General ramblings, Life, Poems, Thoughts

This is a Photograph of Me

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
you will see me.)

–Margaret Atwood

I have a special connection with this poem because I always imagine where I’ll be laid to rest once I die. Which cemetery? Which town? Who’ll come to visit me? Lots of other corpses, insects, soil, trees and the smell of stale flowers for company. There is a very pretty cemetery near the place I live right now. I always slow down whenever I pass it, imagining myself being laid to rest there. I’ll put up a picture someday. Sorry if you read this post expecting a photograph of me.


21 thoughts on “This is a Photograph of Me

  1. Ah, actually I did reach here expecting a photo of you in a frock and plaits..puraane zamaane ka bharat you know.

    But I like the poem. It’s an interesting thought I must say. I’ve always thought that burning somebody’s body after death is disrespectful. And using electric crematoriums isn’t good either. Atleast I don’t want that to happen to me. It’s better that one should be buried where one wants to be after his/her death. That way at least there will be a stone there to tell people that I existed. The concept of astitva. If somebody wants to find me, they will at least know that that maybe I was alive at one point of time. But if they burn me and then put my ashes into the water, nothing will be left of me. Nobody will be able to find the difference between sand of the sea and the remains of my body. It hurt me too much when I saw them burning my grandfather’s body. I don’t think that should ever happen to anybody. It’s just not fair.

    I remember reading a similar poem once. I don’t know who had written it but it was a beautiful one. In that poem, the author had shown a photograph of her mother and her two sisters posing on a beach. She said that the beach and the water were still there but her mother wasn’t. In a very emotional way the author explained how mortal we human beings are. It was a nice poem.

    I don’t know how to conclude this anymore.

  2. @rads:

    Yeah, she’s one of my favorite writers of all times. She’s even won a Booker Prize for “The Blind Assassin”. Many of her other books have been nominated too.

    You are young, full of life and sprightly. What’s with thoughts such as these anyways? 🙂

    I know we should focus on living and not on dying. I wish mortality were to do anything with age. I would be very happy then 😉

    @ankur, Hehe …:P Fooled you!

    @ish, oh I have those pics too. I have a baby pic in a ghaghara in my Facebook album 😛

    I’ve always thought that burning somebody’s body after death is disrespectful.

    I feel so too. That’s one of the things I don’t like about Hinduism. And I think most of the Sikhs cremate bodies too, right? It’s just a sad thing to do. Just because the person can’t ‘feel’ anything doesn’t mean that cremation is fine. I would hate it if that would happen to me.

    It hurt me too much when I saw them burning my grandfather’s body.

    I’m so sorry to hear this 😦 Well…I know how you must have felt. Women aren’t allowed to go to see the cremation; so I haven’t seen one. The pain is unbearable anyway.

    Actually I don’t know what made me write this post. I think it’s too sad and morose. I’ll probably close it for comments. I must have been out of my mind. Haha.

  3. Ah…I’d like to be cremated and my ashes strewn all over the place. The idea of being under a stone…sounds very restrictive (in spite of me not believing in the afterlife).

    But I’d like to die somehhere (and somehow) so that my body is never discovered.

    OR…I’d like to be buried under a stone with an engraving that reads, ”Told ya so, there is no white light.”

  4. Ha! :)… Fooling people!

    But tell me something wouldn’t you rather be cremated?.. I mean, going by what happens traditionally tradition in the Indian context..

  5. Yea, they cremate the bodies in Sikhs too. But the women are allowed to see it happening. My grandmother and all the daughters were there when it happened. Yesterday was the first anniversary of his death so this post just made me emotional all over again because I feel bad for my grandmother. She kept crying all day long yesterday. The youngest of the daughters i.e. my Massi did take some of the ash after they’d burnt the body. She said that she wanted to keep some part of her dad with herself and that’s the kind of thing I would’ve done too. Just a photo with flowers around it isn’t the way of remembering somebody as far as I feel.

