FUNERALS IN INDIA

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

A description of funny but true human behaviour during grief times. Readers will enjoy how humans can hide their true emotions which ultimately do surface to be noticed.

Stories behind, after and at funerals (some sad, some funny)

India has a vast and mysterical caste structure attached to various religions that is divided into many castes (Jatis in Hindi language) and sub castes. Every religion has its unique funeral tradition. For example, Hindus have different rituals to be performed after the birth of a baby, for marriage, after buying a new house, for festivals, for fasting, after death etc. The more a person goes deep into it, the more he’ll find mystery seeing and understanding people's way of living life with their own morality. And each caste system has its own unique structure of dos and don’ts for funeral rites and the rituals attached to it. This chapter will highlight some incidents (sad as well as funny) that have happened at funerals and a brief description about deceased people's lives and how common people behave after the death of a person who is closely related to them.

A large population in today’s India doesn’t come in the category of educated and well-read families. People many times don’t understand the importance of death and funeral procession. And in ignorance they act funny being unconscious of their funny behavior at funerals. No person would deliberately want to mock himself in front of his relatives and friends, but at funerals, some people act in a funny way and make fun of themselves in front of decent and respectable people.

In Hindu tradition, usually, the dead body of a person is covered with a sheet keeping the corpse's face uncovered and placed it to the floor. Many times family members (mostly women) sit around the body till it’s lifted for the cremation process. Men usually stand outside the home discussing the same things about the dead person which have been spoken and discussed for centuries. The body is later moved to a Bamboo made stretcher (a wooden stretcher) which has four sides to be held by four men to be carried from home to cremation ground on foot chanting the name of Lord Rama or any God according to people's belief systems. Most people touch the feet of a dead body one by one after the corpse is brought outside the home as a part of ritual. The body is to be burnt on the cremation ground as per Hindu rituals. According to traditional Hindu customs, women are not allowed to attend the cremation ceremony. 'And most women in India follow this tradition seriously by not attending the funeral rites at the cremation ground.'

Let's look at the following family which was once a joint family in a small village in Thane district, Maharashtra, India.

With time, every son of the family moves out forming his nuclear family in the same village. Mr. Anil Panchal is a respectable and highly ambitious person in his village. He's the eldest and the only one among other siblings who takes education and gets his degree in commerce. Thereafter he establishes himself in an automobile business and helps all his younger brothers to stand on their own feet. His father Mr. Naresh Panchal is also a kind of strange personality known in the village. He lives his life with self-respect. He's also known as a hardworking, ambitious, abusive, boastful, partially religious, self-reliant, talkative and stingy (too much) person. He has six children including one daughter. Mr. Naresh gets married to Ms. Saguna in an arranged way against his wish. One can say he was forced to marry someone he didn’t love. Villagers see him abusing and beating his wife Saguna. People say that children are a blessing from God and love. But in case of Naresh and Saguna, this saying turns out to be a little untrue. Saguna gives birth to six children despite all odds. Naresh works hard and earns enough money but he hardly buys any gold ornaments for his wife. Saguna is fond of wearing gold jewelry and traveling across India but her wishes hardly get fulfilled because of her husband’s abusive personality. And as many Indian couples in the arranged marriage that is arranged by their parents stay without love tolerating and abusing each other and making compromises in life similarly, Mr. Naresh and Mrs. Saguna Panchal stay criticizing each other in front of anyone in the village.

Naresh belongs to the lower middle class. After years of struggle, he becomes a successful businessman. Anil is his favorite son. Mr. Naresh likes Anil because of his intelligence. Naresh feels proud of his eldest son. He belittles his other kids due to his love towards Anil. His second son Maruti, a year after his marriage, decides to move to another apartment in the same village. Maruti and his wife refuse to take his parents responsibility. Anil and his wife Rashmi stay with the parents. Anil takes the responsibility of his brothers till they get settled in their lives. Many years pass. Everybody moves to a new home. The youngest son Ashish and his wife stay with Naresh and Saguna. The rest of his children stay separately with their families.

One day Naresh gets a heart attack and he is taken to hospital immediately. His eldest son Anil and his wife Rashmi take care of him just to show others (relatives and friends) and get recognition in their community. And people who visit the hospital truly believe in fake emotions displayed by Anil and Rashmi.

