(Round Table India commiserates with the family that lost father and son to coronavirus within a span of fifteen days. We wish other members of the family who are affected a speedy recovery.)
As we stepped inside, the first thing we heard was a sound of something bursting like a firecracker, but there were several other things to notice within the next few moments and we forgot to search for what sound it was. We got busy seeing the inside of the premise.
Our curiosity to know about the sound’s origin was because of the many thoughts about that place.
So neat and clean, trees standing tall, flowers and benches making you feel calm; it was not less than a park-like site. An arrangement of that kind in such places is feasible only when the local municipal ward member has the will to do it and donors share their contributions. But, someone has to take the responsibility to maintain it upto such standards, and is that possible without putting in constant labour?
(During happier times with Rama Kaka’s daughters and grandson)
It’s not just one person but a whole family had to take care of that huge space. The eldest of the family said, initially she was too afraid when her marriage was fixed. She never wanted to stay in that place, all her relatives were government employees and she herself never stayed at a place so horrifying. She was happy with her parents and loved doing agriculture. Arguments erupted as she never wanted to come to the town and wanted to stay back in the village. But getting a government servant groom wasn’t easy so the marriage finally happened. The initial few years were very difficult as sometimes her husband would work round the clock. There was no escape, no neighbours and no social life. She was Rama kaka’s wife who said- years later the family grew up and things were sorted.
Followed by our first visit we had to frequently go there; how can you not become friends?
As we used to meet regularly alongside the burning pyres it also killed the long-held perceptions of life and death. We would see Rama kaka stand there until the fire went off and after that, he would clean up the surroundings, collect ashes, flowers, etc. I don’t remember a single time when he was not around. He was always there fully engrossed in his work without worrying much about his wife’s complaints that he never sits still. Be it gardening or his regular work, he was determined.
He once laughed at our poor questioning about his social life and said, ‘everybody who gets on the journey to attain peace is my society, I’m not living where you live, see, even when their own relatives are gone after performing the last rites, I am there as a caretaker. Isn’t that about being social?’
I want to believe he was speaking the truth; he revealed what sound it was—told us, if the wood is moist, sometimes it’s the small bones which make the sound upon burning. There is nothing to be afraid of, imagine if the person put in the firewood was so strong would he be lying so motionless? He explained it in a way as if we were small children; we were in fact like kids in front of him, we knew nothing.
Ramakaka lived in one of the most equipped graveyards in Aurangabad, at Kailasnagar which is one of the other 107 graveyards. Having the facilities of lockers for keeping the ashes, electrical crematorium which is most of the time is found defunct. Ramakaka dedicatedly conserved that space.
A week ago, Rama kaka went on his own journey for peace, marking it to be the hundredth casualty of the coronavirus so far in our region they say and within a week’s time after his passing away even his younger Son too attained peace. Their family never got to see them even for last.
Rama The lone caretaker of the society he called his own is gone. Rama kaka earned so much goodwill and he will attain the peace he needs.
I never got to visit them again. Why would you visit the graveyard if not for work? My work was over.
Pradnya Jadhav is a Doctoral student at JNU. She is the editor of Lekhani.