  6. hey…i before reading the post i scrolled up and down for atleast 5 times looking for some pic or a link… all in vain 😦
    anyway ,why do imagine such type of things … life is very short …you should never allow these thoughts to come in…
    ok i think this advice is enough for today,.. 😛

  7. @presti, so the idea of being reduced to ashes and strewn all over the places is freedom to you? Why don’t you want your body to be discovered? If that were to happen, you do realize that it would be an unnatural way of dying…

    Oh, there is white light. 😛 Or did I miss something intellectual?

    @amyth, I really wouldn’t like to be cremated. I don’t know what’s so great about this tradition. I would like to at least have a stone that would carry my name for a couple of decades (if not more) where people can visit me and disturb me while I sleep 😛 Preferably, in the backyard of my house where I’ve lived long enough and not in a public cemetary. That way, I would feel like I’m always at home. So, wht do you think are the advantages of being cremated? It surely is a lot cheaper and your corpse doesn’t occupy any physical space.

  8. @ish, Oh I’m so sorry 😦 I wish you hadn’t read this post then. I’m a little wacked in the head and I keep thinking about these things all the time. I know how terrible it is to lose someone very close…or to know that you’ll be losing someone very soon…

    I remember reading your blog post about your grandfather. I like your view points and totally agree with them 🙂 Death is the only thing that’s certain in our lives and it’s weird how people don’t want to talk about it and act as if it will never happen.

    @arvind, Well to the “Fools Club” 😉 It wasn’t my intention to fool you, but it so happened that the title of the poem suggested that I would also provide a link to my photograph. Hehe.

    life is very short

    Yes…you never know when it might end. Do you know that the Royal Family in England has rehearsals of their funeral once a year after they reach the age of 80? Hehe. I think that’s quite bizarre…You get to decide (and see) how you want everything to be. 😐

  9. I have always liked this poem as well; it puts perspective on about the first 17 or so years of my life. Lots of people think this poem is actually about dying.

  10. @Patrick, And you’re back 🙂 I missed you at WP.

    Have you read any of her books? I really like her style of writing.

    it puts perspective on about the first 17 or so years of my life.

    Would you elucidate a bit more? 🙂

    Lots of people think this poem is actually about dying.

    It’s a description of the death scene…or did I miss something?

  11. Ruhi: I recently found out that any US president is allowed one day during his tenure to witness his own death ceremony. As in he will let his staff know, and they would arrange within the White House quarters a complete rehersal of what would go on if he did die in office. He could watch it on CC Tv or from his window at the Oval Office.

    Some elect to do it and some don’t and the legend goes that the ones who did, go through a change in the way they conduct business after..

    Interesting eh? 🙂

  12. Hmmmmm…

    First and foremost, you wouldn’t “feel” once you’re dead.. so the whole concept of wanting to stay at the backyard of your house does not appeal to me so much.. Also, it’s not a matter of people remembering you and therefore visiting you and the stone carrying your name.. You’ll live on in people’s hearts and minds anyway.. Regardless of whether they come and visit you and pay respects to your tombstone! 🙂

  13. @Amyth:

    You’ve also got a point…the soul leaves the body anyway…right?

    You’ll live on in people’s hearts and minds anyway.. Regardless of whether they come and visit you and pay respects to your tombstone! 🙂

    Very good point. We don’t really need a physical manifestation. Hmm…you got me thinking.

  14. Swen says:

    I dont care where i’ll be buried. As long as i get to pick whats going to be written on the tombstone. Damn .. i haven’t thought of what to put there. And time is running out (slowly)… hmm.

  15. @Swen:

    Edited your comment to remove the typo

    I can’t believe I’m making all you people talk about burial and cremation. I’m really sick. 😐 Must have been one of my moods. I blame it on all crazy, depressing movies that I watch.

  16. Hiii.. people do think differently.. 🙂

    I know a song by Kurt Cobain “Lake of Fire”..he says

    People cry and people moan
    Look for a dry place to call their home
    Try to find some place to rest their bones
    While the angels and the devils try to make them their own…

    It means after you die..their will be fight between angels&devil for your soul..
    who knows wat happen’s after our death.. 😉

  17. @nitin, I actually love that song. 🙂 What you said makes a lot of sense too…who knows what happens later. Heh. Anyway, it will remain one of the biggest mysteries in everyone’s life.

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