1 The deceased’s cousin’s daughter’s niece’s cousin: This is the individual who will wail the loudest, will break down repeatedly, have intermittent fainting spells and will despondently narrate two sentimental incidents about the expired relative; who incidentally she had met just once.
2 The gatecrasher: People gatecrash weddings all the time but a funeral I guess, can be an ideal place to do the same. After all if you claim that you knew the deceased very well, it’s very unlikely that the corpse will be able to get up and deny it.
3 The kleptomaniac: She comes along to the prayer meeting in her Bata slippers and leaves, wearing some else’s Gucci sandals. After every funeral, you will see a whole bunch of people looking for their shoes that are never to be seen again.
4 The social butterflies: They arrive in their freshly starched ‘made for the occasion’ white designer salwar suits, sit in the back row, fluff their blow-dried hair and immediately begin to rip apart people sitting two rows ahead.
5 The singer: At most prayer meetings, as part of the entertainment, there is a singer performing some sad bhajans. The singer on the stage knows he is singing at a funeral but his inner performer cannot control the urge to flash beaming smiles all through his recital and to extend the excruciating 30 minute performance by another hour or so.
6 The event planner: Yes even funerals have event planners; all the white drapes must match the white flowers, which must match the white of the chair covers, which must match the white prasad, which must match the white plate and so on and so forth.
7 The daughter-in-law: This is the poor soul who actually does the entire running around and sees that everything is in its place. She has to faithfully attend every ritual, deal with all the old cranky relatives and answer a hundred questions as to when she will produce a bonny boy.
8 The son-in-law: Like at very other Indian ceremony, the son–in-law is pampered even at the funeral. The harried mother–in-law will make place for him in the front row even if she has to discreetly nudge the corpse aside. No one, dead or alive, is as important as the beloved Indian son-in-law.
9 Old aunties: They have lived so long that now they have a wardrobe that only consists of funeral wear as everyone they know seems to die weekly. They will watch the proceeding stoically, will know the meaning behind all the mantras and will discreetly look at each other in their little group wondering whose turn it is next.
10 The pundit: Fifty six pundits are required to complete 86 rituals so that the newly departed’s soul goes to heaven. When the head pundit is asked for scientific proof of the existence of heaven, existence of the soul, and existence of punditji’s certificate as ‘transport agent to astral realms’, he mutters unintelligible Sanskrit, which roughly translates to, ‘The soul may or may not go to heaven but the money goes straight to my bank account’.