Cashing in on Corpses

These articles by Najma Sadeque was published in The Herald in 1983

The Needles Were Pulled Out

The Girl Would Live

“Aai i-eee!”Herld Cover - Cashing in on the Corpses-orginal scan

Jabboo got up with a start. He had been sleeping soundly, his body tucked snugly sideways on the foot-wide cemented skirting between two graves. The soft crunch of brambles under shod feet had not roused him — he was used to four-footed creatures wandering around at the oddest hours, but when a sapling caught in someone’s clothes and snapped, he became alert.

Jabboo lifted his head but did not get up. There was just enough moonlight for him to perceive the silhouettes of two men carrying what appeared to be a small, wrap­ped body. He was almost certain now that a murder had been com­mitted and the men were trying to dispose of the body. They stopped and one of them sat down with the burden as they exchanged whispers. The other zig-zagged through the graves inspecting each minutely. Obviously he was looking for a grave which had sunk enough to accommodate an addi­tional occupant.

The man approached the spot where Jabboo was lying but Jabboo felt no fear of being dis­covered. He lay where scores of permanent structures were crowded so close together that there was scarcely any space to plant a seed let alone a body. The man stopped barely twenty feet away from him and bent down to look into a grave that had been brick-lined only around the sides. Then he beckoned frantically to the other person to join him. His companion got up gingerly, handl­ing his load as if it were extremely fragile. The first man walked back to help him. It was clear that they did not want to drop it. Could the person be alive, Jabboo wonder­ed?

Now that Jabboo could see them fairly clearly, the duo struck him as a most unlikely pair. One of them looked like a young boy well dressed, obviously affluent. The other was a bare-footed older man in an unbuttoned shirt and bunched-up shalwar.

With some difficulty because there was scarcely any space to walk between the graves and the thorny bushes, the men gently placed the ‘object’ to one side of the selected grave. Then, remov­ing a short axe and a small shovel from the folds of his clothes, the older man began to hack away the growth on top of the grave while the boy unwrapped the mysteri­ous item. What emerged was a clay effigy of a woman, almost four feet long and sculpted with some care. It was nothing more than a doll but embedded on the forehead, chin, cheeks, temples, arms and torso, were dozens of thick needles several inches long!

Jabboo had never seen anything like it before but he had heard tales from other grave-diggers. A murder had not been committed yet but that was exactly what th­ese two intended using psychic and supernatural means. Jabboo was as superstitious as the two car­rying out the grisly ritual and be­lieved in its power, but he was a God-fearing man and did not ap­prove of murder. He decided to teach them a lesson.

When the men’s backs were turn­ed, he pounced on them in a flash and violently knocked their skulls together. Again and again, he bashed their heads to make sure they would be too dizzy and in too much agony to be able to resist. He stopped when he thought they’d had enough but didn’t loosen his iron grip on the backs of their necks.

Jabboo was big and burly. Even with their free hands the men could not pry his fingers off. He had huge hands, and if he’d wanted to, he could strangle with just one hand.

“Well, whose life are you af­ter?” he snarled, knocking their heads together once again, though with less force. The boy screamed.

“Stop it! Stop it!” he pleaded in a near-sob. “What do you want? We haven’t stolen! We haven’t done anything wrong.”

“No? Aren’t you out to take someone’s life? You think I’m some kind of fool?” And he hit them again. Already there were signs of swelling on their faces. The older man was groveling now, trying to touch Jabboo’s feet.

“All right,” said the youngster. “I’ve had enough. Just let us go and we’ll leave quietly.” He moved to retrieve the effigy.

“Oh, so you think you can sneak off to do your dirty work else­where? No, you can’t! I’m taking you to the police,” yelled Jabboo.

“Please!” begged the boy. He was near to tears now. “What do you want? Money? I can give you more than you need. Just let us go. It’ll be too much for my family if they or the others get to know.”

