Pivot - Palvashay Sethi

Pivot - Palvashay Sethi

One day a man died and the world erupted into a single chorus of grief. The world heaved with sorrow as tweets, memorial memes, statements and laments emerged to the pulse of sadness that moved the world.

A man in Santiago overwhelmed with grief decided to soak himself with gasoline and with a flick of his wrist set himself ablaze. He was last seen stumbling through streets, half-shrieking lines of a poem that no one could decipher. An elderly woman in Manila was seen donning a likeness of the man who had died and was performing monologues from his movies for anyone who would stop to listen. Movie marathons were scheduled that featured his entire repertoire and people in the cinema watched and wept in grief and exhaustion, stumbling out of the theatre in daylight; flinching at the glare of the sun like vampires. Others had conversations over water coolers, discussing the manner of death and dissecting the coroner’s report. 

“Did you hear about the cuts on his wrist?

“Yeah, he tried to slit his wrists before hanging himself.”

“Bleeding to death would be pretty painful.”

“I wonder why he didn’t consider pills.”

“It’s an inexact science.”

And as people dealt with their distress, someone decided to organize a vigil outside the man’s house. Groups of people arrived after work and the crowd soon swelled with candles punctuating the darkness with flickers and winks. A red-haired man wearing a keffiyeh began a sad chant and everyone followed suit, moving mournfully and swaying. The lament reached a lugubrious crescendo as the meaning of words sank deep in the hearts of mourners and the comfort of ritual allowed heady freedom as they raised their voices in collective tribute. One boy collapsed in a paroxysm of grief and others swiftly encircled him proffering comfort through flavored mineral water and pats on the shoulder. A girl was seen passing pamphlets for an organization advocating greater government expenditure on mental health awareness and another was selling lurid remembrance bands emblazoned with the man’s face as he smiled blankly. A group of teenagers - half in hysterics and the other half live-tweeting the event from their phones - were attempting to unravel the minutiae of an online memorial page and a weekly support group, for those traumatized by the man’s death. 

Amidst the sadness and clamor, a heavily pregnant woman let out a scream, “My water just broke” and the group of teenagers immediately shifted their focus to more pressing matters. They began to upload images tinted with pleasing filters and appropriate frames that heralded the arrival of the baby with great buoyancy. A middle-aged woman in a green skirt declared that she was a paramedic and assumed control of the situation till the time that an ambulance would arrive. A towel was accepted while a priest pink with expectation was turned away. As news of the impending birth spread, many cast aside their candles, posters, pictures and stuffed toys; gravitating towards the site of birth. More and more gathered, trampling on things that bore the face of the man who had died and he continued to smile blankly while covered in mud and footprints. 

People flung sentences, questions, prospective baby names, profanities and a chorus of words formed around the woman. The hum of anticipation helped coax the baby out of the anxious clutch of her vaginal canal and with one final profanity-laden push, out tumbled the girl: slick, ruddy and rambunctious. 

And then the world heaved once more, turned to its side, and smiled. 



About the Author

Palvashay Sethi is from Pakistan and received a degree from the University of Edinburgh. On most days, she is content to exist. On others, she gets assailed with fears of ceasing to be and starts scribbling. 

You can also find her here: https://twitter.com/Palvashits