We all know that life is an opportunity that we only get once. We need to utilise this opportunity to the best of our ability and reach out to the helpless and needy people. When we die, we should have no regrets.
This is the crux of an English language-novel written by an Indian expatriate based in Doha. The novel The Soul of Truth narrates the story of a man who meets sudden death and repents over what he could not do during his lifetime.
Inspired by a real life incident, Shaji Madathil, who has been in Qatar since 1999, authored the novel highlighting the importance of being alive and being regretful after death.
The author, who first wrote the book in his native Malayalam language, spoke at length about his experience, the book and the lessons he has learnt in an interview.
Born and brought up in Kerala, Shaji has a son. He has been working with Qatar Airways for the last 20 years. “I have largely been influenced by M V Devan, my paternal uncle and a well-known writer and artist in India.“When I was in my college, I used to write a lot of articles and short stories. I was also fascinated with paintings. My paintings used to be published on the cover page of our college magazine. Since I moved to Qatar, I stopped writing and painting.”
A colleague and close friend of Shaji died of heart attack in the office in 2011. The sudden death actually pushed Shaji to think deeply about life and hereafter.
“The sudden death of my colleague compelled me to start thinking about the value of my life. I thought my colleague who came to the Gulf to have a better life for himself and his family but what would happen to them after his death and how many things my friends could not do because of his sudden death. I repeatedly visited the mortuary where the dead body was kept for about seven days before it was flown back to India. He was a very good guy. We used to share everything with each other. I thought what his soul would be feeling as he had left many unfinished tasks.”
The thoughts sparked Shaji to write a novel about how dead people feel when they die suddenly and leave behind many unfulfilled desires and tasks. “My idea was to write the story from the perspective of a departed soul. I started studying and researching about the concept of soul in different religions and believes. I visited different countries as well. I also started observing more keenly the life and struggle of expatriates in different Gulf countries.”
Shaji started writing his novel in Malayalam language in 2015. The name of the novel is Pathirappattile Thennilappakshikal. The book received LIMCA award for the first 3D cover in Indian Fiction History in 2016-2017.
This year he got his book translated into English for the larger audience after the Malayalam book received a good response from the readers. “The story revolved around a young protagonist who dies in a foreign country – Bahrain – and his body is transported to Kerala, India. The soul of Uthaman, the protagonist, spends 41 days with his body and his loved ones. The soul, already burdened with cares worth a full life, painful to sift through – is less more or more less?
“Uthaman’s soul is pulled in all directions by the love, the grief and the unrequited longings of the living, as in these final days they hold him down to an earth that is no longer his. The evergreen memories of his childhood, youth, and adulthood unfold each night, taking Uthaman along well-loved paths of life: man and nature, friends and foes, victories and disappointments. Each night the memories pull him in a deadly hug, bringing on a medley of emotions, each night also taking the sting out of them: an uneasy peacemaking and none more than those of Ruby, his innocent love, lost, yet never forgotten, not in life, not in death.”
Through the wonderful story, Shaji has tried to convey the message that the people need to take care of their lives. They need to pay attention to what they wanted to do. “In the story, the soul stays in the world for 41 days. On the last day, Uthaman is very upset as the Almighty takes the soul away in another world. The story shows that more or less we are just puppets in God’s hands.”
The author, however, believes that all the regrets and sadness felt by a soul after the death is the fault of the same person. “We are given a chance. When we are alive, we do not care about life. We all make mistakes in our daily life. We have got everything free like air and water in the life. We, however, do not take care of such important things. Our life span is very small. We can leave this world any time. The moral of the story is that you have to do a lot of good things when you are alive. You have to help the needy and take care of your old parents. Only then, you can go very peacefully.
The transience of life has also led Shaji to start charity work and help others. “I have a new perception of life after writing the book. I have prepared a check list for myself and everyday I look at the list. I gave away all the royalty of my Malayalam book to a cancer patient society in India. I have started contributing towards our society. Whatever royalty I will get from my English book, I will give it all to an old-age home in Kerala.
“For the last 20 years, I have been in the same old car that I purchased from one of my colleagues who later left the office and I am keeping it as his memory. I live a simple life. Material things do not bring happiness. I believe that creative people need to become role models for the society. We need to practise what we preach. We need to make the maximum use of this one life.”
Shaji said that being in Qatar really helped him in writing the novel. “Living in Qatar helped me understand the life of an expatriate. I also had sufficient time to research and write the book.
“I have also resumed my painting works and planning to organise a solo exhibition in Kerala.”
As far his future plans are concerned, the author has already started writing a book on the topic of reincarnation. “It will take time to finish this project in three to four years. I have to do a lot of work.”
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