One of the best designed landscapes in our city is the electric crematorium at Thycaud. It is called 'Santhi – kavaadam' or the door to tranquility.
My 6-year old grandnephew gripped my hand. We were standing behind my nephew who was about to start the last rituals. Attired in a wet dhoti with a band of red cloth tied around his waist, my nephew stood still. Then one of the assistants pulled out a thread from his father's dhoti and tied it to his. Behind him, we stood touching the one in front with our hands. And then the assistant broke the thread. The symbolic end to what connected the dead person and the rest of us.
On top of the white shroud that covered my brother-in-law, a handfull Vettiver roots lay. A few pieces of sandalwood were strewn over. A lump of camphor was kept on it and lit by my nephew. As the camphor caught fire, the door of the electric crematorium lifted up with a groan. Though we stood a good 5 mts away, the blast of heat from the furnace reddened our faces. Then the trolly on which the body lay was slowly pushed forward.
How eager were the flames! How quickly it ate up the red pattu, the white shroud that covered my brother-in-law! The door came down and ground to the concrete floor.
Shanku, my little grandnephew I love so much, tugged my arm and asked me – 'Can I ask you a secret question?' Shanku is always sharing secrets with me. 'What happens to Appooppan ( grandpa) now? Will he turn to ashes?'
I stand before many. Parents of my friends, my own mother, relatives, friends, young men – once, even a little 2-year old. In the hollow, worthless knowledge that nothing exists beyond that door, in the barren, arid, comfortless zone where no fake beliefs and holy men and religions dare to step forward to me in pretensions of solace, in that state of limbo, I caress Shanku's head, bend down and kiss him.