On an overcast afternoon, I settled down to read my book with Sufi music playing in the background, soothing and elevating my spirit. Suddenly I saw this news item pop up on my whatsapp. I took a look “Is this true?” was the query from a friend who had attached a “breaking news” clip from Filmfare.com. I had an uncanny visceral reaction from the shock of the news, probably because death reminds us of our own mortality and particularly because she was close in age to me. Sridevi dead? Was it true? What was it from? My voyeuristic instincts peaked. Was it suicide? Some insidious disease eating away her innards that she hid well? Was it an overdose from painkillers? All these were reasonable causes of death in the celebrity world. But as I trolled for pictures of a woman whose life I knew little about, I saw a glamorously dressed bollywood diva who appeared happily married with two daughters she doted on, and a husband who was eating out of her hand. They had been at a big fat Indian wedding in Dubai living it up with designer outfits and parties galore when it had happened! Well then, was this a freak accident? Not that either. I scoured the internet and every site said it had been “from a massive heart attack” That seemed implausible. She appeared skinny, fit and committed to taking care of herself to not succumb to such a preventable health calamity as a heart attack. This then meant women my age were all vulnerable. Of course the mind did not like that, so I decided to dig deeper for other possible reasons. At this point, I was also simultaneously decrying our attachment as humans’ to phenomenal existence identifying with the body, mind and intellect, all of which are passing. That philosophical detour lasted just a few seconds and I was soon feverishly lapping up real and fake news as it poured in.
The gist. She had brought this upon herself! She had been desperate to look and stay young? She had had 23 cosmetic surgeries to correct her physical appearance, to look youthful and skinny. There appeared some truth to these admonishments from society’s moral guard who had found an easy target in a deceased woman who could not defend herself. However, I could not help but see that she, not unlike other celebrities, had been living a photoshopped life for social media. When I saw a “like” from designer extraordinaire Manish Malhotra, every time she or her daughters were attired in his clothes, on Instagram, I wondered about his blatant exploitation of her vulnerability, for his personal gain. And of course, he just symbolized the capitalist world out there that sells us all a bill of goods everyday! She, like all of us, was crying out for validation but on the world stage, and to an extreme degree as if her life depended on it. The self anointed psychoanalyst in me was pumping up theories that saw her as obsessed with her looks to the point of mental instability.
But that was just too easy. And did not tell the full story. I glanced down at the book that had held me in its thrall for the past hour before this news rudely broke my attention. Serendipitously, I had just been reading about a macro phenomenon that is taking root in our world, according to Yuval Noah Harari. In his ground breaking prophetic Homo Deus, in the same genre as Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock or Third Wave, he has spun ideas about our current state of being into a beautiful tapestry. He presents a compelling perspective about our collective consciousness. His premise, based on his background as a historian, there is intentionality behind the course our universe is taking, determined by those with the power to influence outcomes, the wealthiest among us.
Till the middle of the 20th Century, the human race had been preoccupied with eliminating famine, disease and war, all of which had previously decimated civilizations. That done, humans were on to their next great quest. The pursuit of immortality, bliss and divinity, at least for those who have the means. The next frontier for science and technology is to create super humans who will continually reengineer their bodies and perpetually renew them with a refresh every ten years or so to live as long as they can, maybe hundreds of years. Several key influencers shun the idea that death is inevitable. Google’s venture Calico is looking at beating death and engendering perpetual youth. While scientists are already hard at work tinkering with our DNA to not only cure disease but to preempt illness and counter the negative effects of aging, the world of merchandising is selling “the perfect look” and doctors are already superficially “fixing” bodies to embody the spirit of this aspiration, but without the science. The end result, we are all hurtling towards a future where an obsessive preoccupation with staying young will continue to vilify the aging process and create a society of second class citizens among those who cannot afford to stay “young” at all costs. And it will be expensive and only available to a chosen few!
It’s not all bad news. There is also a rising consciousness that allows us to uncover the root of all our suffering (aka discontent with our lot) and to see it as being our attachment to everything that is passing. So we need to hang on to that raft and stay present or be swept away into this maelstrom!
Disclaimer- the above is based on assumptions about what happened. I don’t have the facts!