A cremation at a local Catholic church's cemetery following all customs and rituals of the Hindu tradition. It happened on July 13 after good samaritans in Alappuzha district's Ramankary village began seeking a place for a woman of modest means to be laid to rest. Her family didn't possess enough land to set up a funeral pyre and the recent rains had flooded all adjacent properties in Kuttanad village, forcing them to look for an alternate solution.
The group's earnest attempt to help the family in distress was finally answered by the local Catholic church, who allowed the cremation to be carried out following all Hindu rituals.
63-year-old Omana Purushothaman had been bedridden for some time before she passed away on Friday morning. She suffered from Alzheimer's and the family was in financial distress with her son Omanakkuttan being the sole breadwinner in the family. They lived in a small house on their 2.5 cents of land, depending entirely on his meagre earnings from carpentry to make ends meet.
"Ramankary Gram Panchayat doesn't have a public crematorium. Various organisations like KPMS, SNDP etc have land plots that have been used by all people for cremations but all of them remain flooded,'' said Saravanan, branch secretary of the CPM.
Omanakkuttan is a member of the CPM and the party's local leadership was lending help to the household for sometime.
"Omanakkuttan used to look after his mother well. Sadly, she was not the only ill person in the family. Omanakkuttan's younger child is a kidney patient further aggravating his financial issues," said Saravanan, who was actively involved in the efforts.
"The plot on which the house stands is the family's only property. The house and the path to the main lane covers a lion's share of it, leaving little or no space to light a pyre. Their immediate neighbours were willing to help but the incessant rains meant their lands were completely submerged in water," said Lalychan Srampical, a member of the local parish.
"The family lives near Ramankary St Joseph's church. Omanakkuttan is regularly hired by the church and when his mother passed away, he shared his grief with me. I contacted our vicar, who did the rest. The volunteer squad that we had formed following the 2018 floods also helped in making the arrangements," said Lalychan, who is also the office-bearer of the 'Pithruvedi' wing of the parish.
Vicar of the church Father Varghese Mathilakathukuzhy said he was in the college in Edathua, where he works, when the news reached him. Father Varghese said he was certain it could be done although there were procedures to be followed as he needed the parish council's approval.
"Omanakkuttan's family has all the freedom to seek the church's assistance. I immediately held the parish council virtually and pitched the idea of letting them use the cemetery. Unsurprisingly, there were no objections and we let Omana's family know of our willingness in the next half an hour," he said.
Soon, arrangements were made to conduct Omana's last rites at the church premises before she was cremated at the cemetery at 3 PM in the presence of Father Varghese and other local residents.
"It was a big experience for us all. Ramankary is a place of harmony and brotherhood of the people. Now, the church is about to distribute Onam kits to all residents of the locality" the happy priest added.