Britain's "Mail on Sunday" recently asked people about their hopes for their last hours and their funerals. Here's how a Hindu replied.
I do think about death, but unlike most people, I see it in a very positive way. The fact that it is there waiting for us all has never been a problem for me. After all, how can you fear the inevitable?I was born a Hindu and have remained a firm follower of my religion all my life. As a Hindu, I believe in reincarnation, and that depending on whether you perform enough good deeds during your lifetime, you will be given the gift of eternal life.Hindus believe that there are 80 million different life forms in existence.If you waste your time as a human, the highest life form of all, you will be sent back into the millions of inferior life forms. This could be as a cow, a dog, an insect anything.I try to live by certain rules and conduct my life accordingly. If I am at work in my restaurant, I consider that to be my religion. If I am at home, looking after my family becomes my religion. When I go to the temple, that too is my religion. I hope that if I follow the right path in this life, my soul will be released and I will be allowed to meet the gods.However, if I do have to return to human life and try to serve the world again, I would definitely want to come back as a chef. Of course, it all depends on what is called your karma, which has to be a perfect, almost mathematical balance of good against bad. Sometimes I wonder whether that makes God an accountant.When my time is up, I would like to die in my sleep after enjoying a huge, hearty meal. Indians are very serious about food. We believe that whatever you eat goes with you into the next life.On our deathbeds, it is traditional for us to be dressed in white cotton, symbolising purity and serenity.Sacred water from the River Ganges, the mother of all rivers, is put into the mouth of the deceased.
I have not been to many traditional Hindu funerals, where people are burned on funeral pyres. These days many of the bodies are cremated in a crematorium, but in Indian villages you still come across the pyres. I am a simple person who believes in doing things in a very minimalist way. I would not like to waste any resources, so whatever is the most efficient manner of disposing of my body at the time of my death suits me.While it would be perfectly fine for me to be buried in England, if my family could afford it, I would really like my funeral to be held in the city of Benares in India.At a Hindu ceremony, a priest begins with some holy chanting, but I'm not too bent on that. I'd prefer my funeral to be a simple occasion for close friends and family only.Hindu funerals are celebrations of your life. Although there is mourning, the essence is that you are remembered in a positive way for the 14 days following your death.Traditional ceremonies are very heavy, so rather than trying to stop your tears, you should let them flow.Sometimes, when I go on my culinary tours to Benares, I see those rituals being performed and although the people are strangers, I get tears in my eyes.After I have been cremated, my ashes, which are made with the five minerals of this earth, will be thrown into the Ganges, and the river will wash them away. Generally, this is done by the oldest son, or the younger brother, of the deceased.
After the funeral, it is customary to hold a party for the priests, friends and family. In fact, it is more of a religious ceremony than a party.Classical Indian food is prepared. Everything has to be vegetarian with only cows' milk used in its preparation. The food is generally very basic rice pudding and bread.Indians don't believe in headstones or epitaphs. Once the body and ashes are gone, only the memories count. If you want to go and visit someone, you can go and stand by the River Ganges and think of them there.My biggest regret in life is that I haven't spent enough time with my parents. I wish I had done so, but I was only 15 when I left home. Now that I live here I only get to see them once a year. Although I know I have been good during my lifetime, I would like to become a better human being, and be able to look after the people whose livelihoods are based on my skills as well as I possibly can.
I want to be remembered as a good human and a good friend. My wife is expecting our first child at the moment, and I can only hope that I will live long enough to take him or her well into adulthood, and also look after my parents as long as they both live.