Have been planning this post for quite sometime now, but the occasion was never right. In fact I guess the seeds were sown the moment GM slipped into coma and Baba, Kaka (Uncle) and me battled to make sure that she be surrounded by all her loved ones and comfort.
Then there was no looking back. Mourning – I thought it was the only thing that spilled beyond gender, caste, society et al. As usual life was to break this bubble and tell me ‘welcome to reality’. It did and in the crudest way possible. It hasn’t left me bitter, for GM somewhere has taught me never to really be bitter with things and people. It baffles Ma, when I refuse to get back at people, but how do I make her understand that it shocks me more than it hurts me when what someone refers to as ‘depravity of human mind’! But this time I did get back at people, musch to everyone’s surprise and I have no qualms about it.
I scanned Amazon, Flipkart and the like, but unfortunately I didn’t find a handbook that defines ‘Guidelines for Mourning or How a girl should mourn’. Decided – its high time I be the leader of the pack, self-appointed, albeit!
You should mourn when you know that even the last straw has been pulled, instead of inventing new ideas to extend the time in this world – Money matters!
One of the cheeky relatives that the balls to come up to me and say that instead of teaming up with my dad to go in for the latest ventilator think for GM, we should just let her be on oxygen and pray! The bill apparently was scaring her. One look at her and a few crisp words in Bengali that the same is not our concern right now and that all of GM’s working children, grand-children are there for that, didn’t make her ashamed, instead just made her go away and try the same logic on my aunt. Who too walked away. She grumbled that that is how she had taken care of the ‘situation’ for her MIL then was she wrong? I answered no, but then just as she had the right to decide for her family, we had the right for ours!
When was the last time I asked you for money and how you plan your household, that you define mine?
Understand death as beyond all reasons and doings
The concept of guilt to me is actually par all. Death is inevitable, so I learnt, but to me what mattered more was the concept of guilt that it would leave behind. I know it for a fact that my father and mother both live with the guilt that they couldn’t be with their fathers (respective) when they passed away (both were working away from their home lands) and I did not want them to go through it again. So while a few of them told me to wait before I usher in my parents on an emergency flight from Zurich – reminded me of my sister’s condition, I stuck to my guns. My parents were to come and come in by the first available flight irrespective of the improving or deteriorating condition of my GM. One of them had also in fact called me in Mumbai to tell me that probably I should come when she’s really on the verge of leaving!!!! I had just disconnected the line then. Also, the decision to shift my GM to the advanced ventilator despite knowing that there was ‘no hope’ was my insistence keeping in mind that my uncle and my father were NOT to survive with a life long guilt that they could have done something more to give their mom comfort!
To me the very moment Baba had held my hand during a smoke break and asked me if there was something he could do medically to give her a few moments of respite, was the trigger.
Guilt eats you up, especially the guilty which raises ‘what if(s)’ which have no answer. It’s my duty as a daughter to ensure that the daughter/son of the previous generation do not live for the rest of their lives with such a guilt!
Nothing beats the grief a SON faces on losing a mother
My father was in a state of almost denial and hence everyone thought it was essential to give him company. I saw a DIL (my mom) who was in pieces, whom people said they had to be strong. I saw myself, who was still being viewed as the deviant grand-daughter ever, who just never cared for society. For 36 years the DIL has been more than a son to this MIL. She was in fact closer than her womb connects. For the last almost 3 decades these grand-daughters were the ones whom GM had brought up . In fact it shocked them that my mother knew all about her last wishes about dressing up in finery and where she eye docnation receipt was kept. It shocks me to see this being a reason of shock!
So we didn’t exactly feel the grief and know what my father was going through? Me who accompanied Baba for each of his smoke trips, because right since childhood those 5 minutes of father-daughter talks help us connect, didn’t know what he as a son needed? He needed space and realisation of the loss and when me and mom tried to reason that out, we were told that we wouldn’t really know!
Where were you when I helped my Baba cry so that he could sleep – busy talking about my deviance right? So Thanks! But not thanks for the extra gyaan about ‘grief’!
You are a girl, your mourning should be behind curtains
So when my mother stood up that I being GM’s favourite was to accompany her to the house and till the pyre, we got a lot of cold stares. It didn’t matter then, for anyway I was tagged, what shocked me was the gender associated mourning drama. You – my dear man who claim to be her close relative, had the right to shoulder her , because of your different genitals. Irrespective of the fact that you were never there when she was in pain. That despite of me having the nerves to sit through the trauma beside her, you considered yourself the stronger one fit to help her in her final journey. Sorry, not here, not with me.
Same thing happened regarding dressing her up, final journey and the ashes strewing. I made it I was there and I have no qualms. Yesterday too if people gaped when I sat for the puja along with my dad and uncles and later told me that she would have been proud of me, I did not bat an eyelid before I replied that she wouldn’t have been proud of me, just satisfied. Infact had they used these words in front of her, she would have said there’s nothing to be proud of – she’s just doing her duty!
Things that shock you, are actually normal. It’s you who are crazy to live in a shady world of poorly framed rituals. Not me who’s run by heart and mind!
She’s gone. Help her leave following all rituals
Even if the rituals make no sense? Even if I believe that there are no real leaving behind? That I still believe that there are no real ends just that there are no real beginnings? My ‘why(s)’ baffled them and their ignorance shocked me.
As GM lay there sleeping, one of them lit incense sticks beside her head stand. I jumped to remove it, shocking him. I coldly replied that she was asthmatic and could never bear the incense smell (something which I have inherited!) and hence it be kept near the foot. He insisted that it was the ritual. I told Baba that no ritual was to be at the cost of GM’s discomfort. End of story beginning of yet another set of whispers.
Same thing was at the shradh ceremony – when everyone insisted on the incense sticks being lit in front of her photo. I stood guard for 6 hours to make sure it’s not. Rituals cannot surpass likes and dislikes merely because a person is not physically present.
Also, rituals have a meaning and when are we to understand that. When I went shopping for GM’s puja last week I noticed that the purohit had asked for a ‘paan daan’ (a beetle leaf holder) to be included in the list of items. My GM HATED any sort of addictions and hence I struck it off. Yesterday at the shraadh an elderly person raised a hue and cry about it. The purohit looked at me, when I merely asked him that what is this puja all about? Isn’t it to give away as final offerings all the material goods that she liked? He nodded and so I looked at the lady and said, hence since my GM never liked all that, it shall be replaced by a basket of chocolates. Uncle and Baba helped me decorate the basket of flowers and chocolates.
When will you understand my fellows the rituals and society are what we make of. For when I teach Anarkali to distribute chocolates on GM’s anniversary, it’ll be a ritual which I create!
I am sorry, for I know you wouldn’t have never liked me being rude with people. I know that you taught me to step into the other person’s shoes before reacting. But this time I thought it to be more important to step into your shoes and speak what you would have. After all, that is how the world is to know that the legacy you spun is living on right? You don’t need any rituals for remembrance, I’ll make sure that the mind you have gifted me with shows your presence each day.
Yours and only yours,
SC *special name*