Condition Serious Hai

This one, nothing really really serious, is for all of you who wrote in over the last few years to tell me that you missed me. In this post, I try and be my old, lighthearted, loving, kind self. 


Explanation of the entry:

Recently, a friend sent me a book that s/he had written. It was a book of verse. Fairly straightforward, loosely asym-metric, everyday stuff. Very similar to what I write. What was interesting was the format of the book. Each poem came with an introduction, putting the poem in context. In some cases, the introduction explained why the poem was written. In others, they explained why the explanation was written, which then dutifully followed. Half way between Angelou and Spark Notes in terms of self image. After a few days, s/he asked me what I thought of his/her book. I was tempted to say what I say every time the mother (not "necessarily" the mama this post is about) cooks up one of her obtuse dishes, “Interesting and courageous.”

I did not though. The only reason for my compassion was that unlike many of us who sell shampoos, the future of the nation and cars (or hope to win contests) in order to support our creative selves, s/he teaches. To me, that is noble, no matter why (or what, heh heh heh) you are teaching. So I said something like, "I appreciate your commitment to what you are trying to do." I thought I was being pretty kind. Those of you who know me know that I was. Those of you who have read the book in question must be jumping up and down by now.

But then I thought, maybe that is why people don’t like what I write. Especially my poetry. Because I don’t throw in an introduction and an explanation. You feel cheated. Hence this preface. But then, thankfully, this love poem (please note, not about politics) is a contest entry. For a Cadbury 5 Star contest. With really one condition. A serious one. I will confine this overture too to the same condition, a small request not to be serious. At least not about the subject of this post. Because seriousness, as they say, it’s contagious. May the contagion always be with you.

Politics Of The Funeral

Anita Desai (not to be confused with her more popular namesake) is an upcoming story-teller, poet and song-writer from Hyderabad. This blog is honored to feature this piece by her.

*****

Since my childhood I had come to see funerals as extremely poignant and solemn rituals. The thirteen days following the passing of a dear one would be simple, unpretentious affairs. All family members; relatives; friends and neighbors would be completely shorn off all kinds of emotional pretense except grief for the departed soul. That would be the time when even sworn enemies would offer sympathies.  However, recent deaths in my family exposed some funeral behaviors in contemporary urban families. I share below a few observations.


Genuine Condolences
For any funeral, there are always a few concerned elderly people who turn up to offer genuine words of comfort to the grieved. For them death is the eternal fact of life, unconquered by mankind. They put in their years of experience,follow all rituals of fasting in the presence of the body, shoulder the deceased on its last journey and take charge of necessary arrangements. Sometimes help comes from unexpected sources, those who may not even be close to the family but land up at their doorstep to bring in food &tea, and reassurance. Some kind hearted folks stand by as they recollect the past association with the deceased. Someone stood by as they had not known their father, and this kind soul provided emotional stability. Some friends of an elderly gentleman who passed away tearfully regretted that they could not be with their buddy on his last journey, as they received the news of his passing much later. These are heart-warming moments which reinforce our belief in humanity.

Payback Time
A funeral can be used as a platform to settle past scores.  Some relatives decide to show up only for the sake of visibility among other relatives, devoid of any emotion for the departed soul or the aggrieved family. One close relative, who had been incommunicado with the grieving family for years,surprised everybody by just walking in straight up to the body, stared at it for a few moments and walked out. The person was later seen outside the house chatting up people. Some closest relatives turned up only an hour before the funeral,  passed a few comments on the generous soul and left without so much as a sympathetic pat to the grieving family. Other acquaintances called up to say “they had something important to do hence could not make it"; some bluntly said "be practical, if we have time will come."For some others, death wasn't serious enough to even call to offer condolences. All this only to settle some past differences. What better time for payback.

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