“You should have thought about your family before doing this. You don’t deserve any sympathy.” Jabboo dragged them to the entrance of the graveyard turning a deaf ear to their wails. The older man tried to struggle once; a couple of kicks on his shin and in his stomach put a stop to that. The boy kept asking him to name his price. Jabboo ignored him.

“Where’s your car?” he asked, certain they had come in a vehicle.

“Just outside. Behind that tree,” the boy pointed.

Making him unlock the car door, Jabboo shoved the older man in first, scrambled in himself and then yanked the boy in, making them press the door locks. Not once had he released his grip but he knew he would not be able to hold on indefinitely.

“Now start the car,” he shouted to the boy,

They began to move at a crawl and Jabboo listened silently as the boy offered him higher and higher amounts.

“All right,” he said finally, “You’re a kid, so I’ll be easy on you. I feel sorry for your parents but you’ll have to pay heavily for it. In cash.”

“Well, that’s what I’ve been of­fering you all along,” whined the boy.

“Don’t try to act smart,” snap­ped Jabboo, giving his neck a pain­ful squeeze. “You were trying to buy me off. But this is to make sure you’ll never try it again.”

“All right. Just name your price. Can I stop the car now?”

“Behind that wall where we can’t be seen.”

They parked.

“I want 50,000 rupees,” said Jabboo calmly.

The boy was stunned. “But I don’t have that kind of money,” he protested, “Be reasonable.”

“You have a wealthy family.”

“Yes, but there’s a limit to how much they give me. ‘I’m just a student. I don’t have a job.”

“How much do you have or you?” asked Jabboo threateningly.

“Just a few thousand.”

“And you’ve paid this fellow …generously. I see.” The note showed through the sweeper’s shirt-pocket. “How much?”

“Five thousand,” gulped the sweeper.

“All right, put it in my pocket”

“At least let him keep that,” re­quested the boy. “I owe him some­thing for his trouble.”

“For doing something wrong. No, this way he won’t try it again either. Hand it over”. The sweeper meekly complied.

“Now, you!”

“Would you settle for another five thousand?” appealed the boy, “I need to keep a little to pay some bills.”

“I wonder what kind! No. Just promise to pay later. Borrow. You must have plenty of rich friends. Take out your wallet.”

Jabboo’s eyes almost popped out when he saw the bulging wad of notes. “How much is it?”

“Nine thousand.”

“Empty out your pockets.”

“There’s no more,” pleaded the boy but he turned them out all the same. “Can I go now?”

After directing him to a narrow lane, Jabboo made him stop. Still clutching the sweeper, he got down with him, with a parting blow at the boy’s head.

“That’s just to give you a mild taste of what you’ll get if you ever try jadoo again. Now get out of here!”

Jabboo waited until the car had disappeared, then he thrashed the whimpering sweeper all the way to the main road where he let him go. Returning to the graveyard, richer by fourteen thousand rupees, he quickly retrieved the effigy and obtained a lantern from his shelter. Then he set to work.

A number of needles had fallen out in the struggle, but Jabboo himself removed 96 needles. It was a powerful jadoo. The girl they intended to harm would not have stood a chance had it not been for his timely intervention, he thought to himself. The boy had been humiliated and angered when the girl had spurned his adv­ances, he had explained to Jabboo, and he had decided that since he couldn’t marry her, no one else should either.

It was a long walk to the pond but Jabboo didn’t mind. It was for a good cause; he dropped all the needles in the water. The jadoo was broken; the girl would con­tinue to live.

Cashing in on Corpses

“Well, what is it?” the old man asked somewhat impatiently, breaking the prolonged silence. 

We had been standing before him a few minutes, giving him the performance of our lives, pretend­ing to be searching for the right words to say and having difficulty finding them, looking furtively around up and down the road to see if anyone was within earshot. We were empty-handed having re­lieved ourselves of cameras and notebook which had been immediate giveaways at the cemeteries we had visited earlier.

