Life and Death

She was dark, unwashed, uncombed, and Christian or Hindu—her family could be serving the Hindu dead in front and Christians behind.

My driver Somaiah has found a short-cut lane to avoid the perennial jam at the Askari Masjid before Johnson Market. All along this quiet bumpy lane lies a Hindu graveyard on the right and, on the left, a Christian cemetery with an old tall collonaded portal, followed by a modest entrance to a second Christian cemetery. A couple of slum-type houses in pastels appear some distance after the gates, their doors giving on the street. A sign in stone says they’re in the granite business—tombstones and burial services. The lane runs on, with graveyards left and right, hits a wall and turns right. At the turn, the granite walls are painted over with super-size communist motifs.

When I passed the houses today, a pudgy lady had the door partly open and filled with her bulk. A curtain set flush with the door was drawn awkwardly by the top of the door into a hood over her head, and it concealed the sight of the interior above her. She was dark, unwashed, uncombed, and by appearance, neither Christian nor Hindu—her family could be offering services to the Hindu dead in front and Christians behind.

Daily, when I pass the portal of the Christian cemetery, I look in and see a deep crowd of tombstones. I have a brief anxious thought that they’ll come in my dreams. They haven’t. Today I wondered if that woman at her door has a son and from where she’ll bring him a wife.