Thursday morning saw us wake up to the news of our neighbour having jumped to his death from his balcony. Before we could even absorb this shocking news, our apartment complex was abuzz with talk about him and wife.
As we walked down to confirm the news our maid had given us, ‘What a nice man he was’, was what we heard repeated often. ‘The wife though..’, the sentence was left unfinished, with a deep sigh or some eye rolling following it.
The young couple had moved into our gated community a little over a year ago.Even though we lived next door to the couple, neither of us had ever ventured beyond a hello or a cliched remark about the weather.
We wished we could have been the kind of neighbours who borrowed a cup of sugar or rang the bell next door with a box of Mithai on festive occasions. The vibe we got from the couple next door was never encouraging enough to do so. They kept to themselves and we had never seen them mingling with anyone.
As the last rites started, my husband and I stood by the body to pay our respects, still in shock at seeing the young face before us as a dead body. Wasn’t it just yesterday, or the day before, that we had seen him walking up, a newspaper under his arm as he checked his mobile phone? A ghost of a smile had flashed across his face as we passed each other on the stairs.
In the midst of the ceremony a group of people burst in through the building gates. They began hurling accusations and abuses at the wife who stood by the body, head bowed in grief. Her silence seemed to incense them further. They called her names, blamed her for killing a nice man/ their son/brother/brother-in-law/uncle/friend. She did not look up nor did she utter a word.
Some elders from the building lead his furious family a little distance away and the Pandit was requested to pause the final rites for a while.
The scene was too much to bear and after paying our respects my husband and I made our way home. As we slid the key to unlock our door, we couldn’t help but glance at the door next to ours.
Still in shock we sat across each other, cups of Tea warming our hands and heart. We talked about the nights we had heard her sobbing for hours, almost always followed by the crash of cutlery or furniture being hurled . We still winced at the memory of harsh words and abusive accusations being thrown with such force that it used to make us cringe. We remembered the nights we were roused from our sleep, by cries of pain and regrets being screamed at from next door.
Who was right, and who wasn’t, no one would ever know. The answer of that question had died away with the death of the husband.
I just mused how strange it was that how death covered people with a cloak of respect? A person who passes away may not have earned it in their lifetime, or even got it when they were alive but death magically bestows them with respect or at least a respectable image.
So, a nice man had died and we had to let his memory remain thus. For no one speaks ill of the dead, even as they continue hurting the ones left behind alive.