The lady who died next door was not even forty. Her kin could bring her body home from the hospital as she died of a heart attack and not Covid-19. When our housemaid broke this news we saw through the window that the body had been just then placed on a steel cot— no flowers and garlands on it yet. Slowly people trickled in. After an hour or so, their number grew to be around 20. The hearse arrived. The women in the group managed to give the last ritual bath to the body and placed it on the chair after draping it with a new sari. Flowers arrived by then. The chair as well as the hearse were decorated with garlands of marigold and chrysanthemum. At the end, they lit the incense sticks and broke a coconut on the ground.
In another house, to my right, the wedding pandal was being erected. The workers were lavish in winding the pandal pillars with garlands of marigold and chrysanthemum. The flower festoons ran along the border of the canopy created by the green palm branches. I watched both the activities like viewing two pictures on a split screen or a go. The small crowd of mourners worked silently, observing the solemnity demanded by the occasion, while the workers at the wedding pandal finished their task with joyous anticipation of their remuneration.
Both the operations were over by 5 in the evening. The hearse left carrying it’s human burden to its final destination, while the wedding pandal stood bedecked beckoning the guests. As dusk descended, a small lamp came to life on the left handside, while, to my right, the wedding house was illuminated with serial lights. The humble lamp was a symbol of vigil to the departed soul, while the serial lights glowed dispelling the gloom for the bride and the groom.
I found the husband of the departed lady sitting on the culvert wall all alone after the relatives had left seeing the reflection of the lamp in the mirror. I stood by him for a while. He mumbled a few words as if to himself: “She lost courage at the sight of so many patients gasping for breath in the hospital; she gave up the fight”. The loss of giants may be unbearable but the death of the commoners also counts. Didn’t a poet say with unrivalled wisdom: “Every death diminishes.”