Once an Aryika (Female monk in Jainism AKA Sadhvi) asked her audience “What is death?” and continued without waiting as if she knew the audience won’t be able to answer, “Death is the final exam of life”. A soft smile formed on her face as she saw the exclaimed faces of the audience that I was part of. She looked at me, I was the odd one out wearing a blue jeans and a T-shirt, everyone else was dressed in white. “Death is the final exam of life” she repeated herself a little loudly now facing the rest of the audience. She continued, “When a person dies how is he or she remembered?”, once again she waited for no one to respond and continued “When we die, are we remembered?” This time she waited.
“Yes”, I said hoping I would be part of a chorus but I wasn’t. She looked at me again and smiled, “Yes, we are remembered sometimes by few sometimes by millions”. She paused. Her pause was enough to get my thought chain running as I wondered ‘Why can’t these saints finish their lecture faster?’. The chain of thought was short lived as I heard her loud and sweet voice again, she was saying “The life we live affects a few individuals based on how we live it. Yet, there are people who leave a greater impact on a number of individuals unrelated to them as well. They are remembered by generations, perhaps in a good or a bad way. We remember Hitler with spite but we remember Gandhi with pride”. She paused, to take a breath. She was a wise old woman, her initiation (Diksha) was attained when she was quite young. It had been years since that pious day. Her age was visible on her face and posture but not on her voice, she spoke with an aura that captured the attention of everyone including me.
“The way you led your life reflects in the celebration of it after you pass away. A person who did good, is remembered with a smile, pride, affection but a person who did evil is either forgotten or remembered with emotions like anger, despair, sadness”. It started making sense to me but she didn’t give me time to think further. “Hence death is the exam of life and results are the way we are remembered”.
“Life must be huge, not long” said a full of life Anand Saigal in the movie ‘Anand‘ and the same line was iterated by a real life hero ‘Neerja Bhanot‘ when she was alive. I know this because of the recent movie ‘Neerja’, it is based on her life. Neerja was a brave, courageous and determined purser of the flight ill-fated Pan Am 73 which was hijacked in Karachi, Pakistan on 5th September, 1986. She sacrificed her life to save the life of 3 children by shielding them against the gun fire of a terrorist. I watched the movie today and remembered what the Sadhvi told me. In my opinion, Neerja passed her final exam with flying colors making India and her parents proud, leaving the world amazed at her valour and selflessness, and most importantly left a lesson for every single individual out there. The lesson is simple “Life must be huge, not long”.
Please share cases of bravery like Neerja’s in the comments below. We will be sure to write about them.