Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rituals of Funerals and the star gazer

The rituals of death are as weird in our south asian-sub continental-pakistani- middle class- muslim- Lahori cultures, that i get surprised after all these years , still! I am sure its similar all over the world to some extent but we take the trophy i am sure when it comes down to the variety and contortions of these practices.
How to present your dead ones is one thing, but how to touch them, what to recite and blow on what part of their bodies, and what to do and what not to do that will take them to heaven straight, when should the Qul (recitations) be held the next day or the one after, how many thursdays should be family GT prayers, and when should be the Chaleeswan (the 40th day of prayers held for the deceased) etc. The funny thing about Chaleeswan is that i don't know its origin, and neither do most of the people around me, apart from its coalition with the Chilla (40 days after giving birth to a baby and the mother's stay home period).
Anyways. I have observed the presence of certain characters at these unfortunate occasions. Being a woman, i cant categorize them in the men's compartments, but in the ladies areas, there always is this one alpha female who Know It All! She can be a relative, neighbor or friend; mostly in her late 40s/early 50s; generally a widow and is well dressed with good skin and donning a mute make up also. This character will come up with traditions seemingly unknown to everyone else but she will demand them in such a way that everyone will pretend to start working on them in agreement. For example , a certain Surah from Quran to be recited in a particular number, or while standing at a particular place around the dead body, or even be recited by a certain relative. Or not to put flowers on the deceased skin, or not to touch them on face by females, or placing the photocopy of a certain Surah of Quran under the Kafan (the cloak) before taking him/her to be buried, etc. Se can be found reciting Quran louder than the others as well!
      Then there is always someone present at the funeral, who is in a hurry. She keeps looking at the clock, or incessantly shaking her leg, or quickly finishing her recitations, Sipara or the Date Seeds whatever. She is completely oblivious to the sad people around and can't even have the courtesy to look sad. This person is mostly over dressed, with painted nails and a designer bag.
       You will also for find mourners. As a distant cousin's daughter (7 years old) once asked me at a funeral "Why is my Mama acting so much today? " and i was like "What do you mean sweetheart?" and her reply amazed me and i found it hard to put my smile away. She said "you know whenever someone new walks in, Mama starts crying, and then she is fine and talking, till some new guest arrives!" And that is how the moaners play their part.
      But i guess all these people have just found their place in the society by where and how the society and circumstances have placed them. Of course there are genuinely hurt people, who wish the best for the deceased's family and help out with chores honestly. But sadly these are the people that go unnoticed, and only the other truly caring ones notice them being busy with the needful tasks and the true traditions.
      And how can we forget the actual sad ones, who have lost their loved one! They are completely oblivious to these characters surrounding them and living on. Orhan Pamuk has written something beautiful on the first page of his superb book, "My Name is Red". It is the corpse addressing the reader: "...  Before my birth there was infinite time, and after my death, inexhaustible time.  I never thought of it before: I'd been living luminously between two eternities of darkness."

( P.S: it is so typical and cliched of us south east Asians to begin or end a speech/ piece of writing with a famous person's quote etc :P )

No comments:

Post a Comment