Don’t Our Dear Departed Deserve Clean, Serene Cemetery?

November 28, 2020

There is a saying in Tulu wherein an old Muslim Mulla is quoted as saying: “Joklen Kaintinalpa Yenen Kaunpade”. (Don’t bury me where children are buried). The underlying message could be: “Leave me in peace from the boisterous children.” This could be an apocryphal story and could have come from any priest of any religion devoting their lives, as in the case of Catholic priests, for their flock, come rain or shine or day or night. So, their wish to be buried in exclusive cemeteries - as in the one inaugurated in Udupi on November 2, 2020 and comprehensively reported in Daijiworld with generous visuals. On to Daijiworld:

“Udupi diocesan priests' cemetery was inaugurated at Mount Rosary Church, Santhekatte on All Souls Day.

Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo, bishop of the diocese...blessed the newly-built cemetery dedicated to the burial of the priests of Udupi diocese.”

Retiring priests of Mangalore diocese, which once included the present Udupi diocese, had a row of rooms at the west-end of Fr Muller Hospital (near the main dwara) at Kankanady (Vienny Home) apparently selected to be near to medical service in situ or by hospital admit. Now that transport (ambulance) is easy, the diocese build an exclusive building on the campus of St. Antony Ashram and more recently even more exclusive campus nearby designed for retired priests – where retired Bishop D’Souza also resides.

If the clergy is giving the lead, can laity be far behind? That takes me to the proper upkeep of cemeteries in parishes all over.

Step softly, a dream lies buried here”. – Edmund Yates, English novelist (1831-1894)

On November 2, Catholics mark All Souls Day by visiting the cemetery, cleaning the graves of the beloved departed, adorning them with flowers and lighting candles on the gravestones.

Cemeteries or burial grounds are where we consign the bodies of our dear departed with purple prose inscribed on the tombstones. Such inscriptions are called epitaphs and the simplest such is said to be on the grave of Alexander the Great: “A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.” We don’t know the dimensions of his tomb. But in modern times, in graveyards and cemeteries, tombs or graves are +- 6’ X 3’ standard.

Coming closer, for instance, to contemporary Mangaluru, Christians mainly take the burial route for their dear departed. Post-burial, a grand monument is raised over the grave. Unlike in the olden days when there was no limit on the dimensions of the monument, like heritage tombstones in Milagres cemetery, now there are outer limits on the dimensions. One can only compete in the quality of marble, lettering of inscriptions and photos of the interred. To that extent there is some equality of treatment among parishioners.

Graveyard or cemetery is one aspect of remembering the dear departed. There is elaborate celebration in their honour, like at the first Anniversary. It is also possible that in the case of recent bereavements, there may be a visit to the grave on the birthday or death anniversary of the departed. Then there is a common rush to the cemetery on All Souls Day (November 2) with flowers and candles. For this last occasion, the parish organises the general housekeeping of the cemetery. Otherwise, for better part of the year, the dear departed, represented by their graves, are out of sight and out of mind.

This results in highly neglected state of these monuments on which impressive sums are expended initially. Most cemeteries are marked by growing trees which shed their leaves on a sustained basis. They also host birds whose droppings mess up the monuments. And there is air-borne dust which settles in thick and sticky layers on the monuments.

On a recent visit to my wife Lynette’s monument in Bondel parish cemetery, I spied a lady, with a helper, with a bucket of water, cleaning solution, brush and mop. Fortunately, the pair did not have to bring water from outside because there are functioning taps provided by the parish within the cemetery compound. On asking, the young lady doing the clean-up, I learnt that she had come from Mumbai to visit the monument of her recently expired brother. Coming all the way from Mumbai to pay her respect to her brother, she had to start with cleaning layers of dust and bird dropping. It is no better for the local parishioners.

Is there a better way of tackling this than individual mourners having to keep the gravestones of their beloved departed in sustained shipshape condition?