Rashmi is known as the following: a peculiar person, nagging wife, an artist, good cook, industrious housewife, generous, dramatic, bad-mouth, cunning, ill-wisher and jealous woman. The people were astonished to see that a woman possessing good as well as bad behavioral traits almost equal in proportion. Naresh survives only a further four years after his hospital discharge and then one day due to regular habit of alcohol, passes away at the age of 71 in a hospital. After the post-mortem, his body was brought to his home town.

A great number of people who love as well as despise him arrive at his funeral. Some family members such as Naresh’s daughter, son, adult grandsons, granddaughters and relatives were weeping. Some daughters-in-law were crying genuinely that didn’t include Rashmi though she was the only one who was crying loudly than anyone in the home and as the crowd increased she started sobbing in a funny way. As Naresh’s corpse was lifted for the funeral procession, she made a deliberate attempt to fall to the ground showing others that she was unable to take the shock of her father-in-law’s death and she collapsed on the ground closing her eyes tightly. All women around her felt that she became unconscious due to emotional shock. Feeling sympathetic towards Rashmi, they promptly held her to support her. They made her sit on a bed where she was told to lie down for a while. After this incident, all women wondered and felt great seeing Rashmi’s love towards her in-laws.

Rashmi tried very hard not to open her eyes for twenty minutes further and then slowly opened her eyes. She acted at Naresh's funeral like a real actor in front of people only to gain sympathy from people. Naresh’s grandsons and granddaughters who loved him also grieved. They also observed other people who pretended to feel sad. Some women also looked at Naresh's wife whether she was unconscious but Saguna seemed to be alright. She was sitting in a corner of the home with other women telling them stories of her past and present i.e. how much Naresh tortured her mentally as well as physically and how he finally died. Some women were laughing feeling guilty inside, whereas some were seriously listening to her. Some elderly widows after the death of their spouses behave in a funny way on the day of the funeral.

A girl in her 20’s was forced to wear colorful clothes (in order to get marriage proposals in her community) at Narseh’s funeral by her mother, Mrs. Babita who is a “long-distance” niece of Mr. Naresh.

The girl was instructed by her mother (who is in her 40’s) to wear a nice subtle colored dress with golden jewelry in order to seek attention of guys. In India, the concept of women wearing a large amount of gold jewelry on special occasions is well-known amongst the masses. Hence, for any occasion women wear gold ornaments as an indirect display of their social status to seek other people’s attention towards them and make them jealous. Some people (especially the lower-middle classes) also borrow gold jewelry from their relatives, neighbors and friends for any important occasion according to their definition of important occasion.

Let’s have a glimpse into a conversation between Mrs. Babita and her daughter who are about to attend Naresh’s funeral.

The girl “But Mom, how can I wear this? It’s a funeral of Naresh Grandpa. What would people think of me?”

Mrs. Babita “Oh, single girls should always think about their marriage first and not what others would think about them. You know your father told me in the morning that Sagar Mahante would be coming. And if he sees you in the crowd and likes you, then you’ll thank me forever.

“But mom, I don’t know Sagar and his family. I told you I want to take education and marriage after completion of my education. Why are you forcing me to wear all this? Won’t I look ridiculous there?”

“Just do what I say. And what is the use of that education if you don’t get a rich husband in life?”

“Mom, you’re speaking all nonsense.”

“I don’t want to hear any suggestions from my immature daughter on what I should speak and what I shouldn’t. You keep your mouth shut there. You know Sagar is the only son of his parents. I heard Mr. Mahante possesses three cars. And if his family likes you then you need not take education. You’ll be rolling in money on the floor. There will be many girls out there who will be interested to marry him. But you see I know how beautiful my daughter is! Damn those girls. Oh, he’ll certainly like you. So just get ready and wear something good. All respectable people are going to come. We must look ostentatious.”

“Mom, if this is what you want, fine. But if I don’t like him, then you can’t force me.”

“That we’ll see.”

