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COFFIN MAKER

 


COFFIN MAKER

-         K. V. Dominic (India)

 

“Papa, why don’t you give up this fearsome profession? Can’t you find out a better job that gives happiness to you as well as to us, family members?” Elsy asked her father Peter who was making a coffin in his shop adjacent to his house.

Peter: “Daughter, what else job can I seek when unemployment is at its apex in our State Kerala. As you know, I am not healthy enough to go for daily wage labour in agricultural lands or construction sites. My father had been doing this job to sustain our family and I had been apprenticed by him to help him in the shop. This is the only job I know and we are meeting our needs from the returns of the sale.”

Elsy: “Tell me papa, don’t you long for or even pray for people’s death?  Is it not a sin?”

Peter: “Usually I don’t wish for people’s death. Since death is a natural phenomenon like birth, it has to take place regularly. But there are some days when not even a coffin is sold. As you know, there are many other coffin shops in this town. On those days I wondered why there were no old age deaths. But I never wish for premature deaths.”

Elsy: “Then why have you made small coffins for kids? Look at that small one on that shelf.”

Peter: “When one comes to the shop for a kid’s coffin, how we can say no? In fact, when I make a kid’s coffin my hands shiver due to the mental agony. I pray to God to spare kids from death and let there be no customer to buy the one I make.” Tears sank his eyes.

Elsy: “Papa, this job gives you no satisfaction and not much gain for the pain you take. Why not take a loan and start a lottery selling booth? No much physical labour is needed for that job.”

Peter: “There are innumerable lottery sellers in this town, dear daughter. At the most one can earn only 500 to 600 rupees a day. It can suffice only our minimum necessities a day. For yours and your brother, Alex’s study we need much money. Moreover for medicines for me and your mamma more than a hundred rupees are needed a day.”

A stranger appeared at the shop then. “I want a good coffin.” He said. He looked intently at the face of Peter and asked, “Are you Peter?”

Peter: “Yes, my name is Peter. Kindly tell me who you are.” Meanwhile Elsy left the room through the back door to her house.

“Don’t you remember me, Peter? I am Afsal, your classmate. We studied together in the high school. You were then the best pupil in the class, best in studies and other extracurricular activities. You were the school leader also. Why is that you are running this shop? Didn’t you go for higher studies and try for a better occupation?” Afsal said.

Peter: Now I remember your face, dear Afsal. It is long twenty five years since met each other. You have changed a lot, Afsal. You were then a very lean boy. And shy too. Not mingling with others. I couldn’t go to college for higher studies. We were then living in a village and the college was far away in the town. My parents were poor and they couldn’t afford to send me to college. This shop was originally run by my father. He asked me to help him in the shop when my school education was over. Thus I have been chained here for the past two decades. My father died ten years ago by cardiac arrest. The responsibility of looking after my mother, wife and two children rested on my shoulders and I couldn’t seek any other job. I am now an asthmatic patient under treatment. My mother is almost bedridden and wife has arthritis complaints. In fact I don’t like this job. But there is no other option to feed my family. Horrifying images of death are dancing around me whenever I work here. No pleasing positive thoughts enter my mind.” With wobbling sounds Peter continued, “I can’t make any coffin controlling my mind from meandering through the images of illness of my mother and wife. I always pray God to avoid a situation of using the coffins I have made for burying my mother and wife.” Tears flowed from his eyes.

Afsal: “Don’t cry, dear Peter. If you are willing I can save you from this hellish job. I have now come to buy a coffin for my neighbour. My neighbour Mathew, aged 50 died of cancer. There is none to help the family for the funeral arrangements. Kindly pack that coffin. How much does it cost?”

Peter: “Six thousand rupees. Kindly wait ten minutes to make it ready for use.”

Afsal: “Okay. I shall wait. Meanwhile let me tell you what I am now. I am working in a factory in Kuwait. The managing director of that factory has requested me to bring an employee when I return after a month. It is a very good factory which exports organic chemicals. They give good salary. Are you ready to come with me?”

Peter: “Surely, I will be extremely grateful to you if you can save me from here. But I have no money with me for the tickets, dear Afsal.”

Afsal: “Don’t worry; the company will bear all expenditure. Have you got your passport?

Peter: “Sorry, I haven’t taken it since there is no chance for me going abroad.”

Afsal: “No problem. You may apply for it tomorrow itself. You will get it within a week. Once you get it we shall apply for your visa and the tickets. I hope your family can manage in our absence. How old are your children?”

Peter: My daughter is 21 and she is studying for her B. Ed course. My son is 19 and is studying for his B.Sc. Physics. They both are studying in the government colleges in this town.”

Afsal: “Since your son is mature enough he can buy things for the house. So your absence will not make a crisis for the family. You can send money to the family every month. You may tell your family about this golden opportunity and seek their permission to leave.”

Peter: “Surely dear friend. I believe they will happily allow me to seek this employment abroad. You are an angel sent to me by God to save us from the ocean of grief. Inexpressible is my gratitude to you, dear Afsal. Our family will be indebted to you forever.”

Afsal: Peter, a friend in need is a friend indeed. This is a simple help I can render to you and I am not losing a single rupee for it. The happiness I get by saving you and your family is eternal. What else do I need? Kindly apply for your passport tomorrow itself through Akshaya Kendra. Keep this money with you. There are twenty thousand rupees. (He gave the money to Peter’s hand) You may buy necessary groceries for the house, three pairs of dress for you and give the rest of the money to your wife for one month expenditure. If the coffin is ready kindly call a taxi jeep to carry it.”

Peter called for a taxi jeep and the coffin was put into it.

Afsal: Let me go, Peter. When you receive the passport, call me. This is my visiting card. (He gave his card to Peter) Good bye Peter!”

Peter: “Good bye Afsal!”

Peter couldn’t believe what happened. Was it a dream? God heeds one’s prayers in strange ways, his mind whispered to him.

Needless to say, Peter went with Afsal to Kuwait after a month and started a new happy chapter in his life.

 

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