Facebook Necro

There are a multitude of reasons to discard Facebook and get back to mundane existence. I suppose this opening sentence does not sound very enthusiastic. Well everyday life is mundane, it really is. Facebook is addictive because of that sad fact of life. Between the shopping, the raising of children and our imminent deaths there are very few moments of singular sparkling tear-inducing Beauty. Yes, we probably need distractions like Facebook to save us from our subconscious thoughts of depression and self-imploding doom.  That and for sharing pictures of food and cute animals. But I digress.

I find this Facebook ‘disturbing’ and that is because when someone passes away, their online profile still remains! This terrifies me because that person has, in effect, become a ghost. We, the living that remember and these dead are stuck in a digital Purgatory. We cannot ignore these ghosts either as they are still our “friends”. We carry memories of the dead with us always, no doubt, but this is different. Facebook profiles are run by living breathing human beings. They become ‘living things’ in turn, imprinted by the lives behind them. Unlike books, documentaries, footage and other forms of ‘record keeping’, Facebook profiles have no completion. They end only when the person, behind them, ends.

Our relationship with films, books such and such are premised on the fact that we maintain a “disinterested” attitude towards them, the creators of such works are no longer able to control what happens to them once they are finished. But profiles are not like this. They are online personas of people. They represent our connection with those people with all their quirks and customizations. When they die, that connection is severed. It is different from the nostalgia of seeing an old photograph on a mantelpiece or opening a cupboard and getting a whiff of a once-familiar smell. Unlike clothes or perfumes, online profiles were those people and not just a simple extension of themselves. Those uploaded photographs mean nothing without the comments that were exchanged between creator and viewer(s).

I think that such sentimentalism is traumatic. On that note, are all our memories of people filled with happiness and joy? There might be some which deserve to be forgotten. I am not an especially fervent advocate of this because I do believe History repeats itself, more often than nought, so we ought to remember it. But I suspect a survivor of abuse, or rape might not want to be reminded of the person(s) who caused them pain and trauma.

The dead serve us best when they come fleetingly and privately – maybe to inspire, maybe to remind us to live – that is what distinguishes visitation from haunting. To construct a temple of mourning for them is grossly “Havishamian” to say the least. Facebook profiles of the dead are empty-eyed shells and like the remains of their owners should be consigned to Eternity. But what can we say about our global culture today? Indulgence, even of Death, is a juicy norm.

Blue Light At Mawiong

We went out for a drive yesterday and stopping by a Mawiong shop – for cigarettes – I saw again the once-familiar blue fluorescence, emitted by one of those bulbs that is meant to attract insects. I remembered then my father’s mosquito zapper, which shone similarly. I remembered fiddling with it after his funeral. I then became morose with these thoughts. It’s funny how the mind works. How it can leave behind the chatter and wander off into a blue aura. How it can colour memory and animate the dead. Yet it is also the thing that reminds you that none of its figments are real.

How can it do this? Teleporting me to my father’s death-bedside, while my friends drink in the car. How can it show me these things now? The image of his body in a suit – eyes shut – with some hideous cotton up his nose. It is still, seen through curtains, which I dare not part. It is still, seen in no one’s company but my own. It is an image, which has lost some of its details over the years but not its power. It still breaks my heart.

CHATTRI, LAL BAHADUR (Indian Labourer) Indian Labour Corps; 56th (Khasi) Indian Labour Coy. Date of Death: 06/05/1918 Service No: 1828 D.1

In death, you become Khasi: a wildman, a man of the grass, a person who dug down deep and strove to scratch out life one day at a time, a royal. That’s what a Khasi was, wasn’t it?
You knew those ways, that’s why they called you one.

When you fell flat onto that cold French earth-
Not the France of Cannes and Paris but bleak brutal battle-
The Khas in you struggled inside, wanting to live on;
When your eyes shut -your body heavy with lead, your lungs failing -you took a fistful of foreign earth.
The British called you Khasi because they didn’t know what else to call you (or perhaps didn’t care).

They all look the same, I guess, they said. Hand them medals, sort up a small parade, send them some money: celebrate the death of their sons at Iewduh; call it bravery, call it valour.

I wonder what Lal Bahadur was really like. In a uniform, he must have looked like everyone else in the corp. He must have ‘attentioned’ or ‘stood at ease’ like everybody else.
He must have made some Khasi friends:
Facing death together, sharing stories about a home they shared in the hills of Assam, bracing together under a foreign hand, marching under a foreign scepter:
All problems must have seemed foreign back then.

Lal Bahadur, what sort of place was this when you were alive? What were the people like? What funny stories did the tavern spill out into the home? What forces drove people apart then and chained them?

Been a hundred years now, I wonder if he knows:
That there are no wild nor free men anymore; no people of the grass, no Khas.

Lal Bahadur Chattri, Khasi

Ha jingiap ki kam Khasi ia me:
Namar ha ka jingiap dam lut khait kito kiba pynpher ia ngi –
Kawei ka met ka iasyriem bad kawei pat, ki dak ba ngi ioh nangne nangthe kim don jingmut shuh;
Kam don shuh kata ka Pyrkhat Pyrdain kaban pynshai, kam don shuh ka Rukom kynnoh ktien shnong kaban sakhi.
Ngi kam ia me – uba na kiwei – kum u jong ngi:
Namar ngi ia tur lang, ia tyllun lang bad ia iap lang:
Tmang ka iing, ka sem, ki khun ki kti.

Me jah jlang – jngai na iing, sha ri nongwei – lem bad ki para Khas:
Ki para nongbylla, ki nongkit sahep, nongtihsurok ia ki atiar thma,
Ki nongtbeh dongmusa ha ki por ba iong ngain ka bneng:
Ym don jingiapher kyrdan, ym don ba tam, ym don ba duna;
Haba ia kyllon ia kyllon lang, haba ia thiah, ia thiah lang –
Jngai na iing, sha ri nongwei.

Pher (1984 – 2014)

It is our failure and not your own.
We killed you long before your death;
We killed you with expectation of high offices, high salaries, high horses.
We drowned you in the pool of Narcissus, we suffocated you in our charnel house –
And we call this ‘cowardly’ and the ‘easy way out’ after we throttled every single dream;
Took every single idea, dropped it on its head, shattered it.

You swore a bucolic covenant, in dark holy taverns (places more honest than churches, mosques and temples), where many souls have come and gone.
It brought you to people like yourself, made you friends too; until it turned on you,
until it too started squeezing out your sanity.
And all that while, we never stopped sneering.

After this suffocation, we wanted you to forget the happiness of childhood impossibilities, the mirth of being free and wanted you to get a job, a uniform, a routine, an order –
And we call such things ‘success’ and we will never accept anything else other than this.

All souls return to the One, they say. So be it, you are there too then. You have broken none of the laws of passage, you have defied no dogma. No gates are closed to you now.