Few hours spent by the banks of Yamuna will always push wide the envelope of your mind. A certain clarity of thought, a calmness will wrap your being. The sound of nature becomes one here.

A stray, crumpled piece of newspaper dances in a circle before taking a course of it’s own, guided by the warm June breeze. My gaze shifts to the four canines, who seem to have formed a guard arc around my dad, uncle, the priest and myself. We have come to perform the last rites of my grandmother.

Perhaps, these new friends of ours, have some inkling of the atmosphere of grief, so they sit calmly, their paws stretched out front as if bowing to the earthen lamps, fruits and other funeral service paraphernalia.

I close my eyes for a few moments, reeling in the myriad of sounds around, how unique in their individuality and yet so homogeneous. I hear the gentle twittering of the sparrows, the soft cooing of a cuckoo. Even the faraway, raucous cawing crow has apparently taken a mellow note.

An outsider seems to have intruded our quiet circle of peace. Another dog, but not part of our guard pack, gets snarled at. Teeth bare, tense expressions, the intruder cowers and runs away.

Humans inherently suffer from a lack of compassion and intellect. What is clearly an act of guarding, is perceived as some misguided threat and the priest pelts a small, broken earthen lamp at them. The arc breaks, and they shy away from us, seeking shade under a different tree. Three of them lie on their sides and sleep. Only one watches us from the distance, a judgemental look in it’s eyes, quietly imploring as to what it possibly did that was wrong. Or maybe I’m reading too much into them. Maybe not. After a while, they all wake up and gingerly walk towards us again, forming a wider arc, in an act which appears to me to be of staying aloof, yet close enough to ward off enemies outside the pack.

The priest begins his chanting in Sanskrit, speaking of spirits, peace and afterlife. I can make out bits and pieces, not much though. A host of bikers drive in at that instant, and keep coming in big numbers and then comes the pyre of an old man on six shoulders. My mind leaves its presence in my body and exhumes memories from the past, once, 12 days ago, and further, 6 years ago.

Despite being the surest event of life, one never is prepared for death. The images of my grandmother and mother’s closed eyes haunt me for several moments before a large ant bites my neck hard, thus, jolting me out of my unpleasant reverie.

Every religion has a twisted belief as to how a soul would not find peace. Endless, detailed rituals. Each to be followed with precision, a slight deviation from which would leave your loved one’s soul in limbo. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Making it easy for them to move on with minimal restrictions.

Nature has it better. A fly buzzes about my ear not knowing it dies in a couple of days. At least it’s soul shall rest in peace, sans rituals.

Originally published on Facebook here, 2nd June, 2016.