It is almost eleven months since my beloved mother’s demise. Unlike that cliche accompanying many condolence messages, time has not been a healer, let alone being the best healer. Not a day passes without thinking about her. Having been a kindergarten teacher at Don Bosco, Egmore, for three decades, she had her way with children. And just like them, she too had a sweet tooth and was musically inclined. When I am at a movie with kids playing a role, or at a music concert, or having dessert, the inevitable words are “oh my mom would have loved this.” For anyone reasonably attached to their parents, these emotions are expected. The pain will always be there. The memories will remain fresh, no matter how many months or years go by. Or how many morons tell you otherwise.
But there are certain aspects connected with death that a grieving family can be spared of. If only there was a little empathy left in this world. Last fortnight, an email addressed to my late mother, from our regular Lab popped up in my inbox. It read “Dear Mrs.Judith Pinto, we hope you are in good health and cheer.” Wow! I’m sure my mother is in a better place – heaven and is in good cheer there. The rest was a reminder to do the routine blood tests that were “due.” On earth, in case you forgot. It was obviously a system generated email. But when senior officials of the lab were well aware of my mother’s passing, all it would have taken was a simple command to delete her name from their database. Do they even pause to imagine how family members reading such communication would feel? These are far more important priorities than public relations exercises like auto generated Christmas and Deepavali wishes.
It didn’t end there. Last month, I received a Renewal Notice from the medical insurance company. (Although I’m a lawyer, the use of the word ‘notice’ seems inappropriate to a customer. Advice or Reminder is a more polite term) The ‘notice’ demanded payment of premium for the forthcoming period. Guess what, it listed my mother’s name at the top. Now this is the same insurance company that had processed the claim 11 months ago and had made a payout based on the Death Summary. This is the same insurance company that never seems to miss our birthdays, year after year! But death is not entered in their records. The agent (who functions like a postman with the difference that this one collects a commission) was informed but there was no action. A call was made to the helpline and the ridiculous solution offered was ‘send an application with the death certificate’ for us to remove the name. An email was sent to the company, but there was not even an acknowledgement. Only after a reminder and a clear message that the matter would be escalated, a template acknowledgement surfaced. Not a word of apology or even regret. Only a repetition of the need for an application for the system to accept a deletion request. When I last checked, human beings controlled computers. Apparently, even after a person dies, the need for applications does not stop. The only reasonable exception can be one for a Legal Heir Certificate. But there too, you need influence!
There are clearly companies that do not believe in letting the dead Rest In Peace. Or their families to grieve in peace.
How insensitive, inefficient, lethargic and downright silly can people be?
The social media is no different. When cookies determine our newsfeed, through every little activity – likes, comments and views, there are hundreds of condolence messages that pour in on the page of a deceased user. Why can’t cookies pick this up and trigger deactivation by default? Or remove a dead user from the birthday pop up list? Or at least give a relative the option of taking an account down or disallowing posts on the timeline and blocking messages? This is to obviate the embarrassment of others who may not be aware of the demise, wishing dead folks on their birthdays.
Resurrection and reincarnation may be religious beliefs. But let the dead rest in peace in official records. Please. Hold on a second, why hasn’t some bright soul thought of de-linking Aadhaar for the dead?
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)