By- Ritutapan Borah
I recall seeing the random small concrete structures written off as ‘tombs’, through the bus windows, during my childhood family trips. I also recall the goose-pimples and the chill through my spine, imagining that once there was a funeral right there!
To stay in others’ minds and thoughts might be one of the most common human aspirations. Starting from a friend’s simple message saying “Miss me” or “Remember me” to the religious beliefs around “Afterlife”; all seem to be founded on this single aspiration. ‘To be immortal’ and ‘to make someone special immortal’ have been driving a good share of our social lives across civilizations. And same thought process is prevalent across historic and pre-historic ages, and also in modern times.
The peak of this particular human aspiration is the great Pyramids of Egypt; evidence of the Egyptians’ great efforts to survive souls after death. From just mummification to preserve the dead body, which was considered necessary for the survival of the soul; they began using tombs for greater protection. By providing tombs, grave goods and offerings they intended to preserve the bodies and spirits of the deceased.
Not to mention about the exclusive importance of the cycle of re-births to the Indian religious customs. With our traditional close familial ties and culture where we worship our parents; it is very obvious that we try to immortalize our parents’ and ancestors’ memories forever. Our Assamese social life is full of such rituals like ‘na-purukhor chaawal’ etc. It is of no surprise the never-ending quest of doing our best to ensure best for our ancestors even after their death, if our personal beliefs also are aligned.
And that’s the exact reason what made me recall this topic, go deeper into the context and my childhood memories related to tombs. Whenever I go home once or twice in a year, even the small changes in my birthplace Ghilamara become too loud and clear to my eyes. Some of these changes give pride and happiness, while some others gives pain. During my recent home visit, I was caught by surprise to see the growing number of such tombs. And this time it is all around, near the gates to good number of homes! I was not sure, if it exactly gave me happiness or pain; may be a mixed feeling. On one side tombs are symbol of sweet memories of our loved ones; while on the other side these are symbols of pain of losing the loved ones.
It made me dive deeper into this topic. In our society traditionally the tombs or cemeteries stay far away from our homes. But lack of designated cemeteries in small localities, and the strong desire to immortalize the memories of our ancestors are the key reasons for creating such unaesthetic ‘nuisance’. Anybody can imagine how much un-aesthetic look will be there after a few decades in most of the households of the neighborhoods. Instead of a nice warm-welcoming gate or a small “naam-ghar” or a small ‘baat-chora’; guests will be welcomed with a ‘cold’ tomb!
So we need a designated cemetery. To stop making whole place and households look like part of a big cemetery!