Thursday, June 22, 2006

Room to roll over is not enough

An Australian friend of mine recently attended a funeral here in Lahore for one of our friend's fathers. Only men are allowed to attend, so I can only retell the event through what he's told me since I am denied to witness it firsthand.

Bodies here are not kept in a morgue, but in the home until the day of burial. You can imagine how this is in the heat that I've been endlessly complaining about. And the flies - machia- everywhere. When they finally go to bury the body, they cannot put it in a coffin. Why not? Because it is believed that the body must sit up in its tomb in order to be judged by God. If the body does not have room to sit up, then the person will be judged and will be denied entry into paradise if that's where he was on his way to. You know in English we have the expression, "to roll over in one's grave," but here apparently a little room to roll over is not enough.

The holes are six feet down, but the wooden boxes for entombing the body are four to five feet high. The bodies must be placed down into these boxes by hand, and my friend witnesses one of the pallbearers as we might call them, getting stuck down in the tomb with the dead body and unable to get back out without further assistance. Once all those who helped put the body in have successfully gotten out and away from the body, the box is closed and a small amount of dirt is put on top. The stench of the bodies is everywhere in the cemetary, and there is no regard for stepping on the tombs of others. Actually, there's not anywhere else to stand, so you spend your whole time trodding over graves of people unbeknowst to you. My friend almost panicked when the funeral procession ran off to respond to the call to prayer and left him "in charge" of watching the body, which had not yet been buried.

With all that said, I'm not terribly upset women aren't allowed to go to funerals, although would like to be a fly on the wall sometime just to observe the goings on in those forbidden cemetaries.

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