I recently attended the burial of a friend’s mother. Along
with others, I entered the graveyard feeling sad for him and
his family who had lost their mother, but when stepping out of
the graveyard after the burial formalities were over, I also
had something else to feel sad about.
As the actual burial takes 15-20 minutes, I stood in silence
at a distance from the grave to allow space to the close
family members to participate in the proceedings. With this
time slot at my disposal and with little else to do, I must
confess I began to look around at the gathering of the people
who were also there in attendance. What I observed was
certainly not new for me but somehow it seemed more revolting
than ever before. I saw men scattered in small groups, spread
at a little distance from the burial site and engaged in
heated discussions over national politics, totally oblivious
to the nature of the occasion they had come to participate in.
There were others who were cracking jokes and frequent bouts
of laughter could be heard as if they were sitting in a café.
No less disgusting was the sight of men talking ceaselessly on
their mobile phones right next to the burial site. No, it was
not an emergency: their discussions involved commercial deals.
They surely were great believers in “business as usual” rather
than the fear of the Hereafter. And there were, of course,
those from the distant family who are always there to act as
the self-appointed masters of ceremony. They insist on
pointing out the insignificant lapses of the burial procedure
and ensure that their voice is heard well over the others’.
They will, for example, insist on the precise placement of the
concrete slabs, the density of the sand and cement mixture and
a lot more, yet all of little consequence.
I returned from the graveyard filled with the additional grief
of what I had just witnessed. These were all highly educated
men, belonging to the upper social class of our society. So
one cannot dismiss this atrocious behaviour by the usual
thought - “lack of education.” My mind ached with different
questions. Why are we so poorly evolved morally and socially
that we fail to restrain ourselves to remain silent for as
little as 20 minutes, as a mark of respect for the deceased
and the family? Why can’t we use those 20 minutes to recite
prayers for the departed soul or else why can’t we just stand
in silence and perhaps think of our life in the Hereafter
which all of us are going to face sooner or later?
The endemic disease of hypocrisy in our society has infected
our funeral proceedings as well. Few friends and relatives are
affected with any real grief. Most appear at the funeral to
present themselves before the family of the deceased and have
their attendance registered. Some even use these occasions to
initiate and maintain social connections. After all, funerals
are the only occasion when you can visit any family uninvited.
Perhaps we need to develop better do’s and don’ts for
“graveside” manners with particular emphasis on reminding
people that as a mark of respect for all those who are buried
in the graveyard to please abstain from non essential use of
mobile phones and further, not to mistake the graveyard for a
social café where they can engage in idle talk. And if one is
too enslaved by these addictions, then it may be better to
stay away and not pollute the peaceful surroundings of the
Let the dead rest in peace!