Way back in 2003, when I insisted my granny accompany me to Britain to witness how I ran my household, she kept saying, "na baba, ab aakhri samay apni mitti na chodungi." I could not figure out why she felt so.
Living overseas for years together and being a witness to reasonable births and deaths around, now I understand the pros and cons of dying abroad.
India is a place of unity which can be seen at its peak on occasions like death and agony. People come together despite mutual differences and hatred to extend condolences. Being a nation based on emotions and family bonds, I guess this mass support is what helps to cope up with bereavement.
The humongous loss of losing an iconic actress Sridevi has left the entire nation in tears. Fans, family, and friends are waiting eagerly for her dead body to arrive so that they can pay their last respects. But things aren't that simple as I mentioned earlier. Repatriating the dead is not a simple thing.
Let us take a look at what makes the process so tedious.
As per Dubai laws, there would be a detailed forensic investigation carried in a government hospital to ensure the cause of death. Once nothing suspicious is found, the reports would be handed over to the family. Following this embalming of the body will take place. This is a must to avoid contamination.
Later, a death certificate would be issued by the local police authorities. Lastly, formalities as per immigration rules would be followed. Once, this checklist is done, the deceased body is handed over to the family.
And our very own Hawa Hawai Girl's body also went through all these procedures.
Sridevi was a popular figure rich by all means - money, contacts, and workforce. But this is not true for every person who dies on foreign land and intends to get back home for the final rituals. The delay in time, cost and paperwork make the event even worse.
While the usual procedure is more or less same as stated in #1, a rule of thumb is that death by a natural cause, say, heart attack or cancer, will not require local police involvement, whereas an unnatural cause – ranging from a traffic accident to murder – will. In short, any suspicious death automatically goes to the police.
This is again an add-on to the complexity.
Basically, it is the law that prohibits the leeway. Each country has a different set of rules, and it usually takes five to seven days to repatriate a body from abroad – in the case of murder it is 10 to 15 days but could take anything up to three months.
Transportation of mortal remains is in a coffin across national borders. The lead had been a frequent choice of coffin lining. Because lead is not conducive to x-ray, anti-terrorist legislation across much of the English-speaking world and the EU prohibits its use.
"If you are breathing you have freedom of movement; when you cease to breathe you lose that right," says Michael Cashman, member of the European Parliament. Speaking about countries like France, if the deceased is a German and lives a mere 10 km away, prior to being transported from France to his German home a mere 10km away – in addition to necessary documentation – he'll have to be embalmed and placed in a zinc-lined coffin before he can be dispatched.
Embalming as we know is a process of preserving the corpse by chemicals to avoid contamination. There have been cases where the body is not in a state to be seen when it returns to its homeland due to improper embalming.
Smuggling and trafficking are a direct blow to humanitarian values. Yes, you read it right. Today, a corpse can also be used as a container to harvest ill intentions.
Sad, but true!
I know its disheartening to prefer cremation due to the associated risks attached to deadly diseases. When a person dies of deadly diseases, there is a risk of keeping the body after a stipulated time frame. In such cases, if the procedure takes time, mortal remains might be preferred to send in the form of ashes and not body.
There are various methods for returning the ashes, which include air freight, courier service or even as hand luggage on the aircraft with an accompanying person as long as all the documentation is in order.
So all in all, it is not simple to be repatriated back after death. If you have good friends and relatives by your side, they shall ensure that you are not relegated to a pauper's grave in a foreign land.
Moreover, the sending back of mortal remains to the homeland is costly and fraught with complexity due to associated legal issues. It takes a while to fetch all the necessary documents. Ensure that are updated so as to avoid hassles at the customs checking.
The details of the above article are based on personal experiences and related online sources.
(The images used are for illustration purpose only)
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