Saturday, April 20, 2013

Two Exhumations and a Re-interment

Yesterday, after time gaps of 43 and 30 years respectively, both my maternal grandparents were re-interred.

One September evening, over forty years ago, my grandfather was struck down by a speeding car and killed. The family had fled Mizoram in the terror-filled days of the MNF insurgency in 1964 and settled down in Shillong where we started schooling there, my two sisters and two cousins. Grandma lived with us while our parents went back to Mizoram. Grandpa divided his time between Shillong and Aizawl. That fatal September, he was in Shillong with some Mizo church leaders for the opening of a Mizo Church, and they were all walking home when the car sped by. The other men managed to jump out of the way but not my grandfather. He was already 74 and obviously not as agile as the others. The car knocked him down flat and raced away, and was never traced: it left Grandma a widow.

It was 1969, a time when all journeys were taken by road, and with the insurgency problem, vehicles had to travel in convoys, with stopovers and sleepovers enroute. Since some of the family, including Grandma already lived in Shillong, I guess it was decided it was easier to bury him there. And so at the slope of a little pine hill in Laitumkhrah cemetery, Grandpa was laid to rest.

A few years later, the family, including my grandmother, moved back to Aizawl, to the family home at Mission Veng. In 1976, she suffered a sudden stroke which left her paralyzed on the entire left side of her body. She managed to survive that until 1982 when she broke her left thigh bone in a fall. She was then living with my family at Chanmari. Her health declined rapidly and in July, she passed on to join my grandfather. She was buried at the Chanmari cemetery.

Earlier this year, following long, faintly hoped-for but never actuated family dreams, it was decided that Grandpa's bones be brought back home and reburied at the Mission Veng cemetery. And since most of our now large family lives at Mission Veng anyway, Grandmother's bones should also be brought to join her husband in his final resting place. 

And so it was that both my grandparents' bones were re-laid to rest in a little white satin-covered coffin. It had taken three male members of the family to travel to Shillong earlier this week to locate Grandfather's grave and to reopen it. His remains, as scanty as might be expected after 43 long years,  were reverently gathered  and brought back home. Meanwhile, back home, some of us worked on exhuming Grandma's grave for her remains. It was an experience that made me realise how unsubstantial human life is. Once we die, we pass into nothingness, our carrion passing back into the earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. All is vanity. 

My grandfather, Pu Zalawra, is today an established name in Mizo Church history, most notably in connection with the Sunday School that he helped set up. My grandmother, Pi Lalnemi, was just an ordinary, extraordinary woman who took good care of her family. They lived and they died, their mortal remains today mere debris. But they live on in and through their descendants and so long as we live, they will too. 

Rest in peace, Grandma and Grandpa.