He had been fast asleep when we drove up. Against a backdrop of crowded tombstones almost spilling over to the road, he was a remarkable sight, sitting almost upright without any support as he softly snored. His 25 years of experience as caretaker of the dead with little to do apart from waiting by the roadside for the bereaved to come and relinquish stilled life to him must have perfected this ability.

In conformity with the conventions the caretaker was accustomed to, I withdrew behind Moosa, the photographer, and let him do the talking.

“I want to talk to the grave­digger,” mumbled Moosa almost inaudibly.

“You can talk to me,” said the man, “I’m in charge.”

“Yes, but I wanted to find out some­thing from him. Couldn’t I talk to him myself, please?”

At once, as intended, the man sensed a problem and became alert.

“You can talk to me safely,” he said gently, “I can tell you any­thing you want to know. You’ve lost someone?”

“Yes.”

“What kind of a grave do you want?”

“Well, it isn’t as simple as that.”

“Then why don’t you tell me?” he urged, “How can I help you if I don’t know what the matter is?”

“But can I trust you?” said Moosa fearfully, and I could have sworn he wasn’t just acting.

“Of course! Our entire function is based on trust! Now what is it?” he said in the most soothing voice. Kisi ko agar dabana hai, wo bhi ho sakta hai”, (“If you want someone concealed underground that can be arranged.”)

“There’s been a murder?” said Moosa quickly, “but there’s no­thing we can do about it and we don’t want to file a case against the people who did it.”

The man was quite unmoved, as if murders were as common-place as death by natural causes.

“So what’s the problem?”

“The police may want to make a case of it.”

“Have they found out?”

“Not yet.”

“Then how can they unless you tell them? The murderers won’t!”

“That’s why I was talking about trust,” said Moosa.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be arranged. Will there be people accompanying you as at a regular funeral?”

“Only three or four.”

“That makes it simpler,” said the man.

“But I don’t want the grave to be visible!”

“Now that’s going to be difficult. I can always smooth it and remove the marker later and no one will ever know. But why?” he demanded an answer since he was going to be party to the concealing of a crime. As I hung my head try­ing to look as frightened as possible, he looked at me sharply.

“How big a grave do you want?” “A small one,” said Moosa hesitatingly.

“Is it a woman.”

“No, it’s a baby!”

I was aghast — that wasn’t in the script. And the man blew a fuse. “Why don’t you talk straight with me?” he stormed, “You want my help but you tell lies and keep changing your statements! Why do you say someone was murdered?”

“All right, all right,” Moosa said placatingly, trying to hush him for people were passing by; he could act himself and me into trouble.

I’d had enough and went back to the car.

“It’ll cost you,” was the last thing I heard the man say, “Two thousand, but you’ll never have to worry.”

Someone had said the most difficult part of a murder was disposing off the body. But in Karachi it seemed to be the easiest!

There is no peace for the dead. At least, not in most Karachi graveyards. When the sun sets and the gates are locked — for burial at night is prohibited by law—the graveyards come alive, humming with their own specialized kind of activity. It is not merely the philosophical mind searching for the meaning of life or the be­reaved coming to visit their lost ones who come here. There are also those who seek the privacy that has become necessary ever since prohibition was enforced. Gambling can be pursued in peace here, especially by those who wear uniforms by day; often, they don’ even bother to change into some­thing more comfortable at night.

Most graves are not sacrosanct. It’s not only the grave-diggers who feel no compunction about walk­ing all over them and using them as beds or tables and sofa sets in the open. Even the dead — or at least their bones — tend to have more than one resting place once their flesh has turned to dust and what’s left has to be removed to make room for someone else. Or generosity is forced on them and they have to share it with one or more people in turn.

There are 94 graveyards, large and small, in Karachi, although by the time this article appears, a few more may have sprung up. All it takes is an empty, unused plot in which no one, especially the government, shows any interest, and the semblance of a grave, real or faked, is set up. The grave-digger is now in business. Wreaths, paper flags and a minimum amount of cement work attract attention, and when someone nearby dies, the graveyard with space to spare is remembered and begins to fill. In Lahore, a graveyard had once overflowed virtually to someone’s doorsteps. To avoid being swamped, the owner one day went and made a mock grave a mile away on an empty plot. Immediately, the subsequent graves went there!

