If a birth or marriage in a family was once celebrated as a community event when people lived in closely knit settlements, death was a solemn occasion in which support from the society around was even more valued. After all, the sympathy and commiseration of people around ebled bereaved families to tide over the initial phase when the sense of loss hits them hardest. Sharing their sorrow for the departed while observing the necessary rituals provided the outlet for catharsis, so necessary to face an unknown, daunting future without the loved one. A proper cremation, burial or any other fil rite as determined by religion of the deceased, has always been considered the barest minimum a human being could reasobly hope for. Even this humble hope seems to be beyond the reach of some persons unfortute enough to be isolated in an indifferent, though increasingly crowded milieu. Recently a poverty–stricken family of six from Chaygaon on the outskirts of Guwahati was in the news. Having shifted recently to a nearby place in search of livelihood — the father, mother and four minor sons were living as tents, largely unknown to people in their new locality. Tragedy struck one night when the mother died due to a sudden illness. In the morning, the father and four sons tied the dead body to two bamboo poles, then slowly made their way along the highway for cremation. The sight shocked bystanders and soon jourlists, policemen, student activists and political workers arrived at the scene. Soon enough money was raised for the woman’s cremation and shraddha. But it does not work out well like this for many other unfortute people in today’s lonely society. They need help in registering the dead, carrying out the last rites and coping with the formalities. After all, bidding a honorable farewell to the departed is one of the tendencies that is the hallmark of a civilized human.
Food for thought