Mr. Naresh a week before his death, gifts his expensive gold chain to his beloved granddaughter (daughter’s daughter- 16 year old) in the hospital in his wife’s presence. Everybody comes to know about it. At his funeral, Rashmi sees that chain worn by her niece. Felling jealous and angry towards her, she says “Your grandpa was not in his senses when he gave that chain to you. Please give that to me now. It belongs to me now. I did so much for your grandfather. It’s my kids and me who have the right over it.”

The girl doesn’t understand a motive behind her aunt’s talk but seeing her deadly face; she gives her the chain quickly. She informs everyone in the family about how Rashmi behaves with her but no one dares to speak anything against Rashmi and her husband. Such things also happen at funerals. It is said that Mr. Naresh had lots of money stored in his cupboard for his old age. The key of that cupboard was always with him. He never gave that to anyone. The key was always tied to a thick white thread which was again tied to his waist just like a person wearing a belt with jeans. No one comes to know where the key disappeares after his death. Who takes the key? People speak that his eldest son Anil with his shrewd and cunning mind with the help of his youngest brother Ashish (who is a non-working person and also a personal assistant of Anil known in the village) steal some cash from their father’s cupboard keeping some for other brothers. A week later, all brothers come together with their wives to open the cupboard to ask for their share, Anil and his wife declare that the key is lost and it’s gone into ashes with their father. So they decide to break the cupboard. The lock of the cupboard breaks open with a hammer and the other needful instruments. $1,327 is found in the cupboard which is distributed among five brothers that again includes Anil and Ashish. Maruti and other two brothers doubt the amount they get but they don’t dare to speak against Anil. The villagers feel sad after hearing the cupboard episode. Everyone in the village speaks ill about Panchal family’s sons and daughters-in-law. People say that ‘the old man saved money for his old age but the monsters in his house ate it after his death. Poor old man!!!!!!’

Eleven days later, after the death of a person on the 12th day, there is a condolence-meeting (Shok-Sabha in Hindi language) to be held in the evening in which friends, relatives and friend’s friends come together in a large number after they are invited by the members of family (expired person's family) and then ‘a long or short speech about a deceased person’s past life as well as his achievements’ is given by the heads of the community, some family members or relatives or whoever wants to speak only good about a deceased person forgiving his bad behavior. The day of condolence-meeting varies from one religion to another, one caste to another and one community to another depends on the norms set by priests and should be followed according to ‘the rituals after death’ that have been enforced on people since ancient times. Also, people who refuse to follow these rituals are highly condemned by the community. People many times, make funny speeches during such condolence-meetings about a deceased person saying things which are exactly opposite of his true nature.

In the condolence-meeting after Naresh's death, one man who is the head of the community makes the following speech:

He says “Mr. Naresh was a very good-hearted human being. He raised his kids with love and care. He loved his wife deeply. He gave her whatever she wanted in life. He treated all his children equally. He was a great human being. He was an extremely generous person.” After he utters the word ‘generous’ about Naresh who was known as an extremely stingy person people start laughing loudly without thinking about others. The daughters-in-law of Panchal family including their children look at each other and start laughing feeling guilty inside. Laughter is ubiquitous in human interactions but it is rare at funerals and condolence-meetings. However, laughter becomes contagious there. Naresh’s sons controlling their laughter, force the man to finish his speech as they see the condolence-meeting turning into laughter which was not the main purpose of it. Many stupid and uneducated heads of community make ‘condolence-meeting’s Speech’ exactly opposite of dead peoples' character which can turn condolence-meeting into an uncontrollable laughter.

Anil and Rashmi decide to keep lunch on the day of condolence-meeting to poor people and relatives in order to please them and in some way to cover up the episode of cupboard. The luncheon is kept in the name of Mr. Naresh as Rashmi fabricates a story which is originally invented by her husband to tell all relatives and friends about why they’re keeping the luncheon for. She tells people that it was the last wish of her father-in-law that after his death, goat’s meat be served to villagers. And people believe in her story yet there are some who doubt and openly question the other members of Panchal family the reasons behind giving a non-vegetarian meal and breaking Naresh’s cupboard.

