Mujahid Malik was my next door neighbor. He died after a brief illness at 60. He was a great, gentle soul who spent many years in the Middle East- a lawyer by profession .His wife passed away some three years back of a sudden heart stroke, and left behind three daughters-one married and two unwed. Of the two, one is mentally ‘not well’.

Having no male members in the family, the onus of funeral rites fell on the immediate neighbors. The initiative for the burial arrangements was shouldered by some soft souls. Tents and chairs were rented up while a few rushed to ‘purchase’ land for the dead man.

Plenty of slogging throughout did not help, where all land hunters met with little success. No cemetery staff seemed to be willing to accommodate an alien, someone who was not part of them, their locality or their community. Any permission to bury an outsider will be a clear violation of the community living concept and the society laws, they reckoned. The tension and stress level rose as a small piece of land was looking impossible.

After hectic efforts and deliberations, however, a ‘few good men’ took pity on our community representatives and sold an expensive chunk of ‘their’ pure land forrupees8000 only. An unwritten agreement was reached between the two parties. Corruption and commission had won. The dead man had to be buried unethically in an area which did not belong to him.

Gleefully or un-gleefully, the hunting party returned with the good news. Alas! This joyful moment did not last long. Shortly afterwards, the sellers retracted. The deal for the land stands cancelled- the one they bombed. The question was, ‘why’? The rate does not suite us, they revealed. With the grave now half-dug, the graveyard mafia resorted to typical blackmailing. Knowing fully well the sensitivity and urgency of the issue the price was suddenly raised. A Jirga was instantly held and the decision was made in favor of the dead man. The interment finally took placeunder a fictitious address; under a heap of lies. The cemetery entry book concealed the bare truth. The dead man was listed as a resident of the area. This distortion of facts and reality was chilling and horrifying.

Ignoring the very fact that death has no logical sequence or serial number, I instantly thought of my dear ones. I was forced to reflect on the causes of this bleak-house situation: Lack of planning for the ever increasing population; or lack of vision and far-sightedness: Or, mismanagement of resources? Or over-commercialization or over-urbanization; the contribution comes from all sides –left-right-center.

Over the years, population has outpaced the scarce resources and the infertile infrastructure. No concerted efforts have ever been made to develop the physical networking. Had focus been on building up of resources and opportunities in rural areas, things could never have been this worse. This was not to be so. Resultantly, education, health, housing, energy, employment, transport, water/sanitation and an army of other essentials stand insufficient and collapsed. An incompetent and inefficient system, lack of planning and implementation of policies has given birth to mass migration to urban areas. The bad distribution and allocation of funds sans priority has encouraged mass exodus from rural areas into bigger towns and cities. Weak as has been the foundation, the system has crumbled and crumbled with an agonizing sound.

The ‘pure land’ has become a ‘waste-land’ where people have become xenophobic and refuse to own one from their own community.

Where pauper, public or non-purchased graves are hard to be found! Under such circumstances, nationalism, patriotism, unity, faith and discipline become meaningless and superfluous. Citizens of such systems are prone to temptations. Crime and corruption reign.

Gratifications, extortions, kickbacks and commissions rise.

Land mafias and grabbers grab thousands of acres of government land. But land for cemeteries is eroding, squeezing and drying up. The day is not far ,when citizens will search for land, as Kevin Costner does in ‘Water World’.