A few people, usually the very rich, full of their own self- importance, reserve and buy their graves in advance. There are no fixed prices for graves. And the range varies widely not only ac­cording to availability and the financial status of the buyers but also according to the emotional and psychological condition of the bereaved.

Of the 94 graveyards, only seven are under the Karachi Municipal Corporation and eleven under the Karachi Development Authority. The rest come under the care of private residential areas (such as PECHS) or minority groups or sects, but most are owned by self-employed grave-diggers whose stakes were claimed many generations ago. But even in the 18 graveyards in the care of the KMC and the KDA, the public deal with the gravediggers directly as there are no funds allocated for graveyard maintenance or purchase.

The 94 graveyards cover a total of 1,846 acres of which 1,309 acres are packed to capacity (although space is always ‘found’ if the price is right) and 537 acres constitute newly allotted land, nowhere near enough for furiously-expanding Greater Karachi. The largest graveyard is in Baldia with over 100 acres while the relatively well-kept Sakhi Hasan graveyard has 39 acres. Paposhnagar, Mewashah, Azizabad, Lalukhet and Khamosh Colony graveyards look, and are, overcrowded; busi­ness, nevertheless, continues to flourish. Because of the paucity of space and the lack of officially prescribed rates, prices of graves vary enormously and you can end up paying a lot for a space only 6-1/2 feet long, 2-1/2 feet wide, and with a maximum depth of 4 feet, in a choice location.

In fact, the KMC and the KDA don’t even employ grave-diggers or caretakers, which probably exp­lains why most graveyards are in such shabby condition. In fact the private grave-diggers can thus be viewed as rendering a public service even if they are inclined to exploit the bereaved at the sligh­test opportunity. Yet, these can be excused on the grounds that their’s is a non-pensionable job and their company is socially not the most sought after.

The procedure for acquisition of land for graveyards is not particu­larly complex. The respective pro­vincial governments hand over land to the municipalities and de­velopment authorities who after taking possession, hand them over to the Land Department for de­marcation and supposedly to the Health Department for mainte­nance. Recommended bye-laws to this effect drafted years ago are still “under scrutiny” by the legal department of the central govern­ment, but to date everyone is fat too preoccupied with life and the living to be concerned about the problems that arise from being dead.

If KMC graveyards are in a mess, it’s only because they have not been given the authority to hand them over to the Health De­partment for proper maintenance, said a KMC spokesman, although by the general standard of other areas of KMC maintenance one cannot be certain about such claims.

Meanwhile, in response to in­creasing demand, the Board of Re­venue has allotted an extra 1,815 acres for graveyards to the KDA for handing over to the KMC, but only 200 acres have been transfer­red so far.

There is a simple rule of thumb for the allocation of land for graveyards. The land that is cho­sen should be unsuitable for ag­riculture and unfeasible for construction. The second rule is that it be as far away as possible from human habitation. Those are the rules in theory. In practice, Karachi‘s graveyards seem to be at the hub of every locality. This is due to lack of foresight when plan­ning and the unexpected surge of migrants to Karachi. Otherwise, had graveyards been far away, as planned, the distance would perhaps have discouraged the building of permanent structures, and thereby minimised the number of visits by survivors. Then, as stipulated by religion, within three years any semblance of the grave would be obliterated and the same spot rendered reus­able. But the courage to make per­manent structures illegal, even under religious law, is not fore­seen in the near or distant future.

This is sop class=”MsoNormal” style=”text-indent:.25in;”mewhat strange since in Saudi Arabia, from whom we take our religious lead, marked graves are forbidden. Even the spot where the late king was buried is now unknown. This could have lent strength to arguments to make permanent structures over graves illegal. Impossible, main­tains the KMC. There are various opposing schools of thought and interpretation in Pakistan on the subject, and it is too delicate and explosive a matter for the govern­ment to intervene in.

