Being the only male member in my family, back here in Mumbai, i have to do this daunting duty of attending funerals of relatives, neighbours and acquaintances quite often. I bore a very distinct importance to attending funerals as graveyard teach me something more than a living being does (read related older post here.)
To justify a cruel poetic justice may be, i was chatting with one of my friend about death and inevitibility of it and the emotions and memories people leave behind, in the morning, i got to hear about the death of my friend’s father at his village in Junnar, some good 80 kms from Pune. Alongwith three other colleagues, we booked a cool cab from Dadar at 01.00 am in the morning. Reached Pune in the wee hours at 4.30 am to look for another mode of transport to reach our destination. Got a lucky break through an empty ST bus plying to Narayangaon, from there reached Junnar in a private jeep, followed by yet another trip by jeep to the native place of my friend. Reached the place at 08.10 am, after grueling journey of 07 hours.
The scene where a person dies is a stereo typed one, people standing, talking in hushed tones, intermittent loud sounds of weeping ladies. But the place where we reached was nothing like it, yes the women folk were weeping, even a guy was beating his chests loudly (later on it was revealed that he was high on alcohol). But the scene was not static, in fact, it looked like a big ceremony, and preparations for it, outside the house, the Warkaris were there fine-tuning their equipments. Soon they started singing devotional numbers. The older folks were making preparation for the final journey. Everything was impromptu and self improvised and self motivated, unlike what we see in cities like Mumbai, where only a handful of persons do all the necessary work and others are bystanders. Here it seemed as if the entire village had assembled, the women folks, the children, the older people and all.
Everything seemed natural and unaltered. The mood, the sorrow, the preparations everything was real and purposeful. The wooden frame (tirdi) on which the dead body is carried was made from bamboo, even the threads to wind this frame was made from natural grass, dried grass was laid over this frame as a bedding to the deceased. In this world of green sensitivities, this was not imbibed by external forces, the folks learnt it staying with the nature. Just everything used for the preparation was extracted from nature.
As the dead body of my friend’s father was brought out for the final bath, the entire village flocked closer to pour his/her share of water over the body as a part of respectance. The body was finally laid on the bamboo frame, ready to be taken to the final journey, which had no return ticket. The procession was lead by this band of warkaris who were still chanting devotional tunes, may be those tunes turned the scene from sombre one to a tad closer to being festive. The procession began towards the graveyard. No it was not a type of graveyard that we see in city, with an eerie silence and some distraughtful stories attached to it. This graveyard was under open sky, just near to a flowing river in an open field. To make the mood a bit sorrowful there were a couple of birds tweeting – Titwi as we call in marathi (dont know the english name), these birds are generally associated with ill luck and death. Their tweet near the scene reconfirmed the stories associated with these beautiful unsuspecting birds. Atleast amongst the innocent villagers.
Soon the body was laid on the pyre and fire was lit and within few minutes with the help of wind blowing the fire blazed, no need for salt, kerosene, ghee or other accelerators to lit up the pyre. The whole village had assembled each one trying to secure his / her vantage position to have a clearer view of the scene. Generally women dont turn up for funerals, but here it was an exception.
Returning back, while travelling from the scenic Ganesh Khind & Malshej Ghats my mind was polluted, polluted with thoughts of the fake and cosmetic lives we live in cities, our lives fully dominated by two tiny hands we wear in our wrist. This clock has turned us into machines, devoid of emotions and time. We do all the chores, but without involvment. That is why, may be, more often than not, we dont feel engaged and end up hating what we do. Why cant we be so real.. so natural after all. May be because we are far from it. The final journey to grave also taught me so many things..
What we see in city life is that people dont care much, they attend funerals, but only mechanically, as a part of their social duty. Here time stood still and nobody was in a hurry.