The Funeral Attendee- A Story

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The Funeral Attendee- A Story

I was quite amazed that day seeing the huge crowd on the road. I was coming back from school. It was hard to drive the bike on 10 Kmph even. I slowed it down to the minimum and inquired to a person,

“What’s the matter? Why is there so big a crowd?”

“You don’t know? Manglu is dead. All these men have come to attend his funeral.”

“Ohh! Was he any leader or saint?”

“No, he was a great funeral attendee.”

“Funeral attendee! I have heard of great poets, great leaders, or great saints whose deaths attracted such crowd, but never of a funeral attendee. What was so special about him??

“He never left a funeral unattended if the news of death came to his ears.”

“What’s so great about that, but the crowd defies the simplicity of the statement. There must be something amazing about this man. And who cares?”

I said this and moved the bike ahead without listening what the other person was saying.

I came home, the day went as usual, but it was like something had stuck in mind. I kept thinking about that.

Next day, when I was talking with the staff during recess in the school, I put that question. The head teacher who was an old man and a native of the village he knew about that funeral attendee, Manglu. He told me his story-

“Almost thirty years ago Manglu left his native village Kherupura. The village is nowhere now because it was just beside the bank of the river. It endured many floods but at last it vanished in waters. Manglu’s father died in that flood.His mother had died earlier and unfortunately he was the single child of his parents, so now he had only his wife and she was expectant.The flood engulfed his home and fields. His family had to move out. They came to live in the village near the main road that connects the Headquarters of two adjacent districts.

First they lived under a tree. Later, the head of the village gave them a a piece of land where they put a thatch. But Manglu couldn’t save his wife till the next year. She died, I think, during her childbearing. Literally, Manglu was alone, he had no one whom he could consider as family, his relatives were scattered at different places. He could go to any of them, but he decided to live on his own.

For making ends meet, he sold wood from jungle, worked as a labor, but didn’t left the village, and doing all that he participated himself actively in the village life, attended every function and funeral either invited or uninvited. Because, he had no one as his own or you can say he had everyone whom he considered as his own. No one took him seriously, but he maintained this routine.

When he found himself unable to do labor-work, he opened a kiosklike shop on roadside where he sold petty things like cigarettes, tobacco and pan. He made acquaintance with his customers too who were from other districts. Motorcyclists, bus drivers, hawkers, rickshaw-pullers, peddlers, beggers all such persons were his friends. He was so famous that people used to talk about the directions and distances assuming his kiosk as a milestone.

Manglu never indulged in hoarding money, but he devoted himself in making friends. Anyone could purchase from him on credit. He was of so good nature that very few kept his money but almost all paid him back.

He enlarged his circle. People from adjacent districts knew his name and his thatched kiosk. I would say that he was more famous than any monument. In those times too, he never left any function or funeral unattended, either in his village or some far away district. Though, functions were something that needed invitation but if he just heard that someone has died, at once he would close the shutter of the shop and run amok to the cremation ground, if the dead belonged some other district, he would take a ride as soon as possible. Sometimes, people at the cremation ground wondered why he didn’t come yet, but he always arrived sooner or later.

On the declivity of his age when he became unable even to run the shop, one of his friends gave him shelter to spend his last days. He couldn’t walk well, his back was bended and he had to take the support of a staff. All day he roamed around villages taking the staff in one hand and asking well-being of whosoever came in his way. Even then if someone somewhere a dead, he would try to go there. People thought he had a mania for this thing. And thus, in last years of his life, he got the name, “the funeral attendee”. He was like a piece of curiosity for youngster in the village.

And then the day before yesterday he died, this news spread like fire in the woods. Can you believe that almost fifteen to twenty thousand people came in his funeral. I am not sure in fact what this really resembles, but I would say that Manglu must be smiling in heaven.”
© Ravi

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