My maternal grandmother passed away early this morning. Had been suffering for a long time from a multitude of illnesses. Hence it didn’t come through as a shocker. In some sense it was a kind of relief that her suffering has been put to an end. May her soul rest in peace.
Would like to put down some thoughts that kept going round my head earlier this morning. It is a slightly impersonal view and you people might think i’m heartless and stuff. However, the fact that it wasn’t that much of a shock meant that I could observe stuff clearly. And there were thousands of stuff I could write about. And this is only a summary of my thoughts earlier this morning.
Granny lived with my mom’s eldest sister (who’s unmarried) and a housekeeper. Death happened around 1:30 am. Aunt called up my uncle who lives nearby. He quickly arrived, saw granny had passed out and went to the nearby Ramakrishna Hospital. Asked for a doctor to come and confirm the death. A thousand bureaucratic hassles followed. They cribbed big time. Finally sent a nurse in an ambulance to the house (which is bang next door to the hospital). Who confirmed the death. And charged Rs. 500. And refused to issue death certi.
Me went there at 2 am. Then went off to an aunt’s house nearby to crash. Went back at 8. The place was swarming with people. Hundreds had come to offer their condolences. Including very distant relatives. And a fire had been lit in front of the house. People were crying all round. Some were philosophising. Others just talked about the recent ganguly-chappel spat.
Found myself in an awkward situation. 16 hours of Floyd a day means i’m perennially high and always smiling. Found it tough to put a woresht look on my face which everyone else had done. Was pretty embarrassing actually. My granny, who i had lived with for a large part of my life had passed away. Relatives from far and near had come and had broken into tears. Worst case they looked pretty hassled and upset. And there i am, with a “normal” look on my face talking to people as if nothing has happened!
Then, the ceremonies happened. Granny had “booked her own funeral in advance” some time back. One phone call and people from this funeral service came armed with a hearse van, a priest, puja equipment and what not. They had even booked a slot at the crematorium. I hear that even the ceremonial rites which will go on for the next 13 days have been arranged for!
The corpse was brought to the courtyard (an uncle remarked how till a minute before death the person is referred to by name and then immediately after he/she becomes “the corpse”. he talked about some soul level stuff…). We had to pour rice on granny’s mouth and then go touch her feet. But it was a little spooky so i just did a namaste instead of touching her feet.
Then there is this woresht funda that you shouldn’t eat/drink anything between the time you come to know of the death and you’ve seen the corpse and then had a bath. Me got slightly screwed as my head was throbbing as i gulped down some bananas as soon as i got out of bath at 1 pm. Dad was in a much worse state. He broke fast only at 3 pm as he’d accompanied the corpse to the crematorium and he’s diabetic and has recently had a surgery. dunno how he did it. the lengths to which people go to appease society!
Then there’s the funda that when people who accompanied the corpse return from the crematorium, no one is supposed to SEE THEM until they’ve had a bath. VERY SHADY. and i questioned it and got a pasting from mom (who has been pretty upset). And no food is supposed to be cooked at home. After i had my bath, i went to a restaurant which sells wholesale meals and brought stuff for the people.
The superstitions seem very arbit and laughable. But i’m not allowed to question it. I’m sure they had SOME funda behind them when they were framed ages ago. Sad part is they haven’t changed with advances in technology. I think that is a fundamental problem with many people in India today. and also in the past.
We had a glorius ancient history. But our people in the medieval age refused to adapt themselves to the changing world. And got left behind, forever. Even now, many laws refer to acts passed way back in the 1800s! Yet another instance of inertia. Really pissing off.
Another fundamental problem with many people here is that you are not allowed to ask questions. Generations have been brought up on a diet of suppression and conformity. No wonder most of our industry today relies on being “techno-coolies” rather than being at the frontiers of technology and innovation! Which reminds me, I was supposed to attend a conference on Innovations and patents in India. Couldn’t go because of this unfortunate event.
Then this thing about “you should always respect elders and listen to them, no matter how stupid they are.” Yet another cultural issue which hinders progress.