Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Death in Bombay

A crowd of men with handkerchiefs wrapped on their heads carried a large coffin through a drizzly sticky muddy busy inner Bombay street.

The coffin was covered with bright green fabric that had Arabic calligraphy on it and strings and strings of red roses and white jasmines.

People stopped to watch as the men quickly moved the coffin into the back of a waiting ambulance.

Some of the bystanders touched their hearts with their fingers and then kissed them.

A small crowd of the nearest passerbys - Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi - started to gather because Death will someday touch everyone.

It is the great equaliser, the unifier.

And I remembered a dream I had in high school half a lifetime ago where I was wandering in some dirty Indian city, and I saw both Hindu and Muslim funeral processions passing by in front of me.

In my dream, I had heard a disembodied voice telling me not to stare because that's how riots get started.

Today I saw my first Muslim funeral procession, and I chose not to stare because I didn't want to make a circus out of it.

As I quickly averted my eyes and started to move on, I passed an Indian man who could've been any Indian man mumbling to himself, to no one, to everyone.

The only words that made it to my ears as I passed him by were, "it's not polite to stare at these things..."

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