While cremation is becoming more prevalent in advanced countries, it’s falling out of favour even with the Hindus in Pakistan as the process is expensive. The electric incinerator which performs the function hygieni­cally and with dignity in a matter of seconds, has yet to come to Pakistan. Although cremation would solve the problem of the dis­posal of the dead, it is a controver­sial method and unlikely to gain ground (both literally and figura­tively) among Muslims for a long time to come.

A comparative study of birth  and death statistics can help gauge graveyard requirements in the future. Karachi city is es­timated to have a population of 8 million (5.4 million according to the official census). Last year 20,748 births and 941 deaths were reported. Between January and April this year, there were 5,031 births and 355 deaths. If the number of deaths seem small in comparison to the births, this is because births have to be re­gistered and even though birth fi­gures may not be complete, they are a more reliable index than death figures. Birth certificates have become increasingly neces­sary for identification and other purposes. The death certificate is only necessary for those who stand to benefit from the deceased —such as for insurance and transfer of property and assets. The small number of middle-class and even fewer upper-class therefore con­stitute most of the reported deaths. The rest don’t need to re­gister deaths and seldom do espe­cially since the law does not re­quire that deaths be reported. As such the death rate is estimated to be far higher than the reported one.

The only initiative, or rather coercion, to report deaths is the late fee of Rs. 500 if a death certifi­cate is required later. If it is made within a month of the death, it costs only 50 paisa. But again this makes little difference to the vast majority. There is a horrifying as­pect to this too. Because a report is not compulsory, murders can and do take place and no one is the wiser unless caught red-handed. Non-violent murders leaving no external marks, especially by poisoning, are seldom detected. It is the middle or upper class mur­der that is likelier to be found out because, for obtaining a death certificate, a medical certificate from the doctor who last saw the victim when he was alive, is neces­sary, and the cause of death to be ascertained.

When it come to concealing murders, the bribable grave­digger can come in very handy. When a body is laid to rest in a grave, the remaining empty space above it is left bare and the open­ing is covered with a concrete slab. It is only over the slab that a mound of earth is shaped. A murdered person can be quickly buried. If and before exhumation is called for, removal and substitution of the body is quick, easy and unmessy as no earth has merged. In tropical climates, decomposition is rapid and the body is generally beyond recognition within three days.

On the other hand, older graves without markers or concrete slabs are ideal for reuse. As fluids drain away from the body — about 80 per cent of the body being water — and the body disintegrates, the grave sinks, often enough to ac­commodate another occupant without much re-digging. It is also the kind of grave sought by black magic practitioners who place effigies of their victims in it.

The contents of the graves are not always human. Smuggled goods make their way into many graveyards that double as warehouses for the same. To avoid detection though, the smugglers are said to shift their operations from graveyard to graveyard. Many grave-diggers alleged that these were done with the conni­vance of the police who run regu­lar operations. The graveyard is an ideal hideout. Shunned by the living at night and with burials forbidden after sunset, it makes undercover work even easier, and not merely for burying victims’ bodies.

A photograph of policemen drinking and gambling in a graveyard (shot through a tele­photo lens) and published in a local newspaper not long ago spoke eloquently about the en­forcers of the law.

Graveyards al so double as “night-clubs” of sorts where groups, for a small price to the grave-digger who gives a cut to the cop on the beat, can safely while away the night with high-stake cards and banned bottles.

Motorists who think they are the only ones who have to pay off policemen without doing anything illegal may count their blessings on hearing about the grave-digger’s plight. Commission has to be paid not only on every high-priced body buried but also to ply their grave-digging trade. ‘The policeman, on the other hand, buys the grave­digger’s silence for whatever other reason, for a very shabby price. But if the kingpin is a smug­gler, the policeman is more gener­ous, probably because he can afford to with the larger amount of hush-money he’s paid.

