Life and Death in Tiru
Yesterday while driving on my errand route I noticed someone lying on the street near one of the open sewage channels they have around the houses here. It was a bit unusual as this was a major little passage way for traffic. I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing so I stopped and yes it was one of the Sadu’s who I’ve seen around for years in. He looked rather thin with his bonny knees sticking up. I went on my way. Later on that night I knew I’d be passing by there again so I brought a water bottle with me to give him a drink figuring he might be thirsty. My drink offering didn’t go quite smoothly, he was pretty out of it, and I left him the bottle hoping he’d somehow manage better by himself.
The next morning I woke up wondering how he’d faired and if I should check on him, bring more water or whatever. It had been the first warm night since my arrival so he might have survived. The cold night, down to 61 once generally 65-67, we’d been having here would have finished him off for sure. Cold nights like this are rough on the Sadu’s as they sleep outside and don’t have anything warm, just shirts and a sheet. My wondering and indecision went on for a good part of the morning. I didn’t want to return and find him there and have to confront my own discomfort and helplessness. Eventually, well into the morning, I found some practical errand justifications for going back there. I filled another water bottle found a cloth to cover his head with to protect him from the sun, and headed back. To my relief he was gone. Probably he’d expired (what a sanitized word we have for died/dead) and was picked up by the dead body collection division of the sanitation department. That must be low caste work for sure.
In India If you or your family has even modest means they’ll do some kind of funeral/wake at the end setting the body up displayed on the back of a Indian style funeral hearse then amble down the main road in a procession with people disassembling flower malas into the road, shooting off fire works, playing a loud Indian style clarinet and drumming music, as they go off to the burial ground for a cremation.
People keep asking me, “If it’s so terrible (I guess that reflects the spin I put on my stories.) why do you stay there? Below is one fragment of the answer.
India, its people, don’t attempt to hide death as we do in the west. It’s out there raw and real. And I have the opportunity to deal with my thoughts and feelings around death.
A friend who’s been here for many years commented that he’d seen 5 people die in front of his place over the years (He lived on a dead end street, so it was relatively peaceful without traffic.) he commented on how easily or peacefully people released themselves here, implying that western people have more resistance to death.
In India pensions are rare and old age homes are for the comfortably well off. Social security for most people consists of their family and if you are old without family and poor it’s not an easy road to tow to put it mildly. I’ve been seeing rather ragged lost looking old people wandering around in the streets. Men looking more lost than women generally. In India, family is community is life.
Hey shall we get out and support Hospice?
So… look around you well.
PS, A kind of side effect of this little drama, for me not for the sadu, was realizing, regarding my writing which I’d been putting off for more vital activeties, that is moving center activities, that I habitually engage in like laundry and home improvments, I’d been assuming l’d be alive tomorrow and tomorrow would have less pressing things to do and so I’d have more time to write. How do I get more time tomorrow than I have now? Talk about delusional.