Friday, November 07, 2014

Death, Formalities, and Society.

Death Rites get The Professional Touch

This appeared in the Times of India today.

Those of us who grew up before outsourcing became a word, will understand. 

I just read the article above that appeared in the paper today. I now understand why death services need to be outsourced. 

I have lived in a Institutional Campus  all my  adult life. I have had the honor of being the caretaker, and looking after the elders in the family , who lived with me, in their last days.  Twenty , thirty years ago,  one discovered , that there were some dedicated folks in the community , who made it their duty, to assist families, who had just lost a dear family member.   Word would get around, and these folks, who were actually proper employees of the place where one worked,  would appear silently,  offer condolences, and then quietly talk to responsible family members about anything they could help with.  It could be about acquiring the necessary paperwork, organizing the infrastructure for carrying the body,  requesting for hearse services,  contacting those who conduct religious services. This was all done quietly, as the family came to terms with the sudden loss,  the visitors ,  the folks from outstation who struggled to reach, and the enquiries about last rites.  I remember , a bus being quietly organized and appearing at our doorstep, when it looked like several folks wished to be present for the last rites at the crematorium.

A quiet chat with the concerned gentleman later revealed that he did this as social work. His way of helping .  Quietly.  He had a team who worked with him. Quietly.  In the days before cell phones, and  loss of MTNL supremacy, he magically was able to contact the necessary folks .

A few years later, we heard that he had passed away.   

My mother passed away rather suddenly, 14 years ago, in one of Mumbai's leading Municipal Hospitals, where she received outstanding emergency treatment and care  in the ICCU. She always believed, that people created excellence, and not just technology or machines. Always someone who applauded honest work, and integrity in the face of spurious commercial and human solutions, and didn't hesitate  to say so up front, she abhorred the corrupt practices that were creeping into day to day living, and had a running fight with such folks.     

Numerous folks from outstation and the city,  gathered at the crematorium to pay their respects, and were a great source of support in a situation, where there were just 3 members of the immediate family.   There was all kinds of paperwork , and we were required to present a cremation certificate at the gate, along with a fee , which would then be forwarded  to the concerned ward office for generating the required Death Certificate ,  within a week or so.

Just when I was about to submit the required cremation certificate at the exit booth, , someone suggested paying something substantially more than the published fee. To expedite things, it seems.

I pretended not to hear that. I was livid.   My Mom would have been greatly upset, it would be insulting to her memory and everything she stood for.  I paid the fee prescribed in big letters on the notice on the wall. As per rules.

To cut a long story short, the crematorium folks did not forward the certificate to the ward office, even a month after the cremation. There are so many situations where one needs to show this certificate , but  I patiently waited.   Repeated trips to the ward office every week, elicited the same response. They had not received the crematorium report.

 I decided to take matters into my own hands and go visit the crematorium , and question them and demand answers and action.  Maybe other folks would learn what was going on.

 That's when some colleagues got alarmed at the possible scenario that could develop, and decided to help, and  explained the situation to a gentleman in the community where we lived, who frequented the ward and other offices, to help folks.  

He was aghast and asked for a week. Made some visits and calls. And the required paperwork  was delivered to me in a week.

It is like a slap on the face to learn that we must now pay a bribe to be declared dead. 

While the noble individuals who made it their vocation to help are no more, It is reassuring to know that there  are social organizations  now, who will "manage" everything for a fee.  Probably a sign of the times, and possibly a need of the times we live in. With a constantly changing society profile , thanks to nuclear families, immigration, inflationary living, and  other so called signs of having come up in the world.

Like everything else,  dying costs.  

There are now standards to be followed in holding memorial meetings, religious observances by those who insist on them, and so on.   Strangely,  one often finds that there is a lack of standards of respectful behaviour  for the departed, amongst those whose   official job is to help with their last voyage. Yes, there are exceptions. But few.

I read through the entire well written, very informative  article in the Times of India. 

Somewhere, there was a quiet sigh,  when it said, they also take care of getting the certificate for you.

And a fervent hope, that at some point, outsourcing of things should never ever have to include mourning and respect....


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this link. I had no idea such an org existed, and just last week, my sis who lives in Mumbai and I were talking about if and when such a transistion happens in my family, I would know so little about the process (because I don't live in India). Now I know. It is very difficult to think about such times, but never hurts to be prepared, cause we will all cross that path one day.
    Thanks again!