The movies are most probably responsible for implanting the eerie feeling and unexplainable fear of graveyards even in people who have never been to one be­fore. For, by day at least, graveyards are passive-looking, and even restful, places. The larger graveyards especially, around which townships have grown are a centre of attraction for many, children included. A stroll through Mewashah — one of the oldest but not the biggest graveyard — afforded sights that were duplicated in many others. A couple of men hunched over a chessooard placed over a con­cretized grave, played on, quite oblivious of the world. Here and there, people napped among the tombstones. Elsewhere, groups of people picnicked, grave-slabs serving as tables for plates of food and soft drinks or for playing cards or carrom. Sleeping on the graves was more comfortable than sleeping between them where there were bound to be thorny bushes aplenty. It was a place for two or three people just to sit and chat undisturbed … or sing songs. On the 27th day of Ramazan someone visiting a beloved relative’s grave was shocked to find a qawwali in progress.

Yet, with graveyards in the ol­der parts of Karachi, this seeming casualness is perhaps not so much disrespect as being unaware. The graveyards have always been there — they are part of the scenery.  Where crowds throng, so the dal-moot and phalli wallahs as well as agarbatti hawkers. Billi marka is certainly doing a roaring trade judging by the number of empty boxes inconsiderately strewn all over the graveyards. The graveyard caretakers who claim to be the owners of the place don’t bother to clear up. They maintain and water only the plants on and around the graves of those whose families pay for the service. The rest of the place is left in an unholy, tangled mess. At a monthly rate of anywhere between Rs. 15 and Rs. 50 a month, they collect a sizeable if not an enviable total retainer.

Nevertheless, I saw some of the most beautiful trees in the graveyard. The most touching sight was of a fresh grave in a small patch in Defence Society, covered with a net of roses and ferns. A short-trunked, long-branched tree stood at its head. The spot was specially chosen for the tree, said the grave-digger. Several of the longest branches had been bent and weighted down over the grave with heavy stones as if shading someone lying there. The one who loved and lost could not have expressed it more eloquently.

The Art of Grave-digging — and Decoration

Grave-digging is a technique in itself. It is not as simple as digging a trench; grave-diggers take special pride in maintaining abso­lutely straight lines and perfectly smooth sides. Yet they use nothing more than a pick — if the ground is hard or rocky — and a shovel. Nor are the sides absolutely vertical to the base; they tilt inwards, shap­ing out like the base of a pyramid. An expert digger can prepare a grave within an hour; a little longer if the sides are to be lined with concrete blocks.

The cost of an unlined grave is approximately Rs. 500. A lined grave costs about Rs. 1000 de­pending on location. Rs. 150 is the “rock-bottom” price for the ordi­nary mortal. Grave-diggers are ac­commodating; for the really poor, the plot will come free, they will charge only Rs. 32 as digging fees. There was no explanation why it was this particular sum; it’s a trad­ition whose origins have been forgotten. In such a case however, there is little likelihood of the grave being a brand new, unused one!

There’s no limit to how much one can spend on grave decora­tion. The middle-class average is about Rs. 1000 to Rs. 4000. It’s twice as much and perhaps more for the upper class for whom it is a status symbol rather than a senti­mental obligation. Wealthy murids have been known to spend up to half a lac on their pirs’ graves.

Grave-diggers have a simple system for finding out if and when a grave can be reused. Very old graves that are no longer visited including those with very simple cemented structures are de­molished, the tombstones first be­ing removed. When a person is newly buried, grave-diggers patiently wait out a year. If near ones visit on special days, the grave­diggers know that they will continue to do so for a few more years at least. That makes them poten­tial clients who can be persuaded to spend generously on elaborate or permanent decoration as well as ensure a monthly retainer to the gravedigger for weeding, wat­ering and maintaining the grave. While this is no guarantee that the body within will remain within, outer appearances will remain perfect, and the area surrounding the grave will be free of sharp stones and prickles and easy on the knees.

