Recently there has been a rather
serious correspondence in the Srilankan Daily News
on the subject of Srilankan funeral practices and in particular the
pomp and ceremony surrounding such events in the old Rep. The latest
round was a letter from Clifford Ratwatte which is reproduced below,
verbatim and complete with the inevitable "Ceylonisms".
expenditure at funerals |
I read in a daily paper a letter to the Editor where the writer
mentions about the unnecessary fuss and ceremony made at
He mentions only a few things but
there are many more. Some light dashing crackers or cheena patas
others hire women to wail and cry and some others throw coins
mixed with "pori" on the coffin and it falls on the
road, Pandals along the way, banners across the road, decorate
both sides of the road with coconut or arecanut leaves just to
name a few.
At the cemetery "soka
prakasas" are read by friends of the dead person more to
gain a favour from the survivours.
The Body is displayed at various
places like the Urban Council premises etc. Thousands are spent
on expensive coffins. Lorry loads of wreaths follow the hearse
up to the cemetery. The money spent on wreaths could have been
spent on charity. There are so many such places that need help.
River sand or sea sand is
spread along the main road while the corpse is taken.
Some funeral pyres have fire
works on the rim. Some build statues on street corners.
I disagree with all the fuss
made at funerals and have instructed my family that none of this
should be done at my funeral.
I have further told them that if
they do things forbidden by me I will haunt them.
CLIFFORD RATWATTE, Balangoda.
Well done Clifford! The MadPage certainly endorses your
views. In fact we have given considerable thought to our own funeral
arrangements over the last so many years (what with so many
colleagues clutching their chests and falling backwards!)
The MadPage is of course no
stranger to death, autopsies, embalming, funerals and cremations etc
and we would like to offer you our expertise. In fact with a famous
and influential name like Ratwatte you could set up a funeral
advisory service for Srilankans and probably get a grant out of the
It is dangerous business of course.
The funeral undertakers are not going to like you very much. They
might have their own funeral plans for you but the name Ratwatte
will no doubt help.
Funerals of course are an expensive
business here in the UK. The undertakers run a cartel and it is
rather difficult to organise a cut-price-summer-special type of
Chuck out your dead!
During the so called Organ Retention
Scandal here in Britain a jolly correspondence ensued in the
electronic Brit. Med. J (BMJ). A totally disillusioned pathologist
by the name of Derek Roskell wrote in to say that in the event of
his death he wished to be cremated and the ashes scattered over Tony
Blair the British Prime Minister. The MadPage's response to this was
blunter, and predictably cruder!
We wrote " In the event of
my death I wish to be autopsied and my internal organs thrown with
great force at the Health Secretary!..."
The correspondence was picked up by a
national daily,The Independent,
and we had our two-column-six-inches of glory.
" Duck! Mr Milburn. You have
been warned!" advised The Independent.
The Health Secretary is or was a prat
by the name of Alan Milburn, who since the aforementioned
correspondence, has maintained a rather low profile, has probably
had nightmares and is no doubt scanning the obituary columns every
morning with some trepidation whilst stuffing his face with the
bacon & e.
It is a rather worrying prospect for
One minute you are walking along
Whitehall or wherever minor politicians walk about minding your own
business and the next minute, without much warning you recieve a
couple of Tesco carrier bagfuls of the MadPage entrails squarely in
In our general dislike of officialdom
and other minor irritations of life we have slightly drifted away
from the main point of this article (as usual). To get back to the
main business in hand (viz cheap funerals) we of course have several
plans in the event of our own death.
Plan A is as outlined above. The main practical difficulty with
Plan A for Mrs F (my widow, and it is assumed that Mrs F will be
doing the necessary as we ourselves are unlikely to be in a position
to do so), would be in locating Milburn.
Several prominent politicians in
this country including the rather formidable Thatcher have been at
the receiving end of missiles, notably eggs and cream cakes. Even
the great Bill Windows, admittedly not a politician as such, has
stopped a cream cake or two with his face. If located in time
Milburn, who is not a very important person, should be an easy
A word of warning though: Do not try this in Srilanka.