Parishes charge a certain amounts for burial in an exclusive grave. Then, if you want to build a monument, you have to pay another amount.

It can be legitimately asked as to what happens to these amounts and why can’t part of these funds, or interest thereon, be used for sustained maintenance/housekeeping – say once a week – throughout the year without waiting for All Souls Day?

On the other hand, without going into parish accounts or getting into argument with parish councils and such other bodies, those having love and concern for their dear departed can float a Cemetery Maintenance Corpus Fund and organise sustained (weekly?) maintenance of the cemetery with the blessings of the parish priest/Council.

I am presenting a simple proposition. If there are 100 monuments built in a small parish cemetery, like Bondel, and each monument sponsor contributes Rs 10,000 on one-time basis, the total would be Rs 10 lakhs. At current fixed deposit interest rates it yields annual interest of Rs. 65, 000+. Of this, a person can be contracted for weekly cleaning of the cemetery for about Rs 4/ 5,000 a month (for about 4 hours of work at a stretch), leaving some Rs 5,000 annually for cleaning materials, brooms and mops. The sum available to the cleaning contractor (person) works out to Rs 800/1000 per working day on the basis of once a week and five weeks per month. The operation and sums involved can be scaled up depending on the number of monument patrons involved in a given parish.

The good news is that Bondel Cemetery has 260 monuments and if all pay on one-time basis the corpus fund would be Rs 26 lakhs yielding correspondingly enhanced annual interest income of about Rs 1.5 lakhs. Even if someone cannot/does not pay for any reason, there is a good cushion to move forward. Please appreciate that this is a voluntary move and one can skip/opt out of the initial one-time payment without having to give any reason. What is projected for Bondel, as an example, holds good for any parish, smaller or larger. It is a matter of scaling up and down. Incidentally, Bondel Cemetery has seen excellent infrastructure development in 2020.

Who will bell the cat? A small committee (of three), with the parish priest in the picture, seems a good start. (In Bondel’s case I would be happy to be involved in that committee). It could receive suggestions and complaints and act on them. It is a great opportunity for people to perpetually honour their dear departed by keeping their graves spic and span – with one-time investment of only Rs. 10,000. Who and how to bell the cat is an open question. (Perhaps, the diocesan Bishops can lead the way!

Going back to the start of this Topic-essay, should we have exclusive burial grounds for priests who toil for their flock day and night? Should they go by the Muslim Mulla’s apocryphal wish not to be buried with the children (parishioners)?

What is said about Christian cemeteries also applies to Hindu smashans and Muslim khabristans.

May our dear departed lie in peace in a clean, pleasant environment.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response, within 2000 words, is welcome in the format given below. Pl scroll down.


A Writer’s Rebuff

Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004) was one of the two prominent Indian writers in English dating back to pre-Independence days – the other being R K Narayan. Anand had been educated at Cambridge (1929). His literary works attempted to capture the social realities of British India in the language of the colonial masters. His books include Untouchables and Coolie.

Now enters John Monteiro who, while working in Bombay, had a 3-acre farm at Kamshet, two stations ahead of Lonavala – a crowded hill station. My late wife, Lynette, and I would go to the farm at week-ends every fortnight. Bored of sitting in the deserted farmhouse, we used drive to Lonavala-Khandala for time-pass. Before long journalist John found out that Anand was resident on a large property abutting Bombay- Poona highway and hesitantly approached his kuteer only to be warmly welcomed by the writer. We visited him a few times more.

Then a friend, visiting our farm-house, urged us to take him to meet Anand. Welcome over, our friend gushed about Anand’s books who responded by asking which books the visitor was talking about. Our friend was tongue-tied.

After a while, Anand said: “If you don’t know the title of the book, there is no point in talking”. End of visit. The moral of the story is: If you don’t know, keep your trap shut.

We continued to visit Anand as reflected in the photo alongside dated March 1999 where my son-in-law, Kevin D’Sousa, is seen sitting on Anand’s bed in his kuteer.