Poor people in India can’t afford to have goat’s meat very often and if they get an opportunity to have it elsewhere they wouldn't like to lose it. Anil’s shrewd mind understands people’s need and their craving for red meat as he gets to know from his fellow sycophants about what villagers speak against him and his family. He comes to know that the villagers are discussing about the lost key and the cupboard breaking episode. Hence, in order to keep their mouth shut, he devises a plan. He decides to give a free and delicious lunch on the twelfth day after his father’s death. A large number of people come. All become happy. One man who is a long-distance cousin of Anil from Mumbai asks a question to a village man (who is a long-distance relative of Naresh) and has just finished his meal. He asks “I heard Anil and his brothers broke the cupboard of their father and got money. Have any idea about how much they got?”

The villager just looks at the man sluggishly and says “Well. God knows what really happened after Naresh’s death. Why don’t you ask your cousin directly?” This relative was the one who was telling the story of breaking of the cupboard adding his own words to as many people in the village abusing Anil and his brothers behind their back. But after lunch, he changes his stand. The change from negative views to positive happens in him only in two hours. This is how some people change their color in an instant just like a chameleon changes its color.

Anil’s cousin “Well, I tried. But he refused to tell me. A lot many people, actually, are asking me about how much they have got overall? You see people are always curious about money issues. So just asking you my friend. You must be knowing something.”

“You know today I feel as if all my dreams have come true. I mean the meat was so tender and tasty that I could hardly resist not to ask for it umpteen times. You see there is nothing like a fulfilling, delicious and free meal of meat. I mean how can one miss a surfeit of rich meal?”

“I guess Anil must have got plenty of money in his father’s cupboard, or else why would anybody spend so much money in the name of father’s wish? Just eye wash my friend.”

“Oh, I’m feeling sleepy my friend. Just thinking of taking a nap. I’d better be leaving. Bye.”

“ Bye.” Anil’s cousin sits on a chair envisaging the scenario about how much money Anil and his brothers must have got in hand. Then he closes his eyes for a while as he feels sleepy as well.

After some years, the youngest son Ashish also leaves his father’s home with his mother Saguna and family. Saguna stays with Ashish’s family for years till she goes into dementia. Her fourth son, Sainath goes through financial crisis. He asks his eldest brother Anil to help him. Sainath asks for a job in his brother's shop. Anil being a great planner offers him the job in his shop and allows Sainath and his family to stay in their father’s home which was empty. Moreover, Saguna’s responsibility is shifted to him. Sainath and his wife Kala accept it gladly and do whatever they can. Saguna gets a small room in her husband’s house. She stays with them being conscious as well as unconscious.

After some years, due to old age, Naresh’s wife Saguna dies. She passes away at 85 in her husband's home. And the repetition of the same funeral procession is done in Panchal family. She dies in an extremely small, suffocating and uncomfortable room. Her eldest son Anil and his wife hardly pay attention to Saguna’s deteriorating health in her last days. They put her responsibility on Sainath’s shoulder. It’s only Kala who takes care of her mother-in-law but at her funeral, Rashmi tries show others that it was she who was taking care of Saguna. All relatives knew how much Sainath and Kala did for their mother but Anil and Rashmi tried to take credit for her medical expenses etc. At her funeral, Rashmi’s youngest daughter-in-law speaks something against her in public. She says “Oh, what a drama! What a drama! Rashmi did nothing and its only Kala who took care of her mother-in-law for years in her last days. Kala is speaking nothing about it. People are also fools. They don’t know whom they should trust and whom they shouldn’t. My mother-in-law is behaving absurdly today.” Kala is sitting with women and listening to what is being spoken about her and Rashmi but due to Anil’s favor on her family she keeps mum.

