Soon after I came to know of Sridevi’s passing away (through a friend’s notification on WhatsApp) and after I confirmed it (on Google), I turned on the TV (ah, the evolution of broadcast media) to know more. On the first decent (= non-sensational) channel I hit, I heard the presenter announce, “Sridevi’s mortal remains are still in Dubai and will reach India later tonight.” In one day, she had gone from yesterday’s superstar to today’s mortal remains.
I don’t know if “mortal remains” is better or worse than the other common term for the physical being of a recently deceased person: “dead body”. ‘Mortal remains’ makes it sound like physics at best (you know, right there with dark matter and black hole) and, at worst, just a bit below ‘waste matter’. It also seems to be a TV and media term, probably for euphemistic reasons. Common people prefer ‘dead body’, which is clinical in its own way.
I guess in both the attempt is to seek some distance from the pain of parting. If you see the recently deceased as an object rather than an ex-person, somehow, the pain might seem less, especially as you will shortly be consigning them (back) to the elements, whether quickly (through cremation), gradually (burial), or seemingly grotesquely (through vultures eating the flesh, as happens in one community).
I haven’t lost anyone close so far, but somehow can’t see myself calling the physical being they leave behind as ‘dead body’ or ‘mortal remains’. Given to humanist me, I would prefer something like… ‘dead persona’. With ‘persona’, until you have burnt or buried the deceased, you feel a little bit of the person, their personality, or even aura is still there for you to connect or commune with one last time. Which is perhaps why they leave the face exposed on a bier in one community or have an open casket in another community.
I felt so about Sridevi’s dead body / mortal remains / dead persona. I thought some of her original charm, unhindered by make-up, still emanated from her still face. So too with Guru Dutt’s, whose last-stage pic, sigh, I finally ended up coming across on a tribute FB page.
Also, if we can be euphemistic about the person’s passing by saying… passing, can’t we call their earthly form the more humanistic ‘persona’?
So, I shall go with ‘dead persona’. I just hope though there is still some time for me to use it on a personal level.