Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Business of Death

I have not written for quite sometime. Was thinking that we read about the 'Death of Business' often but rarely about the 'Business of Death'.

Early in May we lost someone in our extended family, in tragic circumstances. God bless her soul. The entire family came together to mourn the loss and give each other strength. I am sure that time heals.

I had never seen death and the post rituals from so close. I learnt how the business around the dead flourishes, at every step. No emotions, its transactional business all around. Does God approve of such trade ?

Another thing which stuck me was the lack of knowledge about Hindu customs . Not one person knew the right rituals, from child to the pundit . Do we need to do change this situation or just let it be?

All the relatives come from far and wide to mourn the loss. In a few minutes some of us just forget the tragedy and start to talk 'real' issues. Do we need to change or just let it be?

The office colleagues also come and quickly take charge of the ceremonies. They help the maximum possible. We are all really thankful. Everyone connected to the death formalities be it the hospital, mortuary, crematorium, ambulance staff, pundits etc recognize the 'corporation' and do the work faster because of them. Is there anything wrong with that? Is the 'office family' the new joint family ?

I always knew that the loss is felt the most by the immediate family and the parents. I am more acutely aware of that today.

Thanks to the departed soul I know the Business of Death, better. I am more at peace with myself. God bless her soul.


Arvind said...


I agree that your question poses one to think whether it is ethical to charge for all this ( since you have mentioned it to be a business--and business cannot be charity ).Then one realises that there are whole families who survive on this business and it is part of their livelihood. The "Business of Death " as you aptly described it is a global phenomenon. Someone has to do their duties towards their beloved ones so that they get a decent send off from our world and while doing this if they take the services of other people I see no wrong in this.Rituals according to me are only formalities and a silent prayer would be more appropriate. I agree that offical colleagues help more than than relatives in most cases but I personally feel that this happens at senior levels when they feel " a sense of duty " towards their superiors out of respect rather than out of true feelings. Rajeev, you will not find the same feelings of these persons at the funeral of say the relative of a " office assistant " The world is full of hypocrisy and you are correct in saying the immediate family which feels the loss the most. The bereaved have to bear all this alone because of the inhumane attitude of the world.This is the fact of life and we all have to live by it. Even one genuine person who helps in these circumstances is like a beacon. Someone correctly said "When the night is darkest,that's when one lone candle makes the biggest difference."

Siva Jayaraman said...

A very different perspective and not thought of...definitely instills lot of thought around this..great post..

Was great to catch up with you.. cheers.. Siva

Vineet Tandon said...

Your post did mention about lot of questions? But sadly the title should be business of life, and not business of death. Because life goes on, death is an instance that has happend and whatever you feel, it is a done event . So the business of life..where these questions make more sense...vineet

Soundar said...

A good book I read was Rajbali Pandey's 'Hindu Samskaras'. This was a doctoral thesis to BHU. It explored every one of our samskaras from 'garbhadana' to 'seemanta' through 'vivaaha' and finished with the 'antyeshti' or cremation rites.

I would recommend it to those interested in not just the cremation but all the important milestone events of our life.