The solemnity of observing the ‘All Souls Day’ is always a very important day of thanksgiving blended with a fond and warm sense of remembrance to the departed soul. The visit to the grave yard is not merely rhetoric, but most often something which turns out to be a soul searching moment of personal grief.
The grave yard no doubt wears a festive atmosphere, with the yearly cleaning of the area. The mud made graves are re- done by clearing all the bushes and dirt strewn around it. The sand is dug up from the nearby grave and heaped on the grave of our departed soul. The termite struck wooden cross is re -painted and the lucky one with granite are washed, so that the names and the dates of the birth and death of the departed person is clearly visible. Finally it is the topping of flowers of all kinds, especially marigold which is the commonly used flower by all. Not to forget the roses and, lilly, jasmine and paper flowers. The candles that are lit up along with the incense complete the much wanted decoration of the graves.
When all that is done, then comes the prayers which are recited by the kith and kin who stand or kneel around the grave of their dear departed ones. Some graves have huge gathering of kith and kin and they start a family rosary or a prayer; some graves have one or two people doing the same; but many graves do not any one around to stand and pray for the departed soul. Their grave is also not done up and remains a place of dirt and dust. I often wonder why there cannot be a common fund to make up all the graves which are un-attended for years. It is a pity that there is inequality even in the form and sizes of the graves. Though it is common fact that all the grave holes are of common size of length and breadth beneath the soil, they are distinctly different in size, shape and colour above the soil.
Every year I make my yearly visit to the G Corner grave yard which is maintained by the parish of St. John De Britto’s Church in Subramaniapuram at Tiruchy. I spend moments of reflection which is often with tears at the grave yard of Chicha, my paternal aunty who was very fond of us, especially me since I grew up with her from my teenage onwards. Her name is Josephine Francis, but to all of us she was Chicha. A spinster who took the burden of the family on her shoulders at a very young age, she was a warrior of sorts who defended the family in times of trouble and turmoil. She was not much educated, but a very god fearing Anglo Indian Lady who was very popular in our surrounding.
To me she was very special, since we all learned our life from her, which was laced with love and prayers, we often had fights and arguments…but then they will all wade away with the night. She slogged for the family like no one, and despite her poor health she was at our service any time of the day and night. She was a character that no one could miss, who stood out with guts and valour doing chores of household work which was manual in nature. Though there are many of our loved ones in our family who have helped us grow and have departed, my relationship with Chicha is always very special…..loads and loads of personal experience can be written on endless pages about her for years to come.
What makes me very sentimental about the ‘All Souls Day’ and a visit to Chicha’s grave is something that cannot be explained in words. It is deep rooted within me and will remain me till my last breath, since I had the divine blessing to hold her hands as she passed away…….and her last breath withered in my hands !!!