Friday, October 3, 2014

On the other end of life's journey

Photo of Thimphu crematorium. Image source: BBS.

Three days back, on 30th September 2014, I had gone to Thimphu cremation ground with my colleagues to attend the funeral rites of one of our senior colleague’s mother-in-law. As I entered the ground, I could sense the weight of gloom and sadness hanging in the atmosphere with families, relatives and friends mourning the departure of their loved ones. There were four bodies lined up to be cremated on that particular day. I offered prayers for all four departed souls. Among the four bodies, the 4th one in the row touched me the most. We were told that she was a 9-year-old girl who was sick only for three days. What a tragic moment for her family! I wondered how such a cheerful soul could vanish at such a tender age. I am sure she must have had a lot of beautiful dreams and aspirations before her. It was a huge loss for her family, community and the nation as a whole.

For me, the day made me reflect on the sad realities of life. A cremation ground is where our journey should ultimately end. Every single second, we move towards our grave, yet we live as though we are never going to die. I was once listening to a religious discourse by an Indian Guru and he was saying that everything has its manufacturing and expiry dates including our lives. That particular sentence truly touched me. As he said, all of us look for manufacturing and expiry dates whenever we pick up an item from a grocery shop or medical shop, or for that matter, any shopping complex, but we hardly think of our own expiry dates. Our birthdays are our manufacturing dates, but we don’t have our expiry dates labeled on us. Yet, it does not mean that we don’t expire. That makes me feel we are only guests here on Earth on a short visit. Sooner or later, we must leave for the unknown.

Nothing is permanent. The flowers that bloom during one season must wither in another season, the rivers that flow downhill with full of life and music must dry up someday, the trees dancing to the rhythm of gentle breeze must get old and fall, and all living creatures including human beings must leave this beautiful world one day. Whatever we do, there isn’t anything we can do to stop time. The only thing we can do to ease our souls when we die is to be a good human being. It seriously calls for the need to be good to others, love everybody and never harm anybody else. Nobody knows whether such good deeds will really help us get better rebirths, but at least we can have a sense of satisfaction when we lay on our death-bed waiting for the last breath to escape our body.

I had been to this cremation ground a couple of times before and every time I am here, it reminds me of the darker side of human life. It makes me reflect on my own journey and leaves me wondering when my time will come and how. After offering prayers to the dead bodies, we were summoned for lunch arranged by our colleague in honour of his late mother-in-law whose poor body was soon to be cremated. We believe that the merits of serving food to people during funerals will help the dead soul get a better rebirth. Although I didn’t have the appetite, I forced myself to have a bit in the name of the departed soul. This time I was glad that no meat was served because to be honest, serving non-vegetarian food during religious ceremonies and funeral rites is against my conscience. I don’t know why, but I feel it’s not morally right to take meat during such sacred occasions. It could be, perhaps, because I am a vegetarian now. We left the place just after the bodies began to burn. I was sad that just in a while, those bodies that had once been among us in this world with full of life and energy would be only a heap of ashes. That’s the ultimate destination we are heading to. May God bless all those souls and us!


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