A funny incident that takes place on the day of Saguna's funeral is described below:

Saguna’s dead body is kept on the floor in her home and surrounded by women. In some castes, before the cremation, (Hindu deities) Gods' songs ('Bhajanas' in Hindi language) are sung by a group of women of the community. The group usually attends the funerals to sing Bhajanas as a part of ritual that is to be done after a person’s death. They sing Bhajanas with Taals (pair of clash cymbals). Some women (relatives and friends of deceased person) who can’t sing also try to sing Bhajanas with the group (it looks like an act of lip syncing). These Bhajanas are sung sometimes in the tune of Bollywood (Mumbai-based Hindi language film industry) movie songs in Maharashtra state of India. Saguna’s grandchildren (who are in their 20's) also listen to Bhajanas. And the greatest singer of Indian cinema Mohammad Rafi’s song tune was arranged in one God's Bhajanas at Saguna’s funeral. That means people listened to Bhajanas in the tune of Hindi movie songs. (The following example will help readers to understand this in a better way: if the lyrics of a Bhajana are "Saint or God. It's Saint or God" then the Bhajana will be sung in the tune of Michael Jackson’s song 'Black or White'. In India, in some religions, spiritual songs are sung in the tune of old Hindi movie songs. People who lack the ability to give tunes to Bhajanas or any devotional song directly copy famous Regional Movie Songs Tunes. The direct copying of famous tunes is common in India. Someone has created a song, its lyrics, tune and music for a movie in the past. And some uncreative people are copying his tunes i.e. his efforts free of charge for their selfish purpose).

After listening to some Bhajanas in the tune of Hindi movie songs, Saguna’s grandchildren laugh uncontrollably. They didn't hesitate to laugh in the presence of people. However, they couldn’t grasp the connection between Bhajanas and Hindi movie songs. When people listened to Bhajanas in the tune of Hindi movie song at the funeral, they remembered actors and actresses who had acted to sing those songs in that movie. In short, people went back in their past forgetting the importance of funeral and gods' Bhajanas (spiritual songs). Such funny things also happen at funerals.

Before Saguna’s death:

The villagers wonder about Saguna’s deteriorating health because they expect her eldest son to keep her in a posh hospital in her last days, which unfortunately doesn’t happen. Two years before Saguna’s death, her father’s home in a remote village gets a selling proposal from a wealthy businessman. Mr. Anil is quickly informed about it. He tries to get in touch with that person and makes a deal in $82,685. In order to sell that home he needed to take his mother’s signature. Hence he goes to meet his mother and obtains her signature. Saguna was suffering from dementia hence she didn’t know what she was doing and speaking. She always loved her eldest son due to his intelligence and managerial skills. She had undergone a surgery of her left leg due to which she was unable to get up. Mr. Anil just tells her to give her thumb impression as instructed by his lawyer. She knew how to read and write but due to her illness she was not in her senses. She gives her thumb impression. And the deal is finalized between Anil and the buyer. Saguna’s younger sister gets half the amount and on behalf of Saguna, her son Anil takes $41,342. The money comes in. All brothers become happy. Each of them gets his share except the second eldest son Maruti. He has not been informed about the deal since he had refused to take his parents responsibility when he had moved to another apartment. Maruti goes to meet Anil to ask for his share but Anil tells him to leave. Anil says “Maruti, you left this home with your wish and you have never taken father and mother in your apartment. Your wife never took care of them like my wife. And only because money has come, you have come to collect it. Don’t you have self-respect? If you want to go to court, you are free. But remember one thing that everyone in this village knows that you have not given anything to your parents. So, on moral grounds, I can ruin your reputation. And the case will just go on and on for years. If you want, I can offer this gold worth $843. That’s all I can give to you right now. If you are asking complete share then I’m sorry my brother.” Maruti refuses the gold offered by Anil as he gets very angry inside and in a surge of anger, threatens him to sue and he leaves.

Saguna’s sons receive money which they decide to save for their future but none of them comes forward to keep their mother in a comfortable room. In summer Saguna sleeps in the same room without an air conditioner. People come and see everything. Relatives feel bad but nobody dares to speak anything against Anil and others. Everybody speaks ill about her sons and daughters-in-law behind their back. Anil’s wife Rashmi is known for her politics learned from her husband. She regularly phones her sister-in-law Kala (Sainath’s wife) to inquire about Saguna. One month before her death, Rashmi instructs Kala to reduce dose of tablets which the family doctor had prescribed in order to extend Saguna’s life. Rashmi feels Saguna is going to die sooner or later. She thinks if she dies early, her husband’s money will be saved. Hence she instructs Kala to ignore Saguna if she feels pain. Such things are usually done with the intention to save money. Every day Rashmi calls up Kala to ask whether Saguna is dead or alive. Saguna has forgotten everyone. All she remembers is her past but she is unable to talk even. For the entire month, before her death, Rashmi phones Kala and asks about her mother-in-law. Rashmi and other daughters-in-law reluctantly visit their old mother-in-law during her last days. Only Kala and Sainath stay with their mother till her death. And despite Rashmi’s instructions to reduce the dose, Kala keeps buying the best medicines from her own pocket. But her genuine efforts to relieve Saguna’s pain goes in vain as she dies in an excruciating pain. The villagers know everything but nobody speaks anything. The doctor is called only at the last moment as a part of formality only to disguise people.

