15.5.07

resting place

shelf life
At the columbarium. (our flickr sites are back up again.)

Over the weekend, J and I learnt 2 things about real estate.

(1) The most expensive real estate you can buy is in a columbarium.
Assuming the base area of an urn is 400cm2, or just 4% of a 1 square meter(sqm), 1 sqm of columbarium real estate ranges from S$15,000 to S$300,000! Our apartment, for instance, works out to be only about $2400 per sqm.

OK, the comparison is glib, but as we walked around the Bright Hill Monastry columbarium in search of a better resting place for Ma J's ashes, all there was on everyone's minds was just how much more it would cost - and why. For some of J's family, there was of course other things on their minds - if they should offend any of the spirits. There was a smell of incense everywhere, and an incessant chanting. Even in the air-conditioned columbarium room, there was chanting played over the PA. Needless to say, for me, there was nothing restful about this place.

>$600 for a 60 lease. "HDB"-style, though the room felt like one in the Cambridge university library I rememmber.


>$2,000 on a 75 year lease. An alternative collumbarium at some Taoist nunnery in Bishan. With the white concrete shelves, this felt like a quieter, airier and brighter library.


>$3,800 to $12,000 a unit for all eternity, the price varies depending on whether the location is at eye, foot or ceiling height; and the distance from a central hallwhere the statues of the Goddess of Mercy (I think) stand. Each spot is colour-coded. Gold for the $15,000 spot, blue for $3,800, so that even in death, we are marked by colour and wealth. But it still looks like a locker room.


(2) It's always about the living.
The story is that Pa J has been feeling uneasy about allowing Ma J to be cremated, against her last wish. He did not like how, after being cremated, Ma J's ashes are lying in an urn, stacked on the second row of a crammed shelf in a glass cupboard. This is despite the large paper house the family had burnt for Ma J, equipped with a paper Mercedes benz and two maids.

But once he decided that he would place Ma J's ashes in an air-conditioned room, in a locker-like spot costing $8000, the furrows between Pa J's eyes disappeared, his shoulders lifted, the red in his face lightened. He had done Ma J right at last.

This being a weekend of no rest, I'll stop and say goodnight here.

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