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Funeral Procession (standard:non fiction, 1487 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: Nov 20 2010Views/Reads: 1654/833Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A short story on funerals
 



Funeral Procession 

By 

Subba Rao 

Jogi made a living by singing bajans (religious songs) at funeral
processions. He was sought after for his emotional and loud voice 
particularly when intoxicated after a few alcoholic drinks before the 
start of the procession. 

Every time I heard Jogi's  loud voice singing the bajans, I would run
outside our house to watch funeral processions. Jogi was dark skinned 
and lean with a long beard, always wore shades of orange-yellow loose 
clothes even when he was not singing bajans at funerals.  His voice was 
unique with high pitch notes that that make him recognizable from a 
distance. Jogi became a habitual drinker of aruk; an alcoholic drink 
brewed from toddy tree sap. At the beginning of the funeral procession, 
relatives of the deceased would offer a few drinks of aruk to Jogi to 
evoke emotions in him. When he was not signing bajans at the funerals, 
he would stay home fully drunk with arak and practice signing new 
bajans.  On occasions, tears would roll from his eyes while singing 
funeral bajans, not from the sadness of the event but from his heavy 
drinking.  Bare footed and walking slowly in front of the procession, 
Jogi,  the one-man band,  played dolak (a small Indian drum) to 
synchronize his singing.  Funeral processions at times would come to a 
halt for a few minutes at major street crossings to allow Jogi to sing 
a bajan to its completion or a band to play a tune to the end. People 
tired of walking in the procession would drink a cold soda at a 
roadside kiosk and rejoin the funeral procession. On occasion, soda 
wallahs (people that carry sodas in a hand held wooden crates) make 
brisk business by following the procession all the way to cremation 
grounds to sell sodas to the mourners. 

The Hindu cremation site in our town is located between a Christian
cemetery and Muslin burial ground.  Behind the Hindu cremation grounds 
was a Catholic school known for its academic excellence. Only Hindus 
are allowed to cremate their deceased at the cremation grounds. 

Ultimately, all Hindus irrespective of castes, whether rich or poor
would receive equal treatment on the funeral pyre.  During monsoon 
season, rains could interrupt the cremation process leaving the bodies 
too wet to burn briskly, and the smoke from the intermittent pyre with 
odors of roasting human flesh would engulf the surrounding area 
including the classrooms at the neighboring catholic school. The people 
around the cremation grounds were accustomed to the odors emanating 
from the funeral pyres. 

Most funeral processions in our town would pass by our house located at
a corner of a four-road junction and one of the roads directly leads to 
the cremation grounds, within a short distance. The location of our 
house facilitated me to watch scores of funeral procession while 
growing up though my mother always discouraged me from it. 

The merchant caste among Hindus carry their dead in a decorated casket
on wheels to the cremation grounds, whereas other Hindus carry their 
dead on a bamboo frame. The entire body of the deceased except the face 
and feet is covered with a white cloth and garlands of flowers over it. 
If the deceased were a woman, the face is decorated with yellow 
turmeric paste and red powder on the forehead. 

Deceased widows do not receive this treatment. The children or the close
relatives would carry the body tied to a bamboo frame to the cremation 
grounds followed by a procession of people, near and dear to the 
deceased. The length of a funeral procession is an indicator of the 
popularity and social standing of the deceased. If the deceased were 
well known in the society, a large procession of people from all walks 
of life would follow all the way to funeral grounds.  Either a funeral 
band, Jogi or a group of singers would lead the funeral procession, 
followed by the eldest son or a close relative with a brass plate 
filled with flowers and coins to throw a few of these on the body 
several times during the journey to the cremation grounds.  Low life 
beggars would follow the procession to pick up coins that fall on to 
the ground. These beggars generally gather at the house of the deceased 
before the procession starts to get close to the bamboo frame carrying 


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