Graves with a future as shrines or monuments are walled or gril­led in, monopolizing enough space for at least a dozen more, with polished and carved or engraved marble surfaces. A meritorious life is not a criterion, although a well-known name is.

Tales from the Grave 

Though most gravediggers have few compunctions about taking liberties with corpses and graves, they are amazingly super­stitious. Most gravediggers I spoke to claimed an eerie knowledge of people’s nature; they seemed to know as much about the eccentricities or predilections of people buried in their precincts as of those who visited their graves.

They also believe there are people so evil that even the soil doesn’t wish to accept them. If the person led a reasonably good and exemplary life, they said, the soil was resilient and easy to dig. Otherwise it required greater ef­fort. In the case of soil that was naturally hard, a person’s charac­ter was revealed by the soil’s reac­tion to treatment. The site would be soaked with water and a wrap­ped Quran placed on top. If the soil was still difficult to dig, it didn’t speak well at all of the deceased.

In contrast they gave examples of people who must have led such exemplary lives that divine forces kept their memory alive. A sign of this, said the grave-diggers, could appear in any form — a beautiful tree or bush covered with sweet‑scented blossoms might sprout near the grave, attracting people to it; the grave would remain neat and tidy without being taken care of; voices could he heard from the grave; birds would nest in the bushes or trees growing nearby. It is difficult of course to determine how much is legend and how much is the imagination of “shrine-makers” who want to create a fol­lowing of tithe-paying faithful and a regular trade for garlands, can­dles and agarbatti.

There is one famous story that was narrated to us at every graveyard that we visited. The grave itself is in Mewa Shah and belongs to someone who lived perhaps a couple of hundred years ago. It had been unmarked (or the tombstone had been removed to make it appear as unused land). While digging for a new occupant, as soon as the grave-digger reached the required depth, he was overwhelmed by the most powerful and sweetest of scents. It was so wonderful, that it’s said he stood for a long time just drinking in the perfume. Then he realized the grave must have belonged to some great and good person. He made enquiries and found he was right. He then replaced the soil and put on a marker, to make sure it would never be touched again. For a long time after, he claimed the scent continued to pervade the air.

In another case, a body, supposedly a hundred years old, was found. It had not decomposed in the least and its features and con­dition remained intact and perfect; this was attributed to the person’s “pure” life.

As for those who were hopelessly evil, their graves attracted snakes — or snakes emerged from the site while digging was in progress. On several occasions, some grave-diggers claim, the attack from snakes was so persistent, they simply had to request the family of the deceased to remove the body to some other place where people of indifferent character were buried and the soil would “accept” anyone. In one particular case in the Defence Soc­iety graveyard, they said, the grave of a man from a very wealthy and well-known family was visited by a family servant who had come to put flowers on the grave. Suddenly a huge black snake emerged from the grave. The servant was so terrified, he not only fled from the graveyard but also from his job although he had worked with the family almost all his life.

All grave-diggers were in agree­ment on one point; discourage near and dear ones from looking at the face of the deceased once the body has been wrapped up and ta­ken for burial. Everybody de­serves to be remembered in a pleasant way by their loved ones. A son whose mother died while he was abroad insisted on having his mother’s grave opened so that he could have a final look. When the grave-digger refused, he applied pressure through his police friends. Almost a week had passed since the burial but the son had the grave opened. The slab was moved just a foot but that was en­ough. The sight was so terrible, the man fainted and was delirious for days. He remained in shock for weeks thereafter.

In another unexplained case, a grave-digger claimed that a friend insisted on seeing the dead man’s face just before the body was be­ing interred. When the face was uncovered, they found one side absolutely fair and the other side almost jet-black. The grave-digger’s guess was that the man must have possessed a dual personality and perhaps even two souls in one body!

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About denebsumbul

Documentarian, Activist, Journalist, Photographer, Capacity Trainer
This entry was posted in Karachi, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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