The Modern Final Journey!

We stick to old ways in Modern Times under the garb of tradition!

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Vaikunth-min

I was required to go to Vaikunth, a crematorium in Pune, for the final rites of a family member. He was 91 years old but was always positive and smiling. All were in somber mood for obvious reasons but also had a comfortable feeling that he had led a reasonably satisfactory life and had seen all good things that can happen in our lives. We were waiting for our turn to start the process, we were third in the queue! Then I saw the board displayed above.

The board indicated how the final rites of your loved and dear ones can be seen by live streaming where ever you are in the world. Wow! Hinduism is modernizing or is India modernizing? Want to see a movie, go to Netflix, want to order pizza go to a site, order it! Want to see the final rites, get them by live streaming. What is happening? Is this good for the human race? You are too busy to travel for last rites? Or you want to brag, “I have seen so and so persons last rites on live streaming”. Emotions? Heard this word before but I am not sure what it means. When a person dies, two things are important, how close you are to that person or how you are related to that person. If you are out of these circles, on both the counts, then your presence during final rites does not become important.

What is the purpose of the seeing the last rites on live streaming? What do we achieve by doing this? The hospitals now provide facility for keeping the dead body in mortuary. This allows dear ones to travel from around the world for the final rites, within reasonable time. What is so important in one’s life more than attending the final rites of your near and dear one? After this you never see the body again; but if you are comfortable with that then probably next best thing is live streaming. Or is it? Maybe you will say, “Hey bro or sis! Could you adjust angle slightly? I can’t see the face! Ya, that’s better, now!”

In Hindu culture and for that matter in most cultures, taking photos or videos of the departed ones is not the norm! This generally happens only in case of very well-known public figures. Their lives as well as deaths are public! What could be the reason for this? First and foremost is that in olden days there were not many cameras; it is a tradition that is continued, though now cameras are everywhere. Personally, I prefer this tradition of not photo graphing the dead person. I remember at a funeral, years back. In the funeral place, somebody was taking photographs. Those were for that person’s son in law (grandson of the lady who died) and his family who could not travel, taking an eight-hour flight! I stopped him from taking the photos as others in the group did not want confrontation!

Though I am not an atheist, I have reservations about chanting of mantras, following of rituals at funerals. The more I see them, the more I am convinced about the futility of these things. These rituals are supposed to be saviors in the life after death. Is there life after death? My understanding is that when the human race did not know anything about nature and science, the knowledgeable people of those times, came out with rituals by creating fear in the minds of the people. This turned out to be a good business and it made sense to continue with the same. I keep on talking to various experts about this, but nobody has been able to convince me the utility of the rituals and mantras, except probably mental peace. Do I follow what I think (preach will not be the right word)? Yes, when my mother died, we went to the crematorium and without any ritual we took her to the furnace! I have attended many funerals, body is pushed inside, door shut and the furnace blower starts. That sound of the furnace blower motor, makes my heart heavy and moistens my eyes. To me the real final journey just starts, to merge the body with the nature. I have always thought, that when we are born, there is no chanting of mantras, there are no rituals. Then why should we have them at death? Birth and death are only two absolute truths in the world. Someone is either born or has died, there are no two thoughts about it. All other issues have more than one side to them. We should accept the death as we accept birth; of course, our emotions are bound to be different when someone dies.

When we change so much in modern times, why do we not change in our way of thinking about death? Another thing is that the modern world has created physical distances, though you may be close electronically. Or it creates mental distance too? It has also created a busy culture, fast paced life. But is it really so busy that we cannot attend funerals of near and dear ones? I will share a story with you. Someone had an accident, died after about ten days of treatment. So, it was not a sudden death in that sense! His both children were in the US. His daughter flew out.  But the son had some issue regarding Visa status. End result, the son did not come home for the final rites, in fact he never came at all during that year ! Of course, Visa status is more important! Friends, to me this is just not on! Modern life? Do you need a tradition to attend your father’s funeral? Is this a conflict of modernity and tradition? No way. But why such decisions are taken only that family can tell. I am sure that the son will keep on having nightmares till end of his life for this decision!

Am I modern? No, I am contemporary, but would I keep the same thoughts in death too? Yes, direct to the furnace, no mantras and rituals! That’s my take! A Living Will?

