Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Sometime ago at the death of a neighbor, we guys were huddled in a corner of his house when we saw someone distributing visiting cards among the people who had gathered there.
“What’s that?” someone asked. “Must be the catering guys” another replied for it is usual for relatives to appoint catering guys to arrange snacks and tea for visitors.
So we called him near and asked for the card. The name of the group was “Sivasakthi…” something. But it turned out they were not catering guys. They were the ready-made chitha (funeral pyre) people. If you were dead you only had to call them and they would reach your house within three hours with all the necessary equipments, i.e. wood, coconut shells and husks, ghee, - in short, all the stuff that you needed to burn properly. They were also experts in rituals, the man explained. That was good to know. In case you had any doubts on which road to take somewhere in your afterlife journey, they could probably fill in all the details. Book which paradise hotel you want and that sort.
“The leader of our group has burned over 3000 people” the assistant burner said with pride. It only worsened our despair. It felt like he was inviting us to die so we could experience their superior services.
“We have no other branches” he announced before moving away to distribute the cards to the other will-die-one-day-anyway people.
Can’t blame him. After all death is everyone’s business.
This last day I met another guy at the airport. A dead body was arriving on a plane and he was there to collect it. I saw him sign for the body and accompany it to the ambulance and drive away. Must be a close relative I thought. Then two days later I saw the same guy at the airport and again he was accompanying a dead body. Jeez! All his relatives abroad must be dying in quick succession, I thought. So I went over and talked to him. Turned out he wasn’t a relative at all. He was running an agency that specialized in helping retrieve the bodies of people who had died abroad to their relatives back home – for a price of course. The relatives just had to sign a contract and hand over the money and he would take care of everything.
“There are other agencies in this business also” he informed me. “But we have a specialty that they don’t”, he said to me beaming. I couldn’t wait to hear what it was.
“We offer free door delivery!” he said with a flourish.
Now wasn’t that an attractive offer. Free door-delivery?? Like grocery or a fridge or laundry. My parents bought a washing machine last week. They had free door delivery. This was just like that.
Who said death was all despair and gloom. It’s a bloody good business. And you can always count on people to die. People may stop buying clothes, or grocery, or electronic goods. But they just can’t stop dying. And so the business shall flourish too.
I took his visiting card too. If I die at least I get a free trip home!