Dressed to die

...and Twitter's juvenile ageists make a killing from a murder

Late next year, the dead could choose what to wear. And if they’re too dead to decide, their families can find the right designer wear specially created for burial.

The designer with a 'live' model (AFP)
Pia Interlandi’s concern might seem legitimate, for she is not going for the “gold suit” as a statement of flashiness in societies where people are interred in full dinner clothes. She says:

“The idea that you would be buried with a garment made of polyester that would outlast your own decomposition, so that you would end up as a skeleton in this weird polyester nightie or something seems a bit contradictory.”

The idea of what happens after death is itself contradictory, for death is supposed to be the end. Yet, people ranging from spiritualists to writers are fascinated by the phenomenon of the beyond as much as they are of other planets. Since it is not common practice to exhume bodies, does it matter whether polyester is clinging to them? And who would it matter to – the one who is gone or the living who would not know and who retain memories, often behind plastic sheets in albums or displayed in plastic frames? There are also parts of the body that do not decompose.

The designer started her experiments by burying 21 pigs:

“Within a year my garments were completely gone. By the time we dug up the last pig there was just embroidery, bones and roots…But the garments in themselves are actually quite beautiful. The staining that has occurred on the body is interesting.”

She wants to exhibit the remains of the shrouds but has not been granted permission. She attributes it to “perceived disgust” and feels that discussing the subject is “just one way to crack open that space we don't often talk about”.

I disagree. Death has been romanticised in literature, in cinema and of late in the large expanse of ‘baring souls’ where every ‘Wall’ spawns graffiti. Skeletons have always been a favourite on T-shirts and metal trinkets. Gothic art has not shirked from its avowed aim and many a pop artiste re-enacts scenes of destruction. Death has been deconstructed and is now a commercial venture with some choosing to die before the cameras; there are Hemlock Societies and there was Dr. Death.

Interlandi is merely tapping a market that is open about death, understands the value of respect at a price and is also concerned about the environment. Her sales pitch is simple: Embroidering someone’s favourite poem, or a song lyric, or their name, or drawing a family tree on the death garment.

I doubt if the dead would be reading Shelley or singing Dylan’s songs or wondering who they have joined and who will hop along over a period of time for some history in the made rather than the making.

Like the choice of crypt and the manner of burial, these are choices the living make for the dead, unless the deceased has clearly specified so earlier.

The pharaohs got there many years ago when they buried several things along with the corpse. It was believed that there was an afterlife.

A designer garment for the funeral is about the dying of what goes along with the dead. A kind analysis would be that it is a metaphor for the death of death.

- - -

Death of humour

I would not have reproduced this. But, can people stoop so low? These gentlemen write on the state of the nation and are on panel discussions debating the fate of the nation. Today’s Mumbai Mirror had this repulsive stuff on page 2:

The Neeraj Grover murder case may have been curiously unremarkable in the courtroom, but days after the controversial judgement was passed, it has sparked off a Wimbledonseque serve and volley between Pritish Nandy and Suhel Seth on twitter that had hundreds hooked on, including Amitabh Bachchan, who could not help but edge in a word of praise for the “delightful repartee”.

It all started with Seth tweeting two days back: “Now that the devilish Maria is free, she could endorse some brand of knife!!!”

To which Nandy quickly replied: “Lesson#1 for @suhelseth: Do not call any woman devilish simply because you cant handle her.”

Seth suggested that Nandy try casting Maria in one of his films but “just make sure there's no couch...she'll take Bobbit to another level!”

Nandy replied: “Maria can only be cast as Maria, as of now. And she has shown that her surgical skills are far better than Lorena Bobbit's.”

The paper has called these exchanges “quicksilver wit”. What we see is juvenile banter that even teenagers would desist from given the background of the case. These ageists would not know if good taste made an incision in their addled heads – all three of them.

Here are my short replies:

@Mr Bachchan: Not every kneejerk reaction is repartee, which is an art and it is delightful when it does not use people who have been killed cruelly. I am quite certain that you will find another way to up your cool quotient to promote your film Bhuddah Hoga Tera Baap. You play the angry man, don’t you? Perhaps you could try having a talk with Amarnath Grover, Neeraj’s father, to understand anger?

@ Suhel Seth: I understand you are in advertising and want to sell everything. So, would you want Kasab to endorse the Taj Hotel, or would you prefer bullet-proof vests? Take your pick. And “devilish” is an indulgent term, and in the many parties you attend the models often wear horns. When there are calls for castration of rapists, do not forget to bring in the Maria/Bobbitt reference. It is just a lame douche bag here.

@Pritish Nandy: Your chauvinism is revealing. “Devilish” women need to be ‘handled’? As for Maria’s "surgical skills", I know that a female protagonist is much more interesting, but Emile Jerome too used the knife. Anyhow, wonder why you’d imagine her skills were better than Lorena's. Do you think chopping off a whole man is an operation worthier of your prickly ‘humour’?


Brevity may be the soul of wit, but all things brief need not be witty.

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