Jalapakshi was the epitome of etiquette, courtesy, and good manners.
She was affable, considerate, cordial, courteous, gracious, and polite.
Her father Mayurbhanja and her mother Suprasakshi ensured that every inch of her life and every inch of their household was smeared with a lovely veneer of perfect etiquette and manners.
This proud varnish of manners ran so deep in the family that it is said that when Jalapakshi landed on this earth from her mother’s womb the first thing she said was “Thank You Mom”. This first sentence of hers embellished the parturition.
Jalapakshi’s father Mayurbhanja had imbibed these values from his parents and by a masterstroke of luck, his wife Suprasakshi seemed to have come from the same lineage.
Thank You, please, Do come again, Por Favor, and Gracias, were very common words spoken in the Jalapakshi household and the activity of the residents of the household also echoed these manners.
The household walked the talk so to say.
Anyone who met Jalapakshi in the morning would be greeted by her pleasant and heart-warming Good Morning. The same was carried through to Good Afternoon, Good evening, and Good Night. She delivered these in a typical honey-laced sweet voice with a twinkle in her beautiful eyes and in a body language that was very soul-warming and soothing.
Anyone coming to meet her would always be bid adieu with a very warm “Please do come again”, “see you soon”, “it was wonderful having you” and so on.
It was said that more thank yous were exchanged in their house than in the entire town. The family dog also had picked up the atmosphere of the family and generally was called the most behaved dog in the locality.
The demeanor of the household was thus the talk of the town. “If you want to learn manners go to Jalapakshi’s house”, everyone would say.
Jalapakshi had cleared her graduation and had landed herself a good job in public relations. However, she had about a month of free time till her joining so she was looking to do some sort of work during this period.
In the meantime, a privately run crematorium had come up in the vicinity and they were looking for volunteers who would help the bereaved family during their rituals at the crematorium. It was felt that such volunteers were very necessary as bereaved friends, family members, and acquaintances of the departed soul who came to the crematorium for the last rites needed a helping hand to go through the process.
Jalapakshi thus joined there along with quite a few other young boys and girls. she was very excited about the job. Her parents were very happy too as they thought Jalapakshi would be doing a very noble job by helping the bereaved members who came to the crematorium.
This noble job would be her stepping-stone to heaven they would say.
On the first day, they were all given training and inducted into their respective roles.
Jalapkshi’s role was interesting:
- She would have to receive the members of the deceased family at the crematorium.
- She would guide them to the proper place where they could lay down the body.
- She would help organize the rituals.
- She would provide support in garnering the ritual essentials like incense sticks, flowers, and holy water (mainly ganga jal ).
- Supply drinking water if required.
- Take the members through the entire process.
- Organize the final cremation.
- Explain the rest of the process to the members.
- And eventually, see them off at the exit of the crematorium.
Having understood her role, she went back home. She was to join the next day. Internally she was happy as she would be helping people during a very sad situation in their lives.
She went back to work the next day with a prayer in her heart and a blissful feeling within her.
She parked herself at the entrance gate of the Crematorium at 10.00 AM.
At around 12 Noon she could sight an approaching convoy. Two cars at the front followed by a hearse and a few motorbikes. The cars stopped at the entrance and Jalapakshi ran towards the first car.
She guided the convoy to the parking lot and indicated the hearse to drive in. The bikes and the cars were parked outside.
There were around a group of 12 people. A youngish man, maybe in his late 40s, was wearing a dhoti and a wrap-around. Four other gentlemen went to the hearse to unload the dead body and Jalapakshi observed that the deceased was a male around 75 years old. The youngish man appeared to be the son.
Jalapakshi guided them to an upraised platform where the body could be placed.
One lady was sobbing continuously and looked to be the widow and two youngish ladies were holding her, probably daughters. Jalapkshi greeted them and offered them bottles of drinking water.
She immediately started a conversation with the two gentlemen who seemed to be in charge of the situation and started planning the arrangements with them. They had brought the priest with them and Jalapakshi was quick enough to organize the other basic requirements of incense sticks, white cloth, and a bamboo structure on which the body would be eventually laid after the rituals.
While the rituals were going on Jalapakshi tried to comfort the bereaved members by standing beside them, trying to console them, holding their hands, or just listening to them.
When the rituals were over Jalapakshi got the funeral pyre organized and eventually, the body was put to fire with the son performing the main rituals as per his faith. As the body gradually went to ashes Jalapkshi kept a keen watch on the bereaved members encircling the funeral pyre and kept consoling those who were either crying or were looking blankly as if in shock.
The flames slowly died down, the ashes were collected and Jalapakshi deftly took the members through the final process inter-alia also explaining to them the process of collecting the death certificate.
The cremation being over the members were gearing up to return. One of the gentlemen came up to Jalapakshi and thanked her profusely while the others looked at her with thankfulness and appreciation.
She bowed to them and then decided to walk them to the exit gate.
At the gate, they all paused to say goodbye to her, and Jalapakshi in her best demeanor perfected over years looked at them, bowed, and said “Please do come again”.
The sentence seemed to have set off an atomic bomb as the entire group looked at her with a sudden strange look. The son seemed to be stepping forward and looked visibly angry.
Jalapakshi stood still and bewildered and then suddenly turned around and ran inside the crematorium as she saw another hearse approaching.
When she reached home, she narrated the incident of the day to her parents only to suddenly realize that crematorium was not the place where you tell people “Please come again”.
The etiquette was fine, but it was mistimed.