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A Non-Obituary – Life and Times of an Insaan: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU

“To be mortal is the most basic human experience, and yet man has never been able to accept it, grasp it, and behave accordingly. Man doesn’t know how to be mortal. And when he dies, he doesn’t even know how to be dead.” – Milan Kundera, Immortality
Insaan was a person who deliberately and desperately sought to mortalise himself in a world obsessed with immortality. He was very clear that he did not want to leave any footprints of his life when he died, no children, no money, no property, no awards, no monuments, no records, no pictures – except for those inevitable because of State restrictions that could trouble people who handled his death – like death certificate. He was working hard since his retirement towards his death fighting his way through the bureaucracy for anonymity in death! Then why am I writing about him disregarding his long cherished wish? Firstly his life was too important not to be chronicled; secondly whenever we joked that we would make a saint of him after he died he responded that he did not believe in an afterlife and what people did after he died was not his concern and finally, this is my way of grieving the loss of someone who was dear to me and whose relationship with me is not at all definable!
Insaan was not new to obituaries. In fact it was an obituary that brought him into my life. The story dates back to 1982, when Advocate P. M. Padhmanaban was visiting his relatives in Bombay. My grandfather, M. Rasheed had asked him to look up Insaan, his political co-traveler and fellow trade unionist from whom he had not heard in a while. On enquiries Padhmanabhan was informed that Insaan had succumbed to a long bout of jaundice and was no more. Dutifully he passed on the information to my grandfather, who wrote a long obituary in the Sunday edition of the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi. The following Sunday as my grandfather was sitting with his cup of tea and perusing his morning newspapers at the Verandah of his Calicut house, Insaan walked in with a copy of the newspaper that carried his obituary!

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