Also read:




By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Thu, Dec 03 2020

    Dear Rudolf Sir:
    Thank you for your insightful response.
    Your prediction about the likely decline and extinction of burial, graves and cemereries is realistic. But, as long as cemeteries and graves are there proper upkeep is in order.
    Electric cremation is a good exit route and is catching up or need to catch up.
    Even unhealthy bodies should be good for medical studies and organ/body donation is gaining ground.
    Soudi royal family’s example is worthy of following.
    Capsula Mundi is an excellent idea.
    Dear Sir: You have very interesting and practical points. If you had reacted earlier when the topic was on the front page, you would have had better readership and possibly reaction as people would be not inclined to dig into the website archives. I guess you would have been preoccupied otherwise.

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Wed, Dec 02 2020

    Dear J B Sir,
    A noble suggestion on upkeep of graves on which I put my views which are contrarion though!

    I am of the view that cemeteries will be a thing of the past as the population increases and land becomes very scarce, which is already the case in metros like Mumbai where already the church is debating with the idea of cremation, and I personally think the day is not far off when it will become a reality! I feel electric cremation is the best & cheapest way to dispose off a body! Here there will be no discrimination between the rich and poor & no expenses on building a tomb & spend money for it's upkeep, which many middle class people cannot afford! Of course we are very resistant to change!

    Sir, in my opinion once the soul leaves the body what is the significance of decaying flesh that it should rrcieve so much in rituals & a marked tomb! I would prefer to give the body for organ donation (if healthy) or for research in medical colleges as it will serve a noble purpose in training of medical students as there is a perinial shortage of cadavers!

    In this context I would give the example of how the richest royal family of Saud conduct the last rites of even their kings who are buried in unmarked graves in a a very simple manner befitting a very poor person!

    There is a very novel way of disposing the dead which appears very interesting wherein the body is placed in a biodegradable capsule, buried & a tree planted over it, which thrives on the nutrients from the body; it's called Capsula Mundi, an Italian idea! After all ultimately the body turns into soil! Even mother nature would be happy with this as we are increasing the green cover by utilizing a thing which is just soil!

    BTW, we humans don't value people when they are alive but conduct funerals in a grand way & spending lots of money; what's the use doing all this after the person is dead and gone! Value & celebrate a person when he's alive is my contention!
    Your early reply will be highly appreciated!

  • John, Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 02 2020

    In line with graves, tombs, external and internal cleanliness...

    Is God's mercy to everyone coming in the form of mini judgement, warning or illumination of conscience or current status of one's soul of all the living?

    That's what one of the following commented Divine message of All Souls Day or November 2 2020 advises and guides us.

    It could be as early as coming December 21, 2020.

    As there will be signs in the heavens or Star of Bethlehem again on that day after 2000 years! Significantly closest Jupiter and Saturn conjunction since 1623! with 0.1 degree separation. And could there be some sort of collison or their moons clash each other to a sky explosion or quake ? Also in Book of Revelation 6:12-17 a solar event mentioned related to it? or it could be Comet Erasmus plunging into the Sun ?

    (Erasmus - Erasing one's sins?)

    So a clean soul will be a great gift to God on coming Christmas. Instead of God illuminating one's sins, giving one's a great lifetime shock or heartbreaks, catholics, it would better if confess past sins to an ordained Priest and live free with peace, love and joy.

    All others, who by free will choice, or ONLY IF, want to clean their souls of their sinful past, if any, hurts and guilts, there are beautiful prayers Crusade prayers No 8 and for 9 Days Crusade Prayer No 24 available online or at following link or follow their way of repentance.

    Signs in the Heavens - Christmas Comet Erasmus (Dec 14) and Star of Bethlehem (Dec 21) after 2000 years, back again... following video,


    Prayer Ref :

    Jupiter Saturn conjunction Ref:

    Comet Erasmus ref:

  • John, Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 30 2020

    As we are discussing about catholic cemetery and tombs
    What Bible teaches about whitewashed - beautiful tombs is more important...

