Like most old cultures, we honour and celebrate our dead in elaborate, sometimes ritualistic ways, for days on end. Apart from the pre-arranged swatch of earth in the neighbourhood or the ancestral graveyard (they can be one and the same but not always) and the commissioning of an elaborate or austere gravestone, there is the selection of poetry for the epitaph (Urdu or Farsi, we must consult with Syed Saeb, because “taemiss chhu ath saet jaan”—he knows about this stuff); the early morning recitation of the Fateha and Sura Yaseen (among others) at the grave; and the not-unimportant decision of what flowers shall grow by the graveside. Besides all this, we Kashmiris simply like to get and live together after a death in the family, as people in many cultures do.
We like to cook a lot of food; we like to feed a lot of people. Some relatives, brought together by the glue of remembrance and a collective catharsis, refuse to leave for weeks. We talk and talk about the deceased—someone or the other always ends up mimicking the way they spoke. All this alongside daily visits to the graveyard, extended Qurankhwani sessions in the house, and poignant consolations among the grieving. Someone or the other always faints from exhaustion or a surfeit of tears. Some of us also take flowers and candles, lots of flowers and candles, to the grave.