Its proper name was ‘Tribhubon Ashram’, but, it was not an Ashram. Rather it was a
crematorium. And so the better if it is singularly called ‘Tribhuban’. The crematorium is now-a-days
undertaken by Jogot who is the eldest of the three brothers. His father Bhusan, now slow and weary
of old age, looks after the cattle and the household and, also helps him in his work of undertaker
when sometimes two or more bodies are brought at the same time or, at night time when Jogot
would want a helping-hand. Jogot’s two younger brothers are educated and in the services of the
government; transferable jobs which have made them stay out of town along with their families.
Jogot had also studied but till his matriculation when Bhusan’s job of undertaker sometimes
demanded of two or three pyres to be lighted simultaneously. At such times Jogot would take
another axe and billet the logs which Bhusan had earlier bought from others and had cut those into
logs of some feet long and thus helped the funeral party in burning their dead. In this way, he helped
his father in his profession of an undertaker.
Profession, Yes! Now-a-days, it is Jogot’s business as an undertaker. A few decades earlier, it
was his father Bhusan’s. This profession of undertaking has passed two generations within the
same family. It was started by Bhusan some three decades ago when Bhusan had first set foot in
Sivasagar. Bereft of credit and kindness, he had chosen this place on the bank of the river to stay.
During the day he would roam about and do manual labor in exchange of some rupees as wages. He
would use the river for his cleansing purposes and in the night, roll down on the ground or sleep
inclining his back against a tree. All his eating was done at the restaurants for he had no home or
hearth. No one knew where Bhusan came from. He told the people he was from Rawalpindi, now in
Pakistan, and had fled from his home during the partition. He was the only member of his family to
stay alive. All the others were butchered. He had drifted and drifted and had arrived at this part of
India. It was ‘freedom time’ and everybody lived freely, not asking another from where they have
come. In a few days, out of the savings of his wages, Bhusan erected for him a thatched roof in a
corner of this plot of land under which he slept peacefully during rainy days.
Often and on, to this
plot of land also for its riverside location, people would bring dead bodies for cremation. During
rainy days Bhusan would watch the people try to burn the dead with logs and wood that was damp.
He would be moved by the plight of the people, but he could not do anything for, he was not the
undertaker of this crematorium, nor was he thinking of becoming one.
In the course of some months, Bhusan who had been working as a daily wage laborer, had
saved enough money to build a kutcha bamboo hut in the same place where he had erected the
thatched roof. Within this cozy house, he got some respite from the rains and the flies which had
harassed him no end when he was sleeping in the open but, another problem cropped up at that
time! As much as he knew, the problem was absent during the day because he would be absent at
that time. But after the evening, the problem often showed up. It was in the form of people knocking
at his door and asking where the ‘Undertaker’ of the crematorium was. If he would answer that the
crematorium has no undertaker, then the party would ask him if he could help them by cutting the
logs that they have brought with them and by laying-up the pyre. Bhusan had a kindly heart! He understood
human woes! So he would help them. But this also meant he had to sometimes help them at late
night when his occupation demanded a good night’s sleep. This led Bhusan into thinking why doesn’t
he become the ‘undertaker’ of this crematorium and collect money as fees from the funeral parties
and provide for him an income through this profession? He will help the parties in setting up the
pyre and making all the preparations which religion demanded, and also clean-up the shed once the
corpse becomes incinerated. The country at that time was in its infancy; land reform and land
holding system had not been newly organized; land was freely available and funeral services not
taxed yet. So, ‘this was the good time to establish himself in this land and start a business of undertaking’,
thought Bhusan. What will become when the land will come under measurement and taxation is a different matter. So he thought that it was the right time to become an undertaker of that
crematorium. For investment or tools he would only require two sharp axes.
Thinking thus, he
ordered for them the next day to be delivered to him one-after-another. So the next day, instead of
going and standing beside the town’s main square to find work, he went to the blacksmith and
ordered two large axes for cutting trees and logs…(to be continued)