The care of burial grounds is not everyone’s cup of cardamom tea. There are, after all, those stories about resident wraiths in midnight gloom. About skullduggery, bad juju and unrelieved, tortured lives. About white-knuckle secrets taken in silence to the bitter end. This is ground awash with tears, sewn with regrets enough to make even passersby avert their gaze, cast their eyes heavenward, cross themselves, or whisper a Paternoster.
Such skittishness inhabited a Catholic secondary school neighbor to us in the high country of the Congo hinterland. A teacher at the school had succumbed to an infection though known to be a hearty, animated soul. Far from home as he was, his colleagues consigned him to a final resting place in a campus grove of eucalyptus. But some part of his life refused to rest there, though buried with ritual aplomb. His erstwhile colleagues, the resident scholars, and the surrounding village observed his shade emerging nightly, they said, mounting his beloved Kawasaki motorcycle and wandering the wee hours as though to complete some ‘safari’, some unfinished journey. It may be that the nightrider had never reckoned with the liberating wisdom that any worthy and humane objective takes generations to achieve.
However that may be, the community elders begged the school authorities to take measures to restore peace to a sleepless and distracted village. Unversed though they were in disciplining spirit-wandering, the administration finally agreed upon a humble, but blunt remedy. They draped a heavy chain around the perimeter of the grave as a hint to its restless inhabitant that safari days had ended. That henceforth the Kawasaki was to remain decidedly garaged. The hardware turned the trick. Peaceful nights crept back into the highland village and school. But a careful observer might have noted that those who went to and fro past the encircled grave did so on tip-toe and with pious circumspection. And the chain itself gave evidence of attentive care: it sported a coat of fresh, black paint.
That cup of cardamom tea might have provided a finishing touch.
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