respects. Thanks to my long career and a good one too, I did know a lot of people and earned their respect. So the place is now swarming with people, some of whom are famous, from different walks of life.

Oh God! Why is my younger daughter’s boyfriend filming me? I am just a motionless dead body, what’s there to video record? It’s so embarrassing. Why isn’t my daughter stopping him? I just hope, God, I just hope he doesn’t intend to put this video on social media.

A film star has walked in. He’s distracted. Good for me. But wait, what is he doing? Asking the actor for a selfie? Now my nephew also joins him. What is going on? Quick, someone take me to the crematorium. This has to stop!

*

It’s my Shraddh ceremony today. I am truly upset, annoyed, livid, pissed off… All the time I lived, I believed in hospitality to the core. When both my children got married I went to each and every house to invite people and stood at the gate all through the evening welcoming guests with folded arms. My hospitality was always the talk of the town, but I had no idea death changed everything…so drastically.

Despite my wife’s repeated requests, my son and daughter refused to move an inch to invite anyone to my Shraddh ceremony. They couldn’t even make a phone call because they had their own set of beliefs.

“Ma, those who respect Baba would come anyway. We just have to let them know the date and time,” my son argued.

And how did they pass on this information?

Through Facebook of course.

There was the card with my photo on it and scanned in my scanner in the Tech Room and put up on Facebook. It was my first photo entry on social media, but I died a thousand deaths after that.

Never imagined my son and daughter could do something like that. But authority ends with death. I learned that the hard way.

My son is performing the Shraddh ritual and I don’t know why so many people are coming and clicking his photos, doing that. Is it a cherished memory to keep? I don’t know. I don’t understand people anymore.

And then my daughter, her boyfriend, my nephew and nieces are so busy clicking photos with all the famous people. There is a sense of bonhomie all around. That’s alright. I am okay with them enjoying themselves, clicking photos with celebs for their social media accounts. As long as they keep me out of it, I am just fine.

My nieces are all in their new designer white kurtas, sunglasses and designer bags and shoes. I am sure they have shopped especially for this occasion. After all, I am their favourite uncle.

No! No! My two nieces are clicking a selfie with me in the frame. Why me? God! why me? This is unbearable.

My son’s ritual is done. And I don’t know why he is telling everyone to WhatsApp him the pictures they have taken. I am sure he wants to send those to my daughter-in-law, because she couldn’t fly down in the ninth month of her second pregnancy.

Then he himself took a picture of my picture drowned in garlands and sent those to his wife. My daughter-in-law received the photos and went through each meticulously and then she did it.

She also did it.

Nothing surprises me anymore, but even I didn’t see this coming.

She WhatsApped the photo that my son took of my photo, to all the Bengali WhatsApp Groups she was part of, captioning the picture: Shashurmoshai’s Sraddha done. Thank you for all your support.

So there I was, all over UK WhatsApp now.

Sitting there inside my photograph I really don’t know who to channelize my anger at – my son, daughter-in-law, daughters, nephews or nieces.

I might have a slight reason for being a little less angry at my nieces. In their selfie with me, at least my vitiligo does not show.

(The story has been written from real-life incidents although the characters are fictional)

My collection of short stories Museum of Memories has been published by Readomania