A death in India

Priestcraft & usurers

Sat Pal is an office assistant in the school where I work here in India. He has an eighth-grade education and limited intelligence. When his brother died two weeks ago, we all knew how difficult his life would now become. As the oldest man in his extended family, he makes most of the major decisions and bears whatever financial burdens occur. As his employer, I am often involved in his family crises. This one was no exception.

His brother had been ill for some time before death and a doctor friend and I had helped Sat Pal get medical care for him. Jai Prakash was improving rapidly when his in-laws arrived on the scene and insisted on taking him to another doctor and starting a whole new treatment. His condition then deteriorated until, now desperate, Sat Pal again appealed to me for help. I was irritated (doctor shopping is an old pattern of Sat Pal’s), but called my friend again who arranged a new round of ultrasounds, x-rays, and drug therapy. Jai Prakash was finally admitted to the hospital but by then it was too late. In spite of the doctor’s best efforts, he died just two days later.

I was out of town when it happened, and by the time I returned, the funeral was over. Sat Pal was then busy arranging the ceremonies that mark the end of the thirteen-day mourning period. Here in India, because of the hot climate and the scarcity of embalming, the body is cremated within twenty-four hours of death....

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.