Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On Mourning

1. Not being able to wash my hair or eat non-vegetarian food for close to a fortnight has a strongly detrimental effect on my temper and general ability to spread sweetness and light. Being asked to cease and desist from such strong statements have an even more negative effect on my temper especially when I’ve kept away from the meat and the shampoo for a week already. No, I never claimed to be rational.

2. I can sit next to the body of a man I loved and respected and keep a steady head and remember to do all the things that need doing. But the sight of mourning clothes for my husband and brother-in-law can make me go to pieces. The sight of their shaved heads still upsets me, although I wouldn’t dream of letting that stop me from pointing out to Vicky that now his ears stick out more than ever.

3. Vicky looks more like his father now (his father had nicer ears though). He was gifted a kurta that is similar to one Baba used to wear and it startles me when I catch glimpses of the cloth around a corner. It is, however, not a bad thing. Some fragment of him remains. And Vicky, in memory of his father who was a legendary dhuti-wearer, wore dhutis all these days. Some fragments, as I say, of the father-in-law remains in his sons.

4. Sharabh Niyogy gifted his grandfather an umbrella to give him shade in his final journey. They tell me it’s an especially holy thing if a grandson can give it. I know it was an especially beautiful moment when Vicky and Rahul held the umbrella over his ‘Thakur’s photograph.

5. The deep rituals of mourning do bring you to a sense of closure because there is a sense of relief when you can return to your normal clothes and diet and so on. One is finally ready to let the departed go, which is exactly as it should be. This is the first close death in my family since I’ve been old enough to follow the rules and understand what they do to me.

6. Vicky’s mother is doing much better but she looks dreadfully fragile. I’m considering a divorce when I turn forty so that I do not get that dependent on a mere man.

7. When a little boy loses his ‘Thakur’, he turns more clingingly to his ‘Ramdadu’.* One can never be replaced by the other, but the other can understand this loss like nobody else in this little boy’s world. Grandmothers are good things, but little boys have need of grandfathers too.

8. I thought there was nobody left to refer to me as his ‘putrobodhu’ (son’s wife) but Baba’s oldest sister called me that when introducing me to some relatives and it comforted me strangely. Not all is gone while some remain.

9. There is a strong bond in sitting down with Vicky for a pujo. We both gifted six items (land symbolised by grain and some cloth; clothes; food; water; a towel; and something else I can’t remember just now) to Brahmins as offerings for Baba. It was a puja we performed together and I felt a wife to him in the truest sense of “life-sharer”. Marriage has its own ties.

10. So many people came to mourn him and their grief was so genuine. I’m not the kind of person to inspire that simple kind of liking but I hope when my turn comes the grief is that genuine.

*Rahul called his paternal grandfather 'thakurda', a very old-fashioned term that his grandfather requested for. A true Gemini, he always recognised the power of words. I didn’t realise how beautiful it would sound until Rahul actually started saying it. Mostly, he’d shorten it to “thakur” which means “God” and that sounded even more beautiful.

My father has always called Rahul “daduram”, another very old-fashioned and very non-citified term for a grandson. A few weeks ago Rahul pointed to Bubbles’ grandfather and insisted that grandfathers were called “daduram”. Or, alternatively, Ramdadu. Which is roughly where matters stand just now. Dadu or Ramdadu. All the more since Thakur is not around.

22 comments:

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

This was a very touching post Sue.

You are right, sometimes these rituals do allow us a sense of closure.

I send you and the entire Niyogi family my prayers. I hope the heaviness in the chest and atmosphere lifts soon.

God bless!

D said...

Very poignant.

Just Like That said...

somehow, this post made me feel sad...Hugs, Sue.

Mama - Mia said...

i am a bit speechless. so i will just shut up and not say anything.

hugs

abha

Saya said...

Very well written post. And I agree about the rituals producing a sense of closure. So true.

Monika,Ansh said...

Don't know what to say except that this was such a touching post. Hugs

Thinking Cramps said...

Having never had to follow this in my grown-up life, I always dismiss these as superstitions that encourage gifting lavishly to the Brahmins. But I never saw it this way - as a means of attaining closure. Will always remember that. Thanks Sue. This was beautiful. All the best for carrying on...

Sue said...

M4 -- Thanks, love. Your thoughts and prayers help, I'm sure.

D -- :)

JLT -- Well, it's about us coping with grief. But it's also about Vicky's ears sticking out. So don't be too sad!

Abha -- *hugs*

Saya, Monika -- Thanks.

Ana -- Our gifts were hardly lavish. I think that is part of the reason why I appreciated the ashram ceremony so much. Everything was very simply and inexpensively done. So it was easier to focus on the ceremony itself. Also, I think we were lucky to have a thakurmashai who explained all the rituals he performed for us, so we always knew what we were doing, the kind of prayer and to whom it was directed. In that way, yes, it definitely gave us all a sense of closure. Of rites properly conducted, of duties done and done with love, of the people who came and mourned him with us. You know what I'm saying, I think.

SBora said...

a reflective post filled with poignancy. a strong woman's perspective on one of life's inevitables.
this was indeed beautiful.
*hugs*

dipali said...

Can't stop the tears from welling up.
The ashram was serene and beautiful.
Take care, all of you.

B o o said...

A touching post, Sue. My prayers are with your family. Hugs.

I think I ll keep point no 6 in my mind just before I turn 40. I can see myself getting there already! ;)

Penguin said...

I'm delurking here to give you and your family hugs.

karmickids said...

Sue, that made me cry, god rest his soul and give him peace.

eve's lungs said...

The ashram was beautiful.You and Vicky doing the puja gave me a strange sense of joy and little Bheblu whom we met later did look a bit lost although he was clingign on to his Daduram

Thinking Cramps said...

Yes I do get what you are saying, Sue. Absolutely. In any case, a ritual performed from the heart, as a family, as a unit that has come together to mourn and support each other, is a choice, and never a compulsion. And I like to think of Vicky's Baba watching this with a smile from wherever he may be.

GG said...

I hope memories make the pain a little lesser. Warm thoughts and prayers your way.

Suma said...

a touching post...

my gpa passed away 6 months ago and that was the first time i got to see the ceremonies firsthand and got to know what they meant...

take care...

Subhashree said...

Why did this post bring tears to my eyes? hugs to you Sue. Take care.

Sue said...

SBora -- Thank you.

Dipali -- Yes, it was, I'm ever so glad you came.

Boo -- :) You and me both. Remind me not to keep the kid!

Penguin -- Thanks, nice of you! :)

Kiran -- I started off all defiant and joking and ended up sad and reflective. Some posts to get to me even if I write them myself.

Evie -- Having you and Dipali around felt wonderful even if I couldn't meet you guys.

Ana -- That's a beautiful thought. I'll give you another: watching Rahul miss his grandfather, my aunt wrote him a little poem about how his grandfather's still watching over him albeit from his own mother's lap in the heavens. Somehow, I never thought of him as a little child (and he was supposed to be something of a Bhablet in his time) wishing for his mother. I guess someday when I'm long gone my son too will wish for peace and want to come to me. Death can't be all bad if it reunites you with your mother.

GG -- Memories help. Especially the FIL's oldest sister's memories of them as naughty little kids!

Suma -- Oh hon, I'm sorry for your loss.

Subha -- Hugs back.

Neera said...

A very touching post Sue - esp loved #2. My condolences to u and ur family.

Collection Of Stars said...

Very sorry about your FIL Sue. May his soul rest in peace.

Sue said...

Neera, CoS -- Thank you.