    Matthew 23:27-28: Bible verses imply confess one's sins and clean one's hearts before one's death otherwise outside they are like whitewashed tombs but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything is unclean. Verse 28 implies one should not be like on the outside look righteous to others inside with full of hypocrisy and evildoing, while living.

    And everyone will get only one chance in life. Once departed one's soul is at the mercy of their loved ones and others for prayers for their souls to gain eternal salvation if one had fallen short of it. That's what following commented Divine messages highlight and encourage.

    Luke 5:32 Bible verse says that Jesus came to this world to call sinners to repentance or save sinners and not righteous. Verse doesn't mention about cast, creed or religion.

    But as in Luke 2:7 no place for Jesus in this materialistic world is the question? like X Mas? No Christ? and everyone is answerable at their judgment? As in,

    Matthew 12:36 Bible says "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment."

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 30 2020

    Just an interim interaction with my valued responders.
    Rohan, Mangalor e : Kudos to Bijai parish for evoking praise from a discerning person for good maintenance. No wonder that the mortal remains of George Fernandes are hosted by this cemetery . Each person keeping the tombs of their dear ones is a positive idea – but may not be practical. For instance, there may not be close relatives of George in Mangalore. In some cases whole khandans might have migrated to the promised lands.
    Prescilla Madam: Congratulations for growing up to the point of visiting cemeteries alone. Incidentally, Milagres cemetery is fairly well-maintained.
    Mohan Prabhu, Mangalore/ Ottawa: Thanks for your endorsement of trust funds. But, in these days of rising inflation and falling interest rates this route seems difficult to negotiate over the years. Your idea about cremation is slowly catching up (It is no more a mortal sin!).
    It seems John Mangalore is using this forum to promote his personal passion. It is a different version of devil quoting the Bible –idle minds quoting the scriptures. This is a secular platform. Pl. help it us to keep its integrity- Thank you.

  • John, Mangalore

    Sun, Nov 29 2020

    Prayers for departed Clergy very much needed and pleasing to our Lord, as per following recent message.


    Message to Valentina

    St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta

    During the Holy Mass, before the Consecration, I had a vision of a large group of Bishops and Priests. They appeared right in front of me.

    They said, “Valentina, we are priests and bishops. Don’t forget to pray for us and offer us to our Lord.”

    They were coming to me very vividly because now is the month of November.

    They said, “We did wrong while serving our Lord, and now we have to spend a lot of time in Purgatory to be purified. Ask our Lord to be merciful to us and to forgive us for our wrongdoing while we were alive.”

    They were happy that our Lord permitted them to come to me so that I could offer them to our Lord.


  • Mohan Prabhu,, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Sun, Nov 29 2020

    What a marvelous idea! I am sure this will appeal to the dear ones left behind by the dear departed who would have left enough funds for a simple or a grand funeral – hopefully, in the latter situation a trust fund to look after the burial ground (note: a trust fund cannot be in perpetuity). Only the super rich can afford it. Common people have to settle either for simple 6 x 3 with annual visits (if they are still in town and have not “bolted” to distant lands), a plaque on a community wall in the cemetery (in most cities in Canada), or just cremation which is becoming ever so common – in fact, forced because of the global pandemic. In the last case they are not only out of sight but also out of memory!

    When cemeteries in India are over full (as in Mumbai), the graves are dug up and whatever is left after years of burial is put in a niche on a wall in the cemetery – I visited my dear departed parents who died fifty years ago in Mahim, and that was the fate of their graves – and for upkeep you have to pay a small sum “in perpetuity.” Nonetheless, even after 50 years I often remember my prayers and departed siblings and shed a little tear. But I belong to the very old generation.

    Given this situation in most cities in India and around the world, cremation is resorted to, and all that the loved ones left behind will have are the ashes given in an urn which some keep in their homes, others place in a cemetery wall, or simply abandon.
    What matters is not ostentatious burial with a massive structure on top, but simple prayers in remembrance on death anniversaries after the initial mourning period is over.

