'Desi' mourning

“Is it a holiday tomorrow? TV channels are full of obituaries and talk of a holiday...” - the calls start late evening and continue till the newspapers arrive the next morning.

A holiday declared by the government is confirmed only after the arrival of the newspaper, as it is then “official”. Inadvertently, the first reaction to the sad news is of relief and happiness at the unexpected and very often, a badly needed break, to be followed by sadness on the departure of a person, and a huge guilt of feeling happy on getting a holiday.

Why is a holiday declared when someone passes away? Yes, it surely is a great way to pay respect to the deceased and acknowledge that he/she was important enough to cause a gap in the day to day functioning of a state/country. It’s a time to remember their contributions to their field of work and to spread their name to the youngsters. When work stops on account of such a holiday, people pause to think and reflect up on the person which may not happen on a normal day. It also gives an opportunity for people to pay their last respects to the departed soul. 

It could even be to pre-empt any untoward incidents which might happen when people gather in large numbers to pay their last respects and to control the law and order situation. What should definitely be done is to close down theatres and entertainment centres so that the off-day is not turned into a day of enjoyment. However, a few minutes of silence followed by a talk on the departed soul and his/her work would be a more preferable way to honour their memory than giving the whole day off. 

In the days when there was only Doordarshan, a period of mourning would invariably be accompanied by a doleful shahanai and the entire atmosphere would be seeped in gloom and sadness. One could practically be reduced to tears by the sad strains and most people would feel it was wrong to even smile or carry on normal conversations. Then came the age of private channels which would continue to air song and dance routines and the limited number of soaps. This would take away the sting of death and restore near normalcy. Gradually, more and more channels began airing their regular programs and some restricted their grief to showing snippets of death, cremation and other related issues on their news hour.

Today, this attitude of the powerful visual medium has desensitised the nature of death and visuals of funeral ceremonies have become commonplace. Earlier, women and children were forbidden to enter cremation grounds and to participate in rituals related to death. But the beaming of these images right into our drawing rooms have done away with such considerations and in a way, made it an acceptable way of life. Not to forget, posts on social media have added to the spread of the news and mourning. The onus, however, is still on individuals to mourn in a proper way.

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