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Coffin Confidential

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on May 09, 2021

ILLUSTRATION: MANJULA PADMANABHAN

There’s a new profession in town: Coffin Confessor. I heard about it for the first time two days ago, in a video. The self-proclaimed Confessor, most likely the first of his kind, is Bill Edgar.

He has a smooth, plain face and looks straight at the camera with a friendly expression just short of a smile. The video I saw was from the British TV show Steph’s Packed Lunch. It’s hosted by an attractive woman with a shiny red mouth and a helmet of steely blond hair. She turns towards her audience every now and then to share her amazement as Edgar answers her questions about what he does: Attends funerals at which he reveals things about the deceased, that he or she was unable to share with the world while still alive.

Edgar lives in Queensland, Australia. He tells us that his very first commission came from a client who was, as Edgar is fond of saying, “knocking at death’s door”. The client offers him ten thousand Australian dollars to make a number of posthumous revelations. Edgar, whose other job is being a private investigator, accepts this final commission without fuss. To his surprise, he discovers a niche-specialty: That of telling truths about a person, at the request of that person, after his or her death.

Edgar’s appearance, with his strong features and honest-earnest eyes, apparently invites trust. He’s done 22 such Coffin Confessionals. He’s written a book called The Coffin Confessor, due to be published this year. And he set up a website to which people can upload confessions. He got 8,000 uploads in the first week. The confessions will only be revealed to those left behind after the uploader’s death.

I can’t decide whether I approve or disapprove! On the one hand, it seems a glorious way to stomp on enemies who will never have a chance to stomp back. On the other hand, the only way to enjoy this kind of stomping is to believe in the afterlife. Which I don’t. Plus, I find the older I get the less I care about stomping in general. I can’t imagine lobbing grenades at unsuspecting family members from beyond the grave.

And another thing: We’re living through an era when there seems no time to mourn one dreadful loss before yet another is revealed. In this tide of death, it seems strange to think we might ever return to eloquent eulogies and slow, thoughtful farewells in quiet funeral parlours or suddenly silent homes. The idea that, in the midst of extreme grief a strange man might leap up and start blurting out secrets about the dear departed is... well! Rather funny.

Indeed, according to my family, I’ve already given away all my secrets in books, cartoons and stories, so there’s nothing left for the afterlife! As I’m the youngest of my three sisters, there won’t even be anyone to giggle over my Coffin Confessions! Which is why I’m giggling about them, right now, well in advance.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on May 09, 2021

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