Globalization effect on human thought process!

What is the effect of globalization on human thought process? We always read effects of globalization on economy, migration, wealth creation and so on. These are of course plus points for those who migrate from lesser economies to matured economies. Life style of people generally improves when people migrate to richer countries. How we define improvement? Material wise there is definite improvement, work satisfaction wise also there is definite improvement in some cases.

How does this process affect human mind or thought process? Since I have lived in India and that too mostly in Pune Mumbai area, I may not be the right person to comment, based on personal experience. I am attempting to analyze this phenomena from what I read, what I hear and sometimes what I experience. Attempt is definitely not to pass judgement but to try and understand the situation.

Migration to other countries from India started in 60’s; but in last 15/20 years this process is on overdrive. Number of people migrating permanently or for long duration has increased. With second generation and sometimes third generation of kids born outside India, picture becomes even more complex. In 60’s and 70’s, communication was not good; main mode of communication used to be snail mail. Proliferation of telephone systems in India was poor. So contact with people back home was pretty difficult and frequency also used to be low, in many cases once a year! Visits used to be once in 4/5 years. With this scenario, relationship with close ones including parents, would become fragmented. Ultimately, human beings who are in touch with each other regularly become close to each other. The distance and time can create a crevice in any relationship. If this situation continues crevice can become a valley!

The migratory birds do visit the nest, in some cases frequently but in many cases these visits are infrequent. A classmate of mine has touched the home base only once in 45 years. I asked him if he were so busy! He only gave me vague replies. On checking further I found that his one or two siblings are still around in Pune! What could be the reason for this? Honestly I do not know. What changes could have happened in his mind that did not prompt him not to come “home” oftener! Oh again definition of home is being challenged here. What is home? Where is home? I feel that many changes happen because definitions change. Definition of relationship itself changes. Parents are those who have given birth to you is probably the most appropriate definition in todays’ globalized world. Beyond that even this closest possible relation does not carry much meaning. The meaning of parent child relationship has evolved to suit the globalization.

 Why? What could be the reasons for these changes? Globalization has made everything very competitive. So everybody is left with very small amount of free time. Though communication has improved beyond imagination but other aspects are negating this improvement. If you take leave and your absence is not much felt by your organization work wise, then you can become redundant. Then there is additional important aspect. Out of the small free time available with you, you have to support your children’s activities, you have to take your yearly vacation with spouse and children. So you don’t travel “home” in one year, then maybe next year. With this your mind’s requirement to go “home” also reduces. Two years’ gap can become three/four years! Increase in this gap can further diminish the need to travel “home”! It’s tricky but justified from the point of view of migratory birds.

In some cases relationships don’t change in the initial phase. This is probably need based status quo. When children are growing you need back up system; that is where the parents can come into picture. But what happens when children grow and this need is not there? What happens when parents become older, have health and maybe sometimes have visa issue? It is not practical & pragmatic to handle medical expenses in foreign countries.  Then the definition of relationship changes to suit the practicalities of life. It may take any form and can be as unpredictable as our life. 

Years back Jaya and I were travelling with a Canadian friend of ours. We were on our way back to place where we were staying. Our friend said, “Pramod, is it ok if I take a detour?” I said “ok”! Then we reached a hospice where his mother lived. He parked the car. His wife then told him “You go and see YOUR mother”, we will wait in the car. That time we were shocked to hear this statement. Now I understand the meaning. His mother was not her mother so it was ok to wait in the hospital parking lot! Globalization and technology are putting a lot pressure on people and it looks like people are forced to retrain themselves just to keep their job. Similarly human beings also need to retrain themselves to keep their “job” of beings human beings. If they don’t do it they will be “jobless”. I recently heard a very appropriate story which opens a new avenue in human thought process. A gentleman expired and both his children, a son and a daughter, were in the USA. It was a sudden death and children were informed. The son had some Visa related issue. Family took a decision that the son need not come back “home”. His visa and future was more important as the father was already dead. His father would in any case not know that the son did not attend the funeral! Folks retrain yourselves to keep your “job” of being a human. Retrain yourself to become practical and pragmatic. Globalization has made family a corporate entity, emotions have no place in them!