It was anticipated. I mean for a person who was a virtual vegetable for the past one year or so it was quite expected that the curtains will be drawn anytime now. And as a mark of respect or the pressure to act as per societal norms ensured that a trip was taken to meet him for the last time before the moment overtook us. As expected and dare I say the much awaited moment arrived and the Father-in-law took his leave from the world of the mortals. Surprisingly despite the advance notice of the inevitable, tears were shed by the progenies of the man.
The basic formalities post his demise went with clockwork precision. The death certificates, the ambulance, the electric crematorium were a breeze except for the arrangement of the man who stood between us and the departed soul in search of moksham! The Shastrigal of course! With the ‘family’ Panditji being away from town, a mini hunt was launched to find a substitute who would fill in and one was duly identified. However there was so much ground to be covered before the stand-in-Pundit would take up the responsibility. Firstly came out his ‘menu’. Basic Package @ Rs.X, Special Package @ Rs.X+ and finally the Premium Package @ Rs X++! The various packages were presented with such skills that the salesman in me was impressed. The sales pitch further had punch dialogues (“One must not be miserly when it comes to the last rites of one’s father. Don’t you want him to attain Vaikuntham?” Welcome!) No prizes for guessing that the suckers fell for the sales pitch. It was then left to a senior citizen in the family to negotiate the special ‘End of Season’ discount. Post a back and forth which made sabziwala/behenji scene seem like a child’s play the deal was struck and the swarga yatra began in right earnest post the exchange of crisp currency!
|Basic or Premium?|
If we thought with that we had reserved a berth for the old man in heaven, we were wrong. As in a discount sale so in life, never ignore the *Conditions Apply written deliberately in so small a font that you need a magnifying glass to comprehend. To cut the story short, the Package amount was only the fees while all the samagri needed to perform the rites were not part of the standard product. They needed to be paid for separately. The Shastrigal gallantly offering to procure them from his ‘regular’ store at an attractive discount! The proceedings moved ahead post the exchange of currency yet again.
Over the next 13 days, the rites were performed as per the direction of this expert. On the last day of the event, the Shastriji proceeded to give us a sermon. The ‘meaning’ of the rites indulged in were explained. Most of us weary folks by then were ready to get on with life. The Shastriji however was in no mood to let go. “What we have just completed are the initial rites which will ensure swargam for the departed soul. However there remains a ‘monthly’ karyam for the first year and then an ‘annual’ do which will ensure a happy stay for the departed soul in heaven!” Thus spake the sagely Panditji. And post this monologue we awaited the inevitable. The Pandit didn’t disappoint us. “Basic Package @ Rs.X, Special Package @ Rs.X+ and finally the Premium Package @ Rs X++!” He said!
PS: To satisfy your curiosity, the family decided to part with more crisp currency!
Moksham/Vaikuntham/Swargam : Heaven
Sabziwala/Behenji : Vegetable vendor and a homemaker
Yatra : Journey
Karyam : Vedic rites
Samagri : Articles for conducting the rites
Panditji/Shastrigal : The Hindu Priest