MIDWAY : Drama after death

Shiva Dai was wailing in desperation. He was sick but didn’t have a penny for treatment. No one paid any attention to his deteriorating health — neither his family nor his neighbours. As if they were all eagerly waiting for his death. Not even his wife was moved at his heart-rending cries. Unsurprisingly, not long after the illness struck him, he died.

Then the drama started. Kith and kin flocked to his abode to shed crocodile tears. Hugging the dead body in the courtyard, his wife started crying inconsolably, pounding her chest with her fists. Her small children couldn’t understand what was happening. They were time and again asking their mother why their father was sleeping in the courtyard.

Neighbours, too, flocked to the house shortly after the news of his death spread. While the widow sat on the floor crying bitterly over the dead body, other women were trying to console her. The vermillion on her forehead was wiped away, her glass bangles smashed to smithereens and her red sari quickly undraped. Death was the only certainty; he had been a good man — the neighbours tried to soothe Shiva Dai’s wife.

People sprayed the corpse with flowers, and then proceeded to wrap the body up in an expensive shroud before taking it to the riverbank for cremation. All the rituals that would guarantee heaven for him were carried out. Both the widow and her two small kids observed all rituals during the 13-day mourning period. No expenses were spared. In

fact, the widow even sold her jewellery and a piece of land to pay for the expenses. The family showered the local pundit with lavish gifts — all the stuff that the just departed would receive in heaven.

Oh! The pretence people put on! When Shiva Dai was crying out for some medicine that could have helped save his life, no one paid any attention to his desperate calls. No one even bothered to inquire why the wife had not taken her husband to hospital in time. Rather

they were heaping praises on her for performing her husband’s 13-day rituals in a grand manner. No matter where Shiva Dai is now, he must be looking at all these people and asking himself if one of them ever cared for him.