Lessons learnt during tragedy

I got this from Janet. My condolences to Citizen Nades.

Hi all,

Those who read the Sun newspaper would know Citizen Nades. He recently lost his daughter in a car accident. Below is the article he wrote in the Sun newspaper few days later.

Columnists :: Citizen Nades – By R. Nadeswaran

THIS scribe has never believed in using his tools and the space provided for any personal agenda. On the rare occasion it was used for something he went through some 20 years ago, his interests were declared.

Otherwise, it has been and will continue to be issues that affect society as a whole.

This week is no exception but is related to the personal trauma and anguish I have gone through for the past five days.

As I write this, I had just sent off the parents of Kughanesan Mageswaran, who too was killed with my daughter Sumitra in the accident early Saturday morning.

Kughanesan was driving while Sumitra was seated behind him.

Personal grief, someone once told me, tends to give one a different perspective of things.

Close to 2am on Saturday, as the police Land Rover arrived at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre with a body bag, I was hoping against hope and saying a prayer that it would not be that of hers.

Like a man lost in a desert seeking an oasis, I asked:

Ini dari accident di mana?” (Which accident is this?)

Jalan Selangor, Encik.” (Selangor Street, Mr.)

India?” (Indian?)

Ya.” (yes)

Perempuan?” (female?)

Ya.” (yes)

Boleh saya naik cam muka dia?” (May I identify the body?)

He helped me on to the vehicle and followed me with a torch. I opened the body bag to see the blood-stained, lifeless face of Sumitra.

The policeman helped me down and led me to a seat to do my crying.

I have on several occasions talked about inconsiderate and crooked policemen.

Here was a man who was not obliged to help me, but went out of the way to do it.

He could have told me to wait until the investigating officer arrived and go to the mortuary to do the needful the next morning.


He understood the plight of a father who lost someone close to him.

That was lesson No: 1.

As I drove home to break the news to the family, I called friends who were close to us.

As the family huddled together and shared the grief, they turned up.

By dawn, a small crowd had gathered and words of comfort and their handshakes and hugs gave some solace. Each offered to help in their own way.

Despite the unearthly hours, they were there when you needed them most — lesson No: 2.

At the mortuary a few hours later came lesson No: 3. The pathologist on duty said there were four bodies in the morgue.

“I have already got a call. I’ll do your daughter’s first,” he told me.

Just, then another pathologist walked in and said he would work on the other accident victim.

An hour later, the first pathologist pulled me a aside and comforted me: “She had no chance. It was instant death.”

As the clerk on duty was doing the needful, I pointed out an error in a document, to which he replied: “Thank you for pointing it out. If we don’t rectify it, you’ll have problems when applying for the death certificate.”

At the police station, the bleary-eyed investigating officer who had been on duty since eight the previous night, went out of the way to understand the anguish I was going through.

“I know what you are going through,” he said. “But just give us a short statement on how you came to be notified of her death,” he said.

Having done so, he apologised for having to make me go through the procedures, explaining why he needed such information.

I brought Sumitra home just after noon.

Lesson No: 4 — Friends, relatives and people I had not met before, offered me their shoulders to cry on.

Lesson No: 5 came on early Sunday morning before the funeral proper.

A middle-aged Pak Cik, in his baju Melayu and sarong, perhaps after his subuh prayers, walked up to me outside the house.

I never met him before and I never even asked his name.

He talked about her death (he said he had read it in the newspapers) and the role of the Almighty. I felt relieved. Here was a stranger, whose heart went out to me. The racial and religious barriers one often talks about seemed non-existent.

Grief, I have learnt, transcends all barriers.

As I said earlier, it tends to change perspectives.

Were my earlier views reinforced by other strong opinions and beliefs?

I don’t have an answer. But I can only ask this: Why should people be nice and kind only when tragedy strikes?

Why can’t these good traits be contagious on everyone and in everyday life?

I don’t have answers either. But the only consolation we all can take is that such brotherliness, a trait we treasured in our days in the kampungs and villages, has not been forgotten.

It is still there, but it takes a little jolt to keep it alive as we get caught in the rat race.