A few weeks back, on a lazy Saturday evening in Hyderabad, the out of sync beatings of drums brought me to my balcony on the fourth floor. On the road below me was a procession. A procession of about a dozen men, dancing to the discordant and incongruous thrashing on dead skin stretched around the hollow of wood, as they led a white clad body to its pyre. Cheap flowers adorned the body that lay motionless on the makeshift bamboo stretcher, the weight of death borne by four men in their damp loins. Petals of flowers were thrown into the air as the dancers screamed and celebrated death, the petals making a slow, gliding descend to be strewn on the hot tarmac. What were they celebrating? Death? Or the life after death?
It brought back thoughts of Rudaalis in the havelis of Rajasthan. Clad in black skirts and cholis, face covered by black duppattas, they would wail and beat their bossoms out as they mourned for a loss that wasn't theirs. As they stripped the newly widowed woman of her jewels, and reduced the vermilion on her forehead to a distant smear, did they feel grief? Did they feel for the woman who was going to be shunned from public life for the rest of her life? What do they feel? Sadness? Sympathy? Empathy? Joy?
Simultaneously, it brought thoughts of death. How do I feel about death? Scared? If it is fear that we feel about death, what do we fear more - one's own death or the death of a loved one?
I watched as the drums faded away into the evening sun as a pyre somewhere far was readying itself to embrace death and burn itself to a handful of ashes.