Never before I have found this title so meaningful: ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’. This is what Damien Hirst called his pickled shark that had once scandalized the art world by its sheer spectacular nature and the artistic arrogance behind it. Decoding this title has always been difficult for me. It is quite Lacanian in that sense. When the horrifying and saddening news of a young artist-couple’s death came to me through a Facebook update, I sat up in shock and shivered. Moumita Das and Avijit Paul, a Delhi based artist couple in their mid twenties, are no longer alive. They were holidaying in Hills; a cabbie and his friends robbed them and threw them off a cliff to their death. Hundred feet down they went. Were they holding hands still? I wish they were. In death too let us be not parted.
Death is a physical impossibility in the mind of someone living. Did Moumita and Avijit know about their impending death? Impossible. We, live on here, despite all those reminders of death, all those still lives and memento mori-s refuse to acknowledge it. Death is something that happens always to others. Death is an accident not an eventuality, though it is. Accidents are for others until we are crushed by one. We postpone our deaths by simply believing that it visits only in others’ homes. Within the safety of our contours, death is a physical impossibility, as Hirst puts it, though it is a spiritual possibility at every passing moment. Moumita Das and Avijit Paul also might have lived in the notion of physical impossibility of death. And life, like many others who seek solace in hills and mountains, for them too was a trip to the unknown where death again is impossible.
A nation will not mourn Moumita Das’ and Avijit Paul’s death. Schools will not be closed and none will stand in silence for a moment. They were not achievers; they were just dreamers. I believe they were dreamers not because they went to the hills to meet their violent death but because they were artists. Before they could prove their worth they were nipped in bud by brutal force of greedy men who could kill for nothing. What would have they got from the bags of this young couple? A couple of ATM cards, some cash, some gold? Do they worth two lives? When dreamers are thrown off from the cliffs, their dreams shoot up from the depths and roost in the minds of creative people without their knowledge. Then they dwell there and hatch more dreams in the minds of the artists. Wayside graveyards fill in reverence in us because we suddenly remember that their death too has contributed to our lives. When an artist dies, another artist is born.
There is no superstition in it. When dreamers die, especially when they are non-achievers or under achievers, the world does not even blink once. But somewhere a leaf falls, a dog barks, a thought snaps and a stone moves a micro inch. We do not see it because we live in the notion of the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living. Moumita Das and Avijit Paul were in the prime of their youth and their achievement was their freedom to be together and travel together to the hills. It would have been a non-event had there been no deaths. But today, this couple has become an event in their death, though it is not mourned widely. When dreamers die, many others living say that you are not the only one. But they too do not prefer a death by being pushed off from the cliffs to hell.
(The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hirst)
Moumita Das and Avijit Paul were not my friends; not even on facebook. They worked in the NIV Studios at Neb Sarai. I too lived in the same vicinity for three months. I have faint memories of seeing them at some film screenings at the NIV Art Centre. I never had any interactions with them and I do not know how their works look like. However, they belonged to this tribe of us; a tribe called artists. When someone departs from this tribe, I realize that it is pushed towards extinction. Art has become less of creating art but more of managing creativity. I do not know whether these couple too wanted to ‘manage’ their creativity. They are now dead and gone, leaving a little for art but a lot of memories in the minds of their families and friends. They will be remembered, by us while we reassert such eventualities would never happen to us. Friends ask for justice. But that is a settled conclusion. Culprits will be caught as they are petty thieves. They will be punished or banished from mainstream lives. But we will live on in the notion of the impossibility of death in the mind of someone living.