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What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say ghosts or spirits?? Most of us would think of some scary face, or a horror movie or something. Its not quite the same in Vietnam. This month’s issue of the Economist had an article on Vietnam. I dint pay much heed to it, thinking it just another random article. Just when I was about to flip the page, a line caught my eye, ”Visa for the dead”.. I didn’t understand it initially, but later when I did, I flipped. I want you all to know this rather bizarre thing happening in Vietnam..
The Science and Technology Union of IT application office is a four storey building, which is by far the most busiest “embassies” in Vietnam. But unlike normal people, the visitors, to this consulate are however all DEAD. The office gives Visas to Dead people, to come here and talk to their relatives. Each day, this organisation helps about 100 people to find the bodies of relatives died in Vietnam’s bloody 20th century wars.
Most Vietnamese believe, it is vital to give a proper burial to the dead ancestors to ensure they become a guardian angel rather than a tormenting ghosts to the descendants. Nearly, four decades after North Vietnam, defeated the American backed south, the bodies of the fallen Vietnamese soldiers are still missing causing anguish and (many say) bad luck to the family.
Growing prosperity in this country, is fuelling demands for the services of spirit mediums and telepaths claiming to be able to locate the body of the fallen. Centres purporting to use spiritual powers to find remains have sprung up, some charging hefty fees.
Such activities are forbidden by core communists sating it to be ” Backward superstitions”, however, growing inequality, and social stratification in the country, are prompting those at the bottom of the heap to adopt to these traditional beliefs, and turn to the spiritual world fr solace.
As it is the case everywhere, there is always a fake for every original. In this case too, a sting operation by leading tabloids found a majority of fake spiritual rackets, there are only about 20 real spirit mediums in Vietnam, and hundreds of fake ones. They locate about 5000-10,000 bodies every year free of cost.
The government has however asked the families to go for DNA testing to determine the origins of the remains they find… It has also launched a website “Honouring Martyrs” which lets users exchange information about possible location of fallen family members.(a rare example of govt endorsed crowd-sourcing in a state which often blocks social networking sites like Facebook)
However, other than this, most people still are looking for spiritual help to locate the bodies of their families. Truly amazing, how in today’s world of science and facts, people still hope and believe in spirits helping them in an hour of need.
Left me awe struck.