With Indians being inducted into the suburban municipality in the 1920s, a tar compound was laid out for the ground. “And post Independence, around 1975, when the Congress Government was in power, our community’s majority in the area ensured us cement walling,” Mohite continues. The compound has provisions for both burnings and burials: “Burning costs Rs 2500, Rs 1000 being just for the wood itself. The poor can’t afford that – so they go for a Rs 300 burial.” Of these costs, Rs 50 is for a stretcher-cumtrolley the trust provides for transporting the body. “We weren’t always this organised,” Mohite remembers. In 1978, the Municipality threatened to take over the land because of the way it was neglected: “The dead were being dumped here… and there was garbage from the neighbouring area.” So a management committee was formed, which promised maintenance. “The collector still asked us what proof of ownership we had! We retorted – The English, your predecessors had given us their zabaan! The buried bodies are the proof!”
The committee today has organised a Corpus Fund via donations, the interest of which pays for the burial ground’s upkeep. They’ve built a shed, and grown a pretty park next to the graveyard. In addition, Mohite claims the salt in the seaside soil causes the bodies to decompose fast: “That’s how there’s always place for new burials. If we still come across a bone while burying a new body, it’s gently pushed aside.” The graveyard cannot however, accommodate Buddhists beyond Khar and Bandra: “The other Buddhists have to go to the Municipality crematoriums. But the state of our community is better today.” He’s shuffling through the register, for there’s been a funeral this afternoon. His name was Bhimabhai Satpal. He had a burning.
This article appeared originally in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/59xd