He searched the pit and came up with a few pieces of bones, mostly vertebrae. That was all that remained of my uncle. My cousin, who had cremated his dad the day before, looked on indifferently. All the tears and lamentations were over before cremation. We had come to the crematorium today to collect the mortal remains and consign it to the sea. I expected the vettiyan (what do you call him? Undertaker isn't correct, graveyard worker sounds like a nightshift call center operator) to hand over a pot of ash, like in the movies. I was unprepared for this digging for bones with barehands.
He found about 10 pieces and broke them into smaller pieces and separated them into two lots. One was to be consigned to the sea, other sent to Kasi to be consigned in the Ganges. I wondered what happens to the skull - does it burn compeletely into ash or is it taken away for some other purpose? I shivered.
After pouring milk(innikku sethaa, nalaikku paalu) and tender coconut on the ashes, we went to the Marina beach. The beach looked stunningly beautiful. The rains had kept away the joggers and walkers, so we were alone except for a young couple. My cousin threw the pieces of his dad's remains into the sea and walked without looking back, as adviced. A sudden silence engulfed us, both of us not knowing what to talk. As we walked back I took a look at the young couple and said, "I wonder what lies they told their parents to come so early to the beach". It was a inane comment, but helped in breaking the silence between us. He laughed, breaking away from the grief that had shrouded him for the past three days.
The second lot of the remains had to be sent to Kasi to the community hall caretaker. The procedure was to send the remains to him by post along with a DD, and he will consign the remains to the river Ganges and send us back the Vibhuti from the temple. The cynic in me thought that the guy in Kasi probably sent Vibhuti packets on receiving the DD, and the remains will be thrown away. But rituals are to be followed, so I went to the post office with the cover containing the remains.
The speed post clerk wanted to check what was inside the cover. I couldn't possibly tell him that it contained the remains of my uncle. So I said it was a packet of Vibhuti being sent to Kasi. He asked me to open the cover and show it. Now I understood why the Vettiyaan had broken the bones into pieces and packed them into s a small plastic cover in the shape of a square. I showed the cover to the clerk, who pressed it without opening and was satisfied.