At Saguna’s funeral, Rashmi acts very well in front of relatives as she keeps reciting one sentence before relatives (close as well as distant) i.e. “I used to call up every day to ask about my mother-in-law’s. I did call up every day. I truly called up every day. Everyone knows. Everyone knows. I used to call up every day. I loved my mother-in-law.” Everyone hears Rashmi uttering that sentence from the afternoon till night but nobody knows the truth about why she was calling up Kala for? No one knows what she was asking about Saguna. No one comes to know how desperately all sons and daughters-in-law except Sainath’s family, wanted their mother to die. Saguna pain and suffering come to an end after her death.

Some relatives, distant relatives, neighbors, friends and friends' friends ask innumerable questions about a person who has passed away to his family members as they arrive one by one to his funeral. If family members are busy in grieving, they’ll ask other people about what exactly happened. Please have a look:

“How did he/she die? But I heard he was in good health. Then how did this happen suddenly?” Some people tell each other looking at the dead body “Look at him/her. Can anyone say he/she's dead? How fresh his/her face looks!” If a person who dies is very old, say, above 80 or 90 then they'll say “Oh, it’s sad though he/she lived a long life.” Some close relatives sit near the dead body and grieve. Then they start talking to the dead body by touching it. They say “Oh, why did God do this to you? Why did they take you away from us and why did they take you before us?” One can truly wonder if one sees close relatives uttering such sentences, whereas spouses of dead people don't dare uttering these sentences even to show people e.g. ‘Why didn’t God give them death before the death of their spouses?’ One can see such things happening at funerals. Some people even judge character of dead people at their funerals. They also talk whether he was a good person, whether he helped others or refused to help, whether he believed in charity and donated money to temples etc. Then some righteously question family members. These questions are: 'Why didn’t they admit the patient (who is no more) in the hospital they had recommended? Why didn’t they ask their opinion (relatives’ opinion) before admitting the patient in the hospital?'

Some also tell each other how much they know about better medical facilities available in the city. And as one flaunts about one’s property to people poorer to him/her, similarly at funerals, people flaunt about their 'Half-Knowledge' in front of the poor and uneducated people and then get involved in all frivolous and boastful talk proving them superior in their own eyes unknowingly. These people fail to understand the reality of the situation i.e. the person is dead already and there is nothing they can do now to save the person. Despite this, people give their unwanted and unasked suggestions to family members of a deceased person at his funeral.

In India, donating money to community temples matters a lot. People feel happy praising the dead at their funerals if the dead have donated money to temples.

Some women being dramatic do some things that make people laugh at funerals.

Please read the following episode of a banging woman: A 75-year-old man passes away from bone cancer in his home in Mumbai city, Maharashtra, India. His corpse is kept on the floor in the dining room of his home and surrounded by women. A large number of people have gathered at his funeral. Women are weeping and weeping. After some hours, one married woman (who is in her late 30’s) being hysterical comes near the corpse of her long-distant uncle, bangs her head against his chest several times and starts crying loudly. She starts talking to the dead body. She says “Oh uncle, what has happened to you? How did it happen? Why did you go far away from me? Why? Tell me why? You did so much for me. I’ll always miss you.” Then she looks at the crowd with watery eyes and again bangs her head for five to six times. The banging woman knows inside that her banging can neither injure nor hurt her uncle since he's dead. Hence, as every spouse takes his partner for granted, the banging woman takes her uncle’s corpse for granted and many people being dramatic do such things in order to gain sympathy from the crowd. Their intention is to show the crowd that they loved the dead person more than anyone. Some dramatic women do such things at funerals. It certainly creates sympathy towards a dramatic person and also brings enormous laughter among people. People who crave for sympathy always try to gain it by attending several funerals. Funerals have become the medium for such people to shed crocodile tears, sob in an unauthentic way and gain sympathy from the crowd. Some men also show signs of hysteria at funerals in the form of beating their chests like an ape-gorilla (one of the closest relatives of humans). These men being hysterical sob and speak irrelevant things about the deceased person looking at the crowd in order to gain attention.

