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« Mad Men in 60 Seconds (prasad) | Main | A Shifting of Battlefronts? (Sujatha) »

October 30, 2009


Two famous books on the subject of Western funeral customs are Evelyn Waugh's satirical novel, "The Loved One" (rendered in film by Tony Richardson), and Jessica Mitford's muckraking expose, "The American Way of Death". Waugh has his loved one sent into outer space, and Mitford has a chapter on cremation. Curious that these English writers should set their books in the US. I don't know if there are similar literary treatments of British customs.
Having participated in the process of cremation in India I am dubious of its advantages in these hand-wringing times with concerns about energy-efficient pets and methane-emitting cattle. Shows like "Six Feet Under" sanitize the end product of cremation. My mother's ashes didn't have the consistency of dust; the larger bone fragments are probably still lodged in the mud of the Delaware waiting to be discovered by paleo-hounds of future centuries. 'Tis the season to be ghoulish.

Since you mention it, Narayan, I now wonder what went into the 'organic bonemeal' that I sprinkled in the hole that I planted my tulips in (Estimated carbon footprints: Bonemeal - 0.5 hectare, 100 tulip bulbs shipped from Keukenhof direct, 3.2 hectares, plastic chicken mesh to prevent depradations by local deer and rodents 1.5 hectare, lovely weather in which to plant, but not quite cool enough temperatures: A whole earth's worth of 'climate change')

One wonders whether the scientists will apply the same method used to calculate 'footprints' to determine the 'eco-paw-prints' of say a lion in the Serengeti (will they include the tourism costs associated with the money to maintain the sanctuary status of the are?), or that of owning a large stand of oaks and maples in green-lawned suburbia (yes, we need to factor in the costs of raking/blowing/shredding leaves, bags (compostable) to hold them, garbage truck trips and gasoline/manhours, etc. etc.)

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