    NO ONE can hasten or influence God’s Interim or Final Judgement; prayers should be genuine and sincere, not pattered (in Konkani it is called “mijar magnheñ); only the immediate loved ones left behind are capable of such genuine prayer.

  • Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore

    Sat, Nov 28 2020

    Monteiro Sir, when I was small, I was afraid to go to a cemetery alone that too in the afternoon though my grandfather was burried in 1973. Over the years i got married and after my father-in-law was burried in Milagres Cemetery I had the company of my mother-in-law while visiting the cemetery very often. Gradually I became bold enough to go to the cemetery alone. Now I am a senior citizen. So when I visit the cemetery of my Parish, a thought comes to my mind "where will I be buried ? this corner or that ?" Whenever I go for some funerals, I tell all of the burried ones that one day I will also join them.
    If the cemetery is kept clean, people will not be afraid to visit the tombs of their dear ones. Your suggestion is a good one and timely.

  • John, Mangalore

    Sat, Nov 28 2020

    Jesus on why need to pray for the souls of your grandparents in a message to John Leary dated October 7, 2020

    Jesus said: “My son, today you had a lesson in the need to pray for the souls of your grandparents who are still in purgatory, because no one is praying for them. You are familiar with their drinking habits, so it is good that they were spared from hell. This is another sign that people need to pray for all of their family, even in past generations. Once people leave this earth, they are quickly forgotten, but their souls may still need Masses and prayers to get out of purgatory. Let this experience be a lesson for you to always pray for your family members, and even the ones that no one is praying for.”


  • John, Mangalore

    Sat, Nov 28 2020

    Good initiative! Also,

    Jesus on beyond graves and forthcoming mini judgement to a message to John Leary.

    Monday, November 2, 2020
    (All Souls Day)

    Jesus said: “My people, those souls, who pass into purgatory, have passed the first test of not going to hell. No matter how long it will take, the souls in purgatory will one day be with Me in heaven. There are various levels in purgatory. In the lowest level, the souls are being purged of their sins in the flames like hell. These souls have to remain in the flames for a set time. Once these souls are allowed to rise out of the flames, only then can your prayers and Masses help them rise higher. Some souls, who led better lives, never have to enter the lower parts of purgatory. Very few souls suffer their purgatory on earth from various chronic diseases and cancer, and they are allowed to come to heaven. Those souls, who live through the tribulation, will suffer their purgatory on earth. Most souls, who do not go to hell, need to be purged of their earthly desires and bad habits. I will give sinners one last chance to be saved from hell, by My Warning that will give you a preview of your spiritual destination at your mini-judgment. If you fail to improve your life when you return to your body, then you will suffer the original destination of your mini-judgment. You will see your life review, and My judgment of your lives will be fair with no excuses allowed. Pray for the souls in purgatory with your prayers and Masses, and especially pray for the souls whom no one is praying for. Pray also for your older generations of your family that people have stopped praying for them.”


  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Sat, Nov 28 2020

    Hi Mr. Monteiro,
    Off late I have been hearing my dad praising the upkeep of the bejai cemetery. He says that even at other times it is well maintained. It was the best on all souls day and even after that he remarks.
    As a child when my grandmother would take me to mass to bejai she would always says inside the church showing the tombstones this is your great grandfather, great great grandfather and great grandmother and others related. To my surprise I came to know that my great great grandmother is buried below the altar.
    I feel the cemetery and tombstones are of sentimental value to most of the people specially when it is someone very close to them who is gone to a better place. Yeah I do agree with you the grandiose tombstones which make a spectacle to watch specially on all souls day with the candles lit. It's a tradition passed on from generation and we all grew up visiting cemetery on special days of the deceased as well.
    I feel each person keeping the tomb of their net ones clean is a better way and also keeps the younger lot connected to the traditions as they are passed down generations.

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