A few years later, in the same village, a 93-year-old woman passes away due to old age and asthma problem. At her funeral, all her daughters-in-law who are in their late 50’s dramatically cry in front of their relatives. Inside they were happy because they didn’t want their husbands to spend money on their mother’s food and medicines. They grieve and show others that they tried very hard to save their mother-in-law but they couldn’t. The deceased woman’s daughters who are in their 60’s and 70’s also mourn but some strange things people observe about one daughter, Mrs. Extra. She is in her 60’s. Family members of the deceased member feel strange when they see Mrs. Extra sobbing with weird expressions. Mrs. Extra is also known as an exaggeration lady in her village. She sits on the floor near the head of her mother’s body. Whenever any woman comes to her to console she raises her eyebrows in a funny way and makes different gestures with her eyes that are shedding tears abundantly. Then she keeps her palms on her face exaggerating facial expression showing others as if she's the only one in the family who felt sad. Three months before the old woman dies, she tells her grandson to phone Mrs. Extra. He then calls her and asks her to come but due to her false ego she refuses to come. Mrs. Extra answers him on the phone "I also want to see my mother but I have problem with your mother (her sister-in-law). Last time I came to your home she didn't not treat me well. Why should I come now? My mom won't understand. It's between us. Your mom thinks she is very smart and I'm not. Sorry, I won't be able to come."The grandson informs his grandmother. The grandmother says "Okay. Now you don't call her. This is not the time to get angry on stupid things. I'm unwell. I may......... Anyway my stupid and egoist daughter won't understand this."

Mrs. Extra makes her appearance only after her mother's death. People are surprised to see her in a grim sadness. Seeing her exaggerated emotional expressions all her nieces and other women in the community start laughing. Due to such funny women, the seriousness of a funeral turns into laughter among youth and the discussion starts about people who cry and act in a funny way.

The old woman’s nephew who is in his 50’s also arrives. As he sees his aunt’s corpse, he starts speaking to her dead body in a funny way in front of all. He's known as a good-hearted person and everybody in his community respects him. He speaks in the following manner to his dead aunty while catching her chin gently and keeping a broad smile on his face. He says “Hey aunty, how do you do? Tell me how you really are? You left us. Stay in peace.” Everybody laughs when they see him talking that way. The smile on his face just meant that he felt at peace because his beloved aunty died without much pain, lived a long life and the natural death without pain bestowed upon her by God.

People can sense that some family members of a deceased person pretend to be in grief not because they love him but because they can get people's attention towards them. One can say everybody is in the same boat. People who attend funerals respond in the same way i.e. they also pretend to console the hypocrite family members after seeing their fake emotions. Even real movie actors might not be able to match up to their acting skills, so realistically some family members including relatives and distant relatives shed fake tears.

In movies and T.V. (television) serials, in order to cry in an emotional scene, actors have to put glycerin in their eyes but, here, people can cry for hours without using glycerin. It’s seen that many daughters-in-law verbally torture their old mother-in-law due to her illness. And after she dies they shed crocodile tears and utter foolish statements in front of people. These statements include “Oh please come back. Where did we go wrong? We did so much for you but it was not enough to keep you alive. We’ll always miss you. She was very good you know (gazing at women around with watery eyes). Just look at her face and who can tell she's dead? She looks as if she's alive.” Such incidents happen in many families and must be happening still in many parts of India where authenticity is ignored and pretendence is worshipped.

