Baijnath grins broadly when you ask him if he’s still alive. You must be saving a lot on food bills? The grin nearly stretches from ear to ear. Even in legal death, he cannot fail to see the humour in his situation. In Azamgarh, paying respects to the dead will elicit a pleasant thank you in response—from the dead. No, not from the beyond. And no, Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks, hasn’t relocated from Africa. Nor is it a script for a B-grade flick. But of course, legal death means you’re in for a life of horror.
Wait…legal death? Yes. On paper, it’s a kind of limbo—a trishanku state between those still breathing and those who have attained nirvana. De facto, you’re alive—so, sorry, no, not much savings on the overheads. But de jure, you’re dead meat. And the sheer effort it takes to get yourself declared alive is anything but funny. Not to speak of the implications of failing.