By Devraj Singh Kalsi
It is useless to make an effort to remind a dead person that there is actually no travelling class on the last journey. One who has always maintained class, travelled first class, and classified himself as an ultra-rich person should not lie next to a beggar waiting for his turn to be cremated. Driven by the noble thought to enable his departure from a premium crematorium, I have started preparing a feasibility report before approaching a venture capitalist to fund what looks at the moment like an ambitious adventure of sorts.
It is such a pitiable sight to witness a rich family jostle in the crowd of mourners from poor families. Those working-class people who may not have broken class barriers in life but in death they seem to have triumphed in establishing the non-discriminatory approach by juxtaposing the rich dead with the poor dead. When the sizeable, privileged class has the resources to afford something ostentatious, a visionary entrepreneur like me should grab the opportunity to create a viable business model that converts funerals into a lavish and luxurious affair.
Just like resorts built in the outskirts of the city, a vast open space would need to be identified and grabbed cheap from farmers to construct an upscale crematorium. There would be a parking lot for buses on hire arriving with mourners, hearse vans, and personal cars. Gun-toting security guards manning the parking zone, with hourly parking rates would be applicable. Once the family of mourners approaches the entrance, they will have three types of schemes – Gold, Diamond and Silver. Depending on their budget and choice, they can pick what suits them best. There will be a discount offer during the festive season. You would be able to consider yourself fortunate if someone in the family expires during the festival time around Diwali or Dussehra. Besides, there would be an EMI (Enterprise Management Incentive) scheme included to bring in the aspirational upper middle class keen to emulate the rich. Yes, the salaried folks should also get to enjoy the enriching experience. When they travel the world using credit cards, they should get the exclusive facility during the last journey.
At the moment, I am thinking of hiring the advertising agency I work with – to look after the branding exercise and build a nice teaser campaign. I have some ideas to share but I know they will get killed for being too creative. So, I would prefer to let the creative head take charge and make this campaign go viral.
Once the family has booked the option of lighting a pyre or the electric option, they get a card to flash at the entrance. They are led in by a team of young girls and boys in flowing white dress. There are provisions for four funerals at the same time inside this facility. The dead body is taken in by the authorised staff and the family has nothing to do in this regard – notice the element of comfort and convenience packed in. They are led into a room with LED lights, with soft devotional music in the background. As they would have already specified the religion at the time of booking, they would find devotional music related to their religion. For example, a Sikh would get get Shabad Kirtan related to death. Some sombre instrumental music will play in the background.
The Diamond scheme would be pegged at three lakh rupees, the Gold scheme would be worth two lakh rupees, and the Silver scheme would be up for grabs for just one lakh rupees. The facilities will vary depending on the selected scheme. There will be a theatre that shows how the soul travels after death. There will be some celebrity Gurus offering live discourses and a case-specific analysis of the soul reaching God. The audio-visual experience from the voice of a priest will be calming and comforting for the bereaved family at the hour of grief. There will be a dining room for lunch and dinner facility and the menu truly five-star but purely vegetarian. Leading chefs will prepare favourite dishes and the families with trains of mourners can avail of the meal served in silver utensils.
Once the cremation starts, the address system will inform the family to get inside and witness the cremation process beamed live. There is a provision to hire Rudaalis (professional mourners) if the family so desires. There will be arrangements to serve tea, coffee, cold drinks and other refreshments like burgers, pastries while they wait and watch the cremation. There will be steam and sauna rooms, massage sections and salons to get back in shape refreshed after several hours inside. There will be counselling sessions for the nearest of the dead, to manage their grief. Such healing sessions are important so that they can carry on living without feeling sad all the time. The Grief Minimization Therapy should make them go back and feel lively and energetic within hours. Trained international experts with specialisation in death-related sorrow will be hired to administer this line of treatment.
Once the cremation is complete, the family will be taken to the ‘Immersion’ section where they will be handed over the urn with ashes. There will be a lake behind. The family will have the option of immersing it there or taking a chopper ride to hover over the nearest river to sprinkle the ashes and flower petals from above. After the ritual is over, the family will return to the crematorium to join the rest of the mourners. There will be some gift bags for all containing prayer books, CDS on spirituality, a personalised CD on the entire burning process, handkerchiefs, photo-frames, prayer mats, incense sticks, and other religion-related paraphernalia apart from the photographs of the dead body and the mourners. More details will have to be fleshed out to make it attractive.
The personalised experience for the grief-stricken family is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) here and adding luxurious dignity to the dead makes it more desirable. The class he belonged to is the class he will travel in when he leaves the world. This should generate the big idea for the success of this innovative venture. To leverage its strength, we can begin a chain of luxury crematoriums in the metro cities first and then proceed to Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities depending on the response generated. Presently, we need to think of a suitable name – not Yatra (journey), Safar (trip), Manzil (tier) types – for this start-up and make a shortlist of potential investors to approach for its funding. Given the huge number of cremations every year, within three years it should recover the investment and bring in tons of profit.
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.
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