Booking a flat to live in is an old fad. Reserving a spot in a graveyard to rest in peace after death is the new one.
In Lucknow, Christians and Muslims are reserving land in burial grounds, well in advance as cemeteries are running out of land.
Already a done thing in the lives of people in western countries, pre-booking of graves began in Lucknow a few years ago and is the trend is now fast picking up. It is popular with Christians and Shia Muslims. As the burial grounds in the City of Nawabs are left with very little space people fear that they may not find a place in the cemetery next to their loved ones.
At Nishatganj Cemetery for Christians, Anglina John has booked a spot right next to her husband’s grave on February 8, 2009. Anthony, the caretaker of the cemetery, says, “We already have about 20 reservations. We charge Rs 2,500 per booking for five years, and for Rs 500 for every renewal. It’s a reasonable amount so people don’t mind paying this much.” There are four cemeteries for Christians in Lucknow.
Among Muslims, mostly Shias reserve burial ground. Maulana Yasoob Abbas, a Shia cleric, said, “Muslims are booking hayati graves (reserving graves before death) for huge sums. It should be discouraged… else poor people would not find any place for a burial.”
The booking rates at Muslim burial grounds are higher. At Ghufranmaab Imambara a grave reportedly costs between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000. For pre-bookings, they charge 50 per cent of the going rate. However, cleric Kalbe Jawad denied any such practice.
Zafaryagb Jilani of Anjuman Islahul Muslameen pointed out that encroachment on graveyards is one of the reasons why they are running out of space. “People make their hutments and it is difficult to remove them. The government must mark more land in the new areas that are coming up in the city,” Jilani said.