‘coffee with a coffin’ – matters of death in life 

Dr. Khusi Pattanayak

shrouded in mystery yet inevitable, death conquers all. coffee with a coffin tries to explore this inevitability through the lens of awareness, encouraging each individual to live a life that homes death in its consciousness.

the self-help book released in 2022 right after the covid-19 pandemic that changed the way we perceive life, living, and death, takes a peek into various cultural and individual understanding of death and spins an easy to read (and follow) step by step guide towards creating awareness about death- by adopting a mindful approach and carrying out certain activities regularly under controlled environment.

death is perceived differently in different cultures, some celebrate some mourn, as both psychic and scientists make an effort to understand the enigma. in a consumer driven culture people make living out of death – life insurance, dark tourism, selling woods for cremation, creating funeral wreaths. we keep consuming death and its impact (belief system, family life, mental health, social correctness, behavioral practices, corporate bereavement leaves) in manners which are so obvious that we neglect to internalize its very essence.

death rarely makes way into our everyday conversations; it is as scary and frightening as the old witch with magical powers from the folktales we heard during our childhood. the book reminds us of this irony in our lives and makes a rather reasonable and logical argument about the perks of living a life that is cognizant of the presence of death.

the book is divided into 4 segments, each dealing with a specific aspect of death; each segment containing number of chapters where each chapter begins with a quote pertaining to the theme it is about to unfold. the book generously relies on knowledge from history, sports, religion, and literature to convey its perspective on the philosophy of death. coffee with a coffin along with other references interweaves into the narrative certain key realization about death as experienced by the author.

interestingly, despite being a debut author, alok ranjan, successfully manages to offer an engaging vivid insightful portrayal of a relatively serious subject. what makes the work rather stand out is its non-pretentious nature where at one point, the author candidly confesses that his near-death experience did not fill him with any life altering knowledge even though the episode will always hold a special place in his life. being an accomplished cartoonist, the author has incorporated some of his death-related cartoons in the book, paving way for the much-needed comic relief.

on a different note, i have known the author for more than two decades now but my review is not influenced by our relationship; rather it is more influenced by the death of a teacher who was wise and kind and finds a gratitude filled mention in the acknowledgement section of coffee with a coffin. years ago, making an observation about one of my test sheets he had wittily said, literature is all about experiments but never experiment during examinations. the words had stayed with me and since then i have experimented with the art of writing in almost all mediums and forms (except examination paper)- like using all lowercase in this piece. in an absolute irony, the book reached me a day before the wise and kind teacher hung himself from the ceiling.

life happens, so does death – the book is a living proof of it.

13th October 2022

DR: KHUSI PATTANAYAK was expecting a letter from Hogwarts but never received one. So, she decided to be the women of letters and earned a PhD in English literature.  She has 13+ years of professional experience & has swashbuckled both academia and industry. A corporate communication expert and cine-scholar she is an internationally published writer- translator-editor-photographer. Books authored by her are taught in various Indian universities and she was featured in the pages of TEDx Thought Break. A polyglot, she is the charter member and editor of The Pine Cone Review and loves to read Márquez, Kafka, Neruda, Seth, Christie in no specific order. She is the Patronus Charm herself.

Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter

%d bloggers like this: