While Awaiting our Heavenly Summons

Today’s subject is on the order of slightly macabre to slightly left of tongue-in-cheek, depending — I imagine — on the where you were born and how you were brought up to think, by your parents or your religion or lack thereof, about the sacredness of the human body. So be forewarned if that subject is distasteful to you.

This week I came across the kind of news story that always catches my eye (by AP reporter Sam Dolnick) about a restaurant in Ahmadabad, India. It gave me a new perspective on graveyards.

It’s about a restaurant, famous for its milky tea and buttery rolls, that was first opened in the 1950’s by a Muslim gentleman named K.H. Mohammed. He began it as a tea stall just outside a cemetery. After he died in 1996, his business associate, a Hindu by the name of Krishnan Kutti Nair, continued to operate the former tea stall, which is now known as the New Lucky Restaurant.

I don’t know which I consider more unusal, the fact that a Hindu and a Muslim operated a business together for so long, the fact that the restaurant is built over a Muslim cemetery, or that Mr. Nair believes the business is better because of the graveyard. You see the graves are scattered between the tables. Old men drink tea there in the daytime, and young couples dine and hold hands in the candlelight as they share a meal in the evenings.

Mr. Nair explains that it was originally built over a centuries-old Muslim cemetery, and as the business grew the tea stall kept expanding until its tin walls encircled the graves. The graves look like  small cement coffins about shin high and painted green. One is up front near the cash register, three in the middle next to a table for two, and four along the wall near the kitchen. Every day the manager decorates each with a dried flower.

You might imagine a number of mishaps in a place thus described as waiters carry trays of hot tea, one balanced on each hand, as it would be difficult to see through the trays to avoid the graves. But the waiters know their way around the floor pretty much the way a bus driver learns his bus route, and don’t consider it a problem at all. 

Reading this story about the restaurant, plus learning this week new information about the polluting effect of cremation (puts too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere)–I’ve decided to rethink my decision to have my body cremated after death. Also, both pollution AND ever increasing numbers of births that lead to more and more real estate needed to eventually bury them in have led me to a new idea.

We should probably begin right now (no time like the present) redesigning our cemeteries, perhaps modeling them after those in the Muslim cemetery in the restaurant story above. We can then build all our restaurants right over the graves, thus preventing cremation caused carbon dioxide.

Then, if we required everyone henceforth to bury their dead, should the Christians turn out to be right, the bodies will be there to rise to the sound of Gabriel’s golden horn, if and when that time comes. At the same time, valuable real estate for graveyards can do double duty as the demand for it increases with creased births and deaths that eventually follow.

Before you put the kabosh on such an idea, consider this: it will stay cleaner since it’ll be cleaned daily rather than just a few times a year, there would be interesting new visitors every day, new flowers every day (some of us don’t even have fresh flowers every day when we’re living), and if you did figure out how to come out of your grave each night like the characters in A Fine and Private Place there might even be leftovers in the kitchen in case you get hungry. Sounds like a win-win to me!

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5 thoughts on “While Awaiting our Heavenly Summons

  1. There is an even greener way of burial. The body is not embalmed, is wrapped in a shroud and buried without coffin or vault. It naturally decomposes and becomes part of the envioronment. It is a growing alternative to formal cemetaries. A restaurant could operate very easily on top of this new type of burial ground.

  2. I’m still laughing….lol
    We’ve already purchased our plot and our stone at Cedar Key Cemetery, but somehow I can’t visualize a restaurant there some day. But then….you never know.
    I’m heading back to the kitchen to finish up my pumpkin breads….and contemplate your thoughts….lol

  3. Thanks to all who read and responded to this crazy post! I really appreciate your indulgence in my folly. Paul, I hope you won’t mind my sharing our brief email exchanges regarding this piece. It’s the perfect cap for this post! There’s a practical joker in you, I can see.

    In an email response I wrote to you:

    Hummmmm?!
    Does that mean you think my ideas stink?

    You responded:

    well, for that particular idea about graves in a restaurant, then yes,
    it stinks…literally 🙂

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