Thursday, August 31, 2006

'How do you want to go out?'

In an admirable move, the Kannada movie icon Raj Kumar had pledged to donate his eyes on his death. When he died a few months ago, his family honoured his pledge. Narayana Nethralaya's chief, Dr. Bhujang Shetty, and his team did the eye-harvesting. [Full disclosure: Padma, my wife, is a consultant at NN.] Among cine stars, I know Kamal Haasan insists that the members of his Fan Club must pledge to donate their eyes.

Well, this is the limit of my imagination about what people might want to do with their 'bodies' after their death: donate their bodies to be used for some medical purpose or the other. To my great surprise, I found the following in Janet Stemwedel's review of Lisa Takeuchi Cullen's book Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death:

... [It] is a book whose author shares her surprise at some of the non-standard ways for dealing with human remains. Want to be mummified? Get in touch with Corky Ra to prepay (and get your $60K ready). If you feel a connection to the sea, you can get your ashes scattered over it (helping a pilot make ends meet in a post-9/11 world), or, you can have your ashes mixed with cement and cast into a "reef ball", then placed in the sea as part of a reef-building program. Want to help protect open space? Arrange to be buried in a "green cemetary" frequented by hikers and protected by developers. (Also, if you want to be good fertilizer for the native plants, opt for whole-body burial -- hold the embalming -- rather than cremation.) A bit of an exhibitionist? Perhaps you'd like to sign up for post-mortem plastination so you can tour with a "Body Worlds" exhibit.

Or maybe you'd like your ashes to be pressed into diamonds. [...]

Fascinating stuff!