Something similar to the above happen after the old woman’s death where people observe her abusive daughters-in-law weeping and uttering foolish statements in order to prove themselves great in people’s eyes. When the woman was alive she was not served food on time. She was not bathed for weeks by anyone except if her grandson or granddaughter (adults) did without paying much attention to their mother’s hatred towards granny. The woman was poor but her two sons were fairy rich. The eldest son despite being a millionaire acts cunningly due to which his mother undergoes a lot of pain in her final days. He doesn’t even bother to hospitalize her. He thinks she's going to die anyway then why should he waste his money? And like any other henpecked husband, he walks on the path set by his wife who is known as a shrewd and stingy woman in the village. The common sentences uttered by henpecked husbands while talking to their wives on a daily basis are given below:

1. "Dear wife, what should I do now? You tell me now. I don't understand what to do. I'm confused." 2. "Should I meet my friend today?" 3. Can I drink alcohol today?" 4. "How much money should I give to my parents?" Taking permission from one's wife always for stupid things despite being the sole earning member of the family is commonly observed in India with respect to henpecked husbands.

People also speak about old woman's son who behaves cunningly with his mother during her illness. At her funeral, people whisper in each other's ears that she was not served food for five to six days. Nobody comes to know who leaks out a story of the conversation between the mother and her son. People were saying the following to each other: when the old woman was alone in her eldest son's home, her son came to her, uttered something which might have made her cry and give up food. The son said “Why do you wish to live now? You lived a long life and you still want to eat? Why do you wish to live now? What for? Give up mom. We are in our 70's. We are also old now. After this incident, it was said that the old woman cried for hours, refused to eat for four to five days and then expressed her desire to meet her youngest son and grandson. She dies in two hours on the day she meets them."

After her death, her eldest son and his wife attend her funeral. And as usual, the cunning daughter-in-law sobs without using glycerin showing others that she truly loved her mother-in-law.

Cities and villages in India where pretension is worshipped and praised indirectly by people hiding the truth can never come out of their hypocrisy and double standards. If people don’t come forward to object, question, and oppose the cunning and hypocrite people of society only due to their money power and political connections, today's youth will never get opportunities to learn the truth. They may remain in the state of hypocrisy proudly which may also include learning of deception from their parents and other family members.

Almost every person learns the truth about death after entering adulthood that one day like others whom he observes dying due to old age or illness, he’ll die as well. Every adult after coming to his senses realizes the correlation between birth and death. He doesn’t wish to die early but he feels from within that one day he’ll also be old and die from some physical illness.

People have not been correctly taught from their childhood how they should behave at funerals. Therefore, everyone behaves the way he likes. Teachers in school, perhaps, never dare to talk about death and its rituals to their students. As a result, people stay in ignorance for years. Hence they behave weirdly and in a funny way at a funeral.

Can’t humans just sit quietly for some hours without any pretendence if they don’t feel grief after the death of their close ones? There is no enforcing factor that can force a human being to cry going all the way against his wish at a funeral. Nobody can fake love he doesn’t feel for a person who is no more. Fake masks and tears can be known among the masses however one tries to fake it. Phony people including some politicians and Indian movie celebrities feel that no one can notice their phony gestures but people somehow sense such things within no time and they are discussed with total enthusiasm and fun behind their back.

In Hinduism, one proverb is very famous i.e. “What you do in this life comes back to you. Your Karma (Good as well as bad deeds) comes back to you eventually.” It is seen that people who abuse, torture, beat their own parents and don’t serve food in their old age also suffer the same when they turn old. And common people in India are known for speaking openly at funerals among their friends and relatives such as “Their Karma will come back to them when they will be old” after seeing and hearing stories of ill behavior by their children (sons and daughters) to their old and unwell parents who sacrifice their lives for them but in the end, they suffer and are made to cry not by strangers but their own kids.

If people who turn old with time are rich, are in their senses in their illness, are able to make or change their will, have intelligence to do so and have some trustworthy people who can help them to take some harsh decisions in case their kids neglect them, will their sons and daughters-in-law make them suffer as they’ll do if they are poor? The answer to this question will tell readers what elderly people have to go through in most lower and middle class families in India. If people get some sense of their future lives in some way, they’ll rethink before producing kids who can make them suffer and die in pain despite having means to save them.


Submitted: April 02, 2014

© Copyright 2022 K varsh. All rights reserved.

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