At my age death is a frequent occurrence and in the last few days I had to make two condolence phone calls. Both were calls to the South and to old friends one of who is also a distant relative by marriage.
The first one was to a friend who was also a colleague in my working life whose parents were known to me as well and in a way I was instrumental in his marriage. When through a group mail I came to know of the passing away of his mother, I rang him up to offer my condolences and he simply said that it would be a good idea to rejoice as she had lived a long and happy life and went without suffering and / or causing suffering to her family. In fact, the conversation turned out to be quite amusing leaving both of us laughing at the end of it and assuring each other of meeting soon.
The other one was this morning, but the person to die was the father of a friend. I had known the father too as I had been to their home a few times. The father was 91 and had been keeping indifferent health the last year or so with frequent hospitalisation for emphysema. The death must surely have been a great relief for the life long smoker of Indian cheroots.
While in the first instance my friend reacted quite practically and the exchange was a pleasant one, the second one this morning was a disaster at least as far as I was concerned. As soon as my friend came on the phone and realised that it was I, he started off wailing and crying aloud about what a great loss it was and how much he will miss his father etc. Not only did he give me the blues, he insisted on my talking to his wife who too took off into a litany of her grief like only Tamils can come up with. It was a very forgettable experience which left me numb for quite some time.
I suspect that there must have been people around my friend and his wife and the performance was for their benefit rather than for me. Whatever the case, the contrast coming so soon after the earlier condolence call was striking.
Unfortunate that we are expected to make condolence calls and visits and are exposed to such drama that pulls us down.