Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oblivion: A Memoir by Hector Abad


Hector Abad Senior, a doctor & teacher by profession whose passion was public health was gunned down by paramilitary thugs at the age of 65 in Medellin. Oblivion, written by his son who shares his name is gripping story of an unusual family & a single man’s determination to struggle for the basic rights of the people against all odds.

The general perception about such memoirs is that they are sandwiched between being a hagiography & a sentimental personal account. This is not the case with Oblivion, which being an eloquent tribute to the writer’s father is a realistic & a balanced account. It is written in a simple manner without any flowery touch. The best part for me was that it did not make an incomparable super hero out of his father; instead the picture is painted of an educated, liberal minded individual, who through means available to the majority took the higher ground, in a scenario where the majority would look for their own interest.

This unusual family, comprising of ten women & two men presenting a smooth blend of liberal & a conservative upbringing, got its first tragic shock when Marta at the age of 16 is diagnosed with cancer & the family goes through the agony of a slow death that changes & affects everyone for the rest of their lives. From there on every happy moment feels incomplete. Nothing is worse than losing one’s child & in retrospect; it seems that Dr Abad didn’t mind the idea of martyrdom after this loss. He negated death by violence & condemned it at every point but didn’t mind dying for his cause. On the evening of 25th August 1987, he died fighting for the promotion of tolerance & freedom of speech for everyone, but in a manner that he said, he wouldn’t like to leave.

Death is a fact & it is bound to touch every living soul, no matter what belief one follows. Every individual life is not only his or her but is shared by other people as well & no matter what the age or the circumstances the loss of a loved one sticks. The idea of closures is a very vague one in my book. One just adapts to the new reality & people accept the changed individual. A young death & a violent death, hamper this process of adaptation. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ & ‘only ifs’ left hanging, even if the people affected are seen moving on.     

Writing is a strong medium used to keep the collective memory of people fresh, which is in most cases short lived. This documentation of a family is going to at time make you laugh & cry & at time make you feel both the contrasting emotions at the same time.

 A crisis soon becomes oblivion; reason that even after generations major issues remain the same at the core with only a cosmetic change. Dr Abad wrote the following words on the day he was assassinated:

“Already we are the oblivion we shall be”   

1 comment:

  1. Just brilliantly written. Makes me want to reach out and grab a copy of the book NOW!

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