They say famous people die in threes, and I’ve believed them since that summer in 1997 when Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mother Teresa and Lady Di all kicked their respective buckets in unison and the world ran out of flowers.
Last week felt like that. Nelson Mandela, a man so iconic that most people just subconsciously assumed he’d live forever in some kind of constellation of sainthood, died at the ripe old age of 95 after leading a life few of us would have had the courage to even imagine. His passing was actually quite touching, and practically the whole world was crying “Madiba!” in tears and laughter (full disclosure: I didn’t know they called him Madiba until it became fashionable after his death). The South Africans were singing and dancing at his funeral, a lovely gesture of affection and respect. That is exactly how his funeral should be, right? A celebration of his existence.
While I was watching the funeral on TV, I noticed the sign language translator standing next to the speakers. I adore the sign language speakers (doesn’t matter where: Presidential speeches, the UN, Miss Universe) they turn regular speeches into modern dance movements and the whole thing is very “We are the world, we are the children.” The man at Mandela’s funeral caught my eye since his hand gestures were flowery and ostentatious, almost literal; when Obama was speaking about togetherness, the translator clapped his hands together and when he spoke of Mandela, I swear he was miming an angel flying up. Probably just a little theatrical, I thought and moved on.
After the funeral it was revealed to those that aren’t deaf that the man was actually a fraud, knew no sign language and had basically stood next to the most powerful leaders in the world making slightly effeminate hand gestures for two hours for no apparent reason. Isn’t that brilliant? He’s not even deaf, and in separate news he was suspected of putting a flaming tire around someone’s neck in the early 1990s (we know: South Africa was a different place then). It’s nice when other countries go through small embarrassments like these. It makes the ones in Pakistan seem, at the very least, less implausible.
[quote]I will be a hot mess when Andrews dies. I mean, I’m crying just thinking about it[/quote]
Then, a few days later, Peter O’Toole died. Most of my readers under 30 may not know who he is, and for that you should be punished. Peter O’Toole was famous for his very blue eyes and for being the actor who played Lawrence of Arabia (and if you don’t know what that is then put down the newspaper, yes, just like that… and run away, run far and run fast and never return) and a plethora of other roles. I remember him most fondly from a childhood favorite called How to Steal a Million, a movie I loved because it’s about Audrey Hepburn stealing neo-classical sculpture from a museum in the 1960s. It’s not as if Toole’s death left me salivating with grief; it’s just that I realized an entire generation of people are now beginning to leave us and my biggest fear is eventually that the list will include Julie Andrews. I assure you, I will be a hot mess when Andrews dies. I mean, I’m crying just thinking about it…
Which is not the same reaction I or indeed anyone else had to the hasty departure (not from this world, obviously) of our activist Chief Justice, Mr. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary. Lest anyone accuse him of exiting gracefully, Mr. Chaudhary decided instead to leave like an elephant exiting a china shop, spitting out last-minute cases and accusations even as the hour of his termination approached. He caused major damage and it continues to surprise me how a man serving justice for all could be so blind as to think that he was its sole instrument. Now that it’s all over, he will probably ascend up to some fabulous apartment abroad. And he will go down in history as so many before him in the country have, a shortsighted executive made oppressive by his own power. Now the man has sent a request to the government (beyta wanna be nice now, huh?) for a bulletproof van and two-dozen guards because he thinks everyone wants to kill him (fair enough, actually). Reports say he is allowed only one guard, and the pedantic self-serving way he interpreted our laws have come back to bite his judicial person.
May I remind you that this is the same man who decided to sit on the bench for a case against his own son for corruption. I mean, who does that? I’m guessing they can afford their own guards is all I’m saying…
And, lest you think our mortality rate is on a hiatus, a Shia cleric was gunned down in Lahore a few days ago when two men intercepted his car on a motorcycle and shot him down. His is the latest casualty in our ongoing war against Shias and minorities. But this is the interesting thing about death: famous people may die in threes, but non-famous people die in the three hundred thousands. And nobody cares.
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