E-funerals become the new normal during lockdown
With travel restrictions put into place and congregation of more than twenty people not permitted during funerals, the last rites of the departed is being done virtually for those who cannot attend.Updated: May 21, 2020 16:16 IST
Be it any religion, the rituals of saying final goodbyes to the dead run deep in every faith. But the pandemic has robbed families of this tradition, as priests and closed ones have started relying on technology for funerals. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also ruled out that in case of funerals, congregation of more than twenty people will not be permitted.
Recently, it was reported that fashion designer Riddhima Kapoor Sahni also attended the last rites of her father actor Rishi Kapoor virtually through a video call. And actor Sanjay Suri took to twitter about how he attended his wife’s grandmother’s funeral through a zoom call. Indeed, lockdown has changed the way the country mourns its dead.
Cyril Benedict, a bank manager in Delhi, had to watch his 88-year-old uncle’s funeral online recently as he was unable to go to his native city Patna due to travel restrictions. He says, “Unable to see or touch a loved one in their final hours or grieve together with family is hard. However, the tech workaround made a good option and I could at least pay my last respects through a WhatsApp video call.” He adds, “After lockdown, we will hold a memorial and celebrate my uncle’s life who died of a terminal disease. It’s not cremations but hearts that connects families.”
Similarly, 80-year-old Mahadev Ekka of Ranchi who died due to old age ailments had a quiet funeral with only six family members. His elder son Jahaan Ekka, who works in Delhi, couldn’t reach his village and thus had to watch the funeral pyre on his laptop screen. Jahaan says, “Showing compassion from the far end of a laptop or mobile is strange but it made me feel closer to my family. If I had been there, I would have probably not been as sane as I am now. We understand the gravity of the situation and would be there for each other, at least virtually.”
Even before lockdown, when extended families couldn’t join the last rites, neighbours poured in to offer their condolences. However, all they can do now is a phone call. “Ours is a very close-knit colony and we celebrate each loss and happiness together – be it birth or death. But after lockdown, when a neighbour of ours passed away, we decided it wasn’t safe to visit the family so resorted to offer virtual condolences. We would make up for it once things improve,” says Shahid Md, a resident of Geeta Colony, Delhi.
All such rituals, mass or prayers have to wait till after the lockdown, say those that perform such services.
Pandit Jitender Sharma, a Hindu priest says, “My whole generation has been conducting last rites and never have we seen such a time where people had to attend last rites virtually. We have seen people break down and hug each other at cremation grounds, it’s what brings comfort. But they can’t do that now. Bahut bura lagta hai dekh kar ki aise samay mein log akele rote hai.”
A few days ago, Fr. Satya, a Roman Catholic priest performed the anointing rites of an elderly woman as she lay on her final hours in her home in Delhi. Her son used video call to patch in the priest who put on his cloak and did the virtual anointing and prayer. “The Vatican has also waived the requirement of in person prayer and said prayers delivered over video calls would have the same spiritual effect. It’s the best we can do at the moment. We haven’t lost the religiosity per say but just adopted a practical way to keep people safe.”
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