Luckily my neighbor’s son died when he was in his early twenties.
His mother was completely devastated. I still remember her helpless wails when the self appointed master of ceremony nodded that it was time to take the body away. It reached an unearthly crescendo.
Till a few days earlier his life was consumed with the stock activities of a dutiful son and student. He was a quiet and studious boy who for all purposes of appearance was well on his way to setting an example on filial piety and a scholar’s ethics to the rest of the housing society’s scallywags.
The day after the funeral I was up early as usual with my text book studying . With a grim face my father told me that I did not have to study too much. I noticed my mother was not within hearing distance. It took me two weeks to reconcile that piece of paternal advice from a man who had shown little to no interest in educating me.
Rumor had it that the neighbor’s son died from studying too much. There is nothing like a close brush with mortality to bring out the best in humans.
It took a combination of human extinction and fervent rumors to trigger an intervention to soul crushing academics. I realized the next such advice was a good way off as I did not see the possibility of another opportune demise.
For the next few days I kept a sharp ear for news of illness and accidents but soon gave up hope. Nobody seemed to be in a mood to die. I had pinned my hopes on one of my friend’s grandma and grandpa. They did not oblige and I gave them the cold treatment for a couple of days.
Looking back I hope the unlucky boy had lead a double life. A life in which he switches shirts as he comes home to get rid of the faint cigarette smell. A life where his crumpled revolutionary poems were discovered by an admirer who had discovered the same secret clearing amidst the thorny mesquites, beneath a tamarind tree. Where his disappearance is a mystery to those who cannot come asking for him at his house. A life that makes him smile mischievously as he leans back from his medical books to stare at the spider in the corner of his room.
He died of meningitis.