Monday, April 30, 2012


In the wee hours of Saturday, September 11 2011, a motorcycle skidded and crashed into the side rail on the Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad, India. Two teens were on the bike.
One boy was 17. He died soon after the fall. The other boy was his cousin. He went into a coma, he never regained consciousness and died a week later. He was 19.
During that week, the young man was on a ventilator while the physicians at the Apollo Hospital continuously tended to him. His photo came with the news the next day. His name was Ayazuddin.

Most of the photos that came out showed a boy with a furrow near his brow,  as if he had a pensive way of looking at the world.  As unusual as it was, an underlying diffidence in his demeanor was what caught my attention.
I followed his progress. He was someone I did not know but began to care about, as did many others as the news spread. Maybe because he was 19, at the main threshold of life but now lying at death's door. Or because I am a mother and the horror of the accident caught me. Or because of the shadow of the dramatic childhood Ayazuddin must have had, inadvertently following the drama of his celebrity father's life and career.
His father was Mohammed Azharuddin, a former cricket captain of India. While his fame was linked to the publicity his son was receiving, at this time it was all about Ayazuddin, previously unknown, as he lay in intensive care with his organs failing, his physical body struggling to maintain a rhythm.
His friends talked about him as being shy and courteous. He seemed to be a friendly person, well liked and without a propensity to show off his father's wealth.

A few things ran through my mind during that week. None of which have or are answers. Death, Life and the Choices we make.

Death. What changes in body at the instant of death. Is it so, is it at an instant. Seems like the physical process of dying is gradual. Nevertheless, the loss of self-awareness, of consciousness, of the self, of the soul, or whatever we may call that holds life and form together, what happens to it? How can a person be here at an instant and not be here the next, while the physical body and all the preoccupations of the person are still here, pausing, waiting. What does it mean? How to reconcile. Especially when it is your son, daughter, someone younger to you, someone you care about and full of life's treasures earnestly waiting for them.

Life. What circumstance of juxtaposed happenings dictate an outcome that in retrospect we seem to rush headlong into?
To feel the power that a bike like a Suzuki GXSR 1000 can wield over a teen or adult, watch this video I found:

There he must have been, in all his element, cutting through the morning air, feeling the exhilaration of speed, in the moments before the skid. Out for a spin in his new motorcycle on a lonely stretch, unaware of what lay ahead. School-going kids hypnotized with the thrill of a dangerous tool, oblivious of the risks involved.
A promising cricketer he apparently was, instead of resting and practicing, why was he in a ride? But we all do that. Distract ourselves with collateral things while gathering the momentum for the main. In his case his distraction was tragically fatal.
Distractions come from the stock of our lifestyle and life choices. It can be as mundane as spending time on Facebook instead of doing homework.
But why do we need distractions? A curse of our way of living it seems, where we have so many options and choices but no streamlined, meaningful path through the main. For young Mr. Ayazuddin, his choice of distraction unfortunately had a sad ending with immense grief for his family. 

But those who develop clarity for the main, setting aside the distractions are the ones whose voice we get to hear, be it a sports person, artist or scientist. Having clarity in our own voice is of value even in private lives.
Creating clarity becomes harder as the choices increase or as we grow older with increasing responsibilities or become famous, so opening more avenues to saunter on. Writers become activists, actors become politicians, politicians become writers or entertainers, poets write blogs and drain away.... yes, it can be as simple as that.
Because the voice of a blog with some token, immediate payback in adulation is at odds with working in solitude for long hours with no expectation of extrinsic affirmation. The multiple voices can interfere. A destructive interference instead of a steady constructive interference. A smaller voice gets run over by the louder ones. Restraint is key for keeping the exciting louder voices modulated but how to resist the pull of a motorcycle ride, especially when one is 19?

Choices. Are the choices we make random or not. The choices we make, the path we carve, are they really choices or not. If so, how does what we choose to do give rise to that moment of crisis? Consider this video-


Usually, we try to make sense by trying to explain a seemingly random accident by picking and choosing the causative factors. But here it gets difficult.
Yet again and again, when it is our someone of our own, we come back to how in a split second things could have gone a different way. A crash or near crash but not fatal. Be the fortunate one, by a hair's breadth. Here I wondered, I obsessed – if only the bike did not hit the side-rail, but swayed this way and that until the speed considerably reduced. Injuries would still have happened but not comparable to being thrown off a bike crashing at > 100 miles/hr. Or they overslept... Or better judgment prevailed... Futile it seems, this train of thought. Unstoppable and mysterious.

It feels as if a coin is flipped and heads or tails are equally probable in that moment. So random. Or is it not. Is it causative, like a cascade of known and unknown things culminating in the split second. If it is causative, assuming the doer is a loving one, either choice would have to seem equally fair from the doer's point of view! Only then...
This is the puzzle, the mystery. I feel if we understand this really understand, we can be closer to the meaning of us. The small irony here is in the fleeting sameness of outcome whether one is of faith or of atheism.

In the end here, Ayazuddin and his cousin died, leaving vacuum for their families. Somehow, his photo, his demeanor, his accident and struggle to stay alive struck a chord in many. Maybe we were all feeling or asking ourselves the above questions in some way or the other, trying to make sense of the tragedy. His funeral became a public outpouring of grief. 

About eighteen, nineteen years ago, another 19 year old from Hyderabad accidentally died. She was  an actress, known for her vivacity. Her name was Divya Bharati. People moved on, events and entertainment moved on, other actors took her place, but I'm pretty sure her family still mourns her.