Srilanka is a different matter Clifford, and I wouldn't encourage
you to throw your internal organs at any of the local politicians.
Even the MadPage is sane enough to
acknowledge the practical difficulties of Plan A.
Plan B therefore involves placing
the mortal remains of the MadPage in a cheap, plastic, "body
bag" of the kind used by the police and at major disasters.
These are easy to obtain in Britain and no doubt easier in Sri
Place remains in bag. Attach
identifying label ( Eg " MadPage, Born...Died...RIP" etc).
Persuade local farmer (in Devon) or a Hi Ace van driver (in
Srilanka) to transport the same to crematorium or grave.
Cost: One bodybag, one vehicle hire,
one grave or cremation.
Practical and bureaucratic difficulties unfortunately arise here in
GB. Undertakers and Crematoria have an "understanding" (as
it is called) between themselves. Unless you present the body in a
coffin and transport same in a hearse some crematorium officials
refuse to accept delivery or can be a little bit difficult.
Although we are rather keen on Plan B and have already obtained a
body bag, there is Plan D.
Plan D is a variation on B and simply
involves making your own coffin.
First measure yourself or rather have
someone measure you. Make sure you are lying down with your feet
plantar flexed (Ask your doctor, no time to explain). Take
measurement from big toe to top of cranium (i.e.head). Don't forget
to measure width (shoulders or hips) and depth (beer belly).
Calculate size of planks required.
Here in GB the cheapest "timber"
would be chipboard from B&Q the DIY suppliers. Dont forget the
screws (buy cheap iron ones instead of brass ones). One screwdriver
(57 pence) and a No 7 drillbit. One coat of varnish (optional).
If feeling sentimental pick a few red
Poppies from a grass verge. There is
something sad about Poppies. (In Srilanka substitute
Hendirikka flowers or GandaPana
flowers for Poppies)
Transport body as before but remember to enclose bod in polythene
(or in a bod bag) prior to placing in DIY coffin as leakage can be
You don't want stray dogs to follow your coffin do you?
we went to all this trouble to do all this research Mrs F calmly
informs us that she has been on a "Funeral Awareness Programme"
(or "How to Dispose of Late Granny in Four Easy Lessons")
and has a nice plastic laminated certificate to that effect.
Apparently a local undertaker, Mitchell Funeral Services of King
William Street, Exeter, has agreed to do a coffin (a "laminated,
cardboard box") for £ 150! That is cheap! (It is rather
worrying though to note that Mrs F has been studying how to dispose
of the MadPage.)
So much so for Plan D.
Clever readers may have spotted that
we forgot to outline Plan C (Did you? If not go back and read from
the top again!)
Plan C is probably the cheapest and easiest.
This is Plan C: Leave
the bod to the State! Don't claim the bod.
In GB you will probably end up in a crematorium straightaway. You
will of course get a decent cremation. Not much fun though. There is
not much scope for unclaimed bods here in the UK. In India your bod
will be skeletonised, nicely bleached, articulated and sold to a UK
medical student. The going rate for a complete skeleton is £450
at the time of writing.
In Srilanka its a different matter and the chances are that you will
end up in the Colombo Medical School. In the Anatomy Block, which is
next door to the Public Morgue on Francis Road, Punchi Borella.
This is fun! First a chap called Marden or his successor (Marden
was a Arakku soak and probably long gone now!) would first inject
you with several litres of 10% Formaline through an old fashioned,
gravity fed system. This would be followed by injection of your
major blood vessels with a red dye. The bod will then be steeped in
a tank of Formalin (with added Glycerine, to retain your schoolgirl
complexion!) 'till the begining of the new term.
You will then be presented to the new "batch" of medical
There shall be crying and gnashing of
teeth on the part of some medical students. And there shall be
laughter. Loads of laughter. As far as you and your family are
concerned there shall be no more sorrow nor financial difficulties,
for the former things have passed away!
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall
be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall
there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.
Revelation, Chap XXI, v
James & St John, Bible Enterprises.
©Copyright Gyan Fernando 2001
First written on the 25 th of August 2001