Exactly a year before, this day I was writing about them and about their death. Universal forces had conspired to bring them together in Delhi and the same destiny had decided that in death too they remained united. Into the depths of a valley’s unexplained secrets they went headlong from the edge of a cliff, bruised, dazed and their dignities snatched away from their very existence by faceless culprits. While falling one after another to the cruel fate, had they got the chance to look into each other’s eyes and say, ‘sorry, I love you’? I do not know. But I know this much; I remember them, two young artists, Moumita Das and Avijit Paul who were brutally killed by unknown assailants in Uttarakhand where this couple had gone for trekking.
I generally do not remember anybody’s birth day or death day. I remember the day my father expired for I was intensely praying for the day to come. It was on 6th October 1984. I was a fifteen year old boy praying for his father’s death. I was tired of sitting in a hospital ward for over a year and attending ailing bodies of strangers and their eventual entry into the zone of the dead. I accompanied dead bodies into the ambulances in the dead of nights and each time I escorted a dead body I grew in age and experience. At the age of fifteen by the time my father decided to let it go, I was already a grown up man and a cigarette was the only requirement that I had felt to prove the world that I had arrived in the world of the grownups. Since then each death is measured from the day of my father’s death. Indira Gandhi was assassinated exactly after twenty five days of my father’s expiry. History for me is BFD and AFD; before father’s death and after father’s death.
Maumita Das and Avijit Paul were killed in October 2014 AFD. Their deaths had made into the headlines of television news and newspapers. As they were close to Delhi’s NiV Art Centre, there was a commemorative meeting. I came to know about it much later and I was living in Mumbai then. Though it was not so cold there in November I shivered for no reason. It was not fear and it was not anxiety. It was just shivering that one undergoes while doing the right thing which the whole world objects. You stand for what you deem right and while the whole world rises up in arms against you. You shiver then because of the immensity of your decision. I was feeling the shiver all over my body when I was about to write an obituary about these departed young souls. I was doing the right thing on a huge wrong done to Maumita Das and Avijit Paul.
I wrote about the ‘physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living’, a title made famous by Damien Hirst by pickling a shark and exhibiting it. Sometimes, when I hear similar sounding names like Moutushi and Moushmi I remember Moumita. Whenever I hear the name, ‘Avijit’ repeated in the newspapers in another story of assassination in Bangladesh where an atheist blogger namely Avijit Roy was hacked to death by the Muslim fundamentalists, I remember I Avijit Paul. They were killed for two different reasons; one for worshipping love and the other for talking against a cruel god. Recently when Avijit Roy’s publisher Dipan was hacked to death in Bangladesh again, I thought of Avijit Paul. Today, both Moumita and Avijit Paul came to my mind from nowhere.
Are they around here, reminding us of our own lives and deaths? I do not know whether Moumita and Avijit had left a body of works back so that they could be commemorated through retrospective or memorial exhibitions? They were just about in the beginning of their career. Even if they have left some works behind they may not be really matured works and could expose their shallowness or depth. Had they lived more they could have come up with more matured works and would have found their own space in the Indian art scene. Some deaths are like this; their death itself is a great injustice done to them. When Chinmoy Pramanick fell to cancer, he had left a good body of works. I think it is not your life that makes your existence worth remembering, but your works; only they could stand witness to the meaning of your lives. Here Moumita and Avijit are commemorated for the injustice done to them. Ironically, each of us, despite our lives’ outputs, at some point are remembered either for the injustices done to us or the injustices we have done to others while living.