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 Post subject: Hire the cryer
 Post Posted: Sat Jun 23, 2007 3:51 am 
Hire the cryer

The tradition of hiring crying women at funerals they say goes back to a time when some families didn’t have any mourners. For them, a good crying woman made up the numbers, and also made up for the lack of tears at a death in the family. But, as the crying women became better, entire castes in entire villages took up the job.

Saturday, June 23, 2007
LBE


Certain parts of Negombo are known for a different kind of performer at funerals: the ladies who cry for the buckshee.

Women were formerly supposed to express their grief by crying at funerals. Some criers could be hired in some places. They were called crying women, who cried according to the order and paid in remuneration. They cried at the coffin, in the procession, and at the grave. The manner of crying as well as the words they were supposed to say while crying were more or less set patterns.

The tradition of hiring crying women at funerals they say goes back to a time when some families didn’t have any mourners. For them, a good crying woman made up the numbers, and also made up for the lack of tears at a death in the family. But, as the crying women became better, entire castes in entire villages took up the job.

Emalin has cried at hundreds of funerals where she says she had no idea what kind of person the corpse had been in life: big, strong, fat, ugly or obnoxious. But above all she says, she is a professional. She gets paid for a good cry, and it not easy. She has to get into the mood. That’ why she charges by the hour.

“It must be a tough job to keep on crying,’’ I say, but her answer is that most families want the crying to be turned up at certain specific times. For example, a good breast beating cry may be necessary when an important man such as a Minister of a Mayor drops in at the funeral house. At such times, the chief mourner usually signals to her colleagues to ratchet up the wailing, and they start tearing up - - then wail shriek and howl to a crescendo. The visitor is usually so unhinged by too much of this reality, that he ends up offering some charity. “I will erect a marble statue of your father close to the Town Hall,’’ the Mayor might say. As a Mayor he might not know it. But sometimes, it does pay to turn the tap on.


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