In his autobiography, Khushwant Singh talks about an incidence, when he met a 90 year old man in Kolkata railway station who asked him “where are you going”.
“On a short trip”, replied Singh.
“I will soon be going on a long trip”, said the old man, with a smile.
Thinking that he was referring to going for his heavenly abode, Khushwant Singh was touched and said comfortingly that we all have to go for a long trip someday….and that you should be happy that you’ve lived your life happily and so on.
“What are you talking about, I am going to my son in London for few months”, the old man retorted.
It’s funny that most of us don’t think about death. We think it’s something which happens to others!! We just take ourselves too seriously. There are some exceptions, however.
On his 75th birthday, when asked about death, Winston Churchill said “I am prepared to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for this ordeal of meeting me is another matter”.
Things are changing now – people not only think and talk about their death, they have started planning for it.
Few days back, I read in TOI that now in India also one can plan his funeral in advance. There are many old couples, typically living alone with children settled abroad, are actually registering to plan their funeral.
This does not surprise me, after all death is the last thing you’d do and it should be treated as a gala event, just that you’re not part of the audience…. And who knows if Hindu mythology is to be believed you may be somewhere close by…remember aatma amar hai (soul does not die!!).
The problem is that we can’t control most aspects of our death…there are hardly any filmy death these days, where a family is gathered round the bed of a dying patriarch, holding hands and chanting sermons. People are finding innovative ways of dying, while working, while working out, while holidaying, while driving… etc.
So where and when are usually not possible to control, unless you commit a suicide, which I find is like leaving the cinema hall in between just because there are some boring or sad scene is being played. You’ve paid the full ticket price, might as well see the climax!!
Given a choice, dying (assuming in NCR) between November and February would be good, except between December 25th to January 10th, when its usually very cold and festive season is on. Dying in peak summer here can be a pain for people around you and you don’t want them to silently curse you the last time around. Also, dying on weekend would be better….though few kids won’t like it as they don’t have a chance to skip the school…remember as kids how we used to look forward for a holiday on demise of some ex-prime minister or such other noble soul. Death of these important dignitaries on weekend was like……August 15th falling on a Sunday…you get that sinking feeling.
But otherwise weekend would be convenient for people to make it for your funeral, particularly if it’s during afternoon (it’s easy if death takes place between November and February here, you see) and people can spend their evenings with family and friends, who are still alive.
It would be good to have a dress code for the funeral…at least the colour. I like white but it’s too outdated for funerals. I think orange would be good….but you don’t want people to spend money buying it just for one funeral…. It might be a good idea to have orange dress of a standard size kept at the entrance, just like you have to change in a hospital when you go for annual checkup. This can also be used as a ‘return gift’. I have other ideas for return gifts as well, like having a coffee/ beer mug with a smiling photograph of deceased along with people attending the funeral… I was thinking about a pillow as well but it might look ghostly when you sleep on that…
No loud music…bhajans, light instrumental, semi classical, Jagjit Singh Gazals or even old romantic songs would be fine….but no Bhangra beats please, people in nearby cremation may not like it. Also no senti songs like..chitthi na koi sandesh…I can barely tolerate it when I am alive, I doubt if I can withstand it when dead. A good DJ, specializing in death related events, might be in order.
Food should be light and multiple cuisine available but no non Veg in my funeral….not for any other reason but I don’t like the smell…just in case my soul is around and has a sense of smell…no prior experience of death you know!!
Most importantly, good alcohol should be served to guests. In my case…quality single malts…people will be encouraged to have it on the rocks, anyone having it with soda, cola or juice will have to pay ‘entertainment tax’. Off course, there would be other lesser liquors like rum, vodka and beer as well…tequila shots would be avoided though, some sanity should remain. There would be arrangement for a drop home, only if people are willing to drop their cars there and take it back next day…
It would be nice for people to play a small video or run few photographs on a projector as well…a well made PPT would also not be bad…no harsh words or abuses for the deceased…even if you’ve a strong urge…it might be difficult for few…particularly after couple of drinks…but then life is all about compromises. No vulgar dance as well as this is a family event and there might be women and kids around you. The photograph at the center with garland should be the current or past profile picture on Facebook, that the one where you look younger and slimmer.
Bottom line is that the funeral should be a like a good movie… fun to watch… people coming out should be happy and wish I could die once more…
What should be the size of the gathering, may be 500 or so. If there are more than that then two sessions can be planned. Will it require an event manager then?
Hold on… this is getting more complicated than I thought….so much planning to do…so many things to think about…and so much money to be spent…. sadly banks won’t give you a loan for this.
Need to work hard to earn this kind of money then….need to live a bit more….lets get back…