Which is the most irritating ritual in our Indian society?

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About 4–5 years ago, one of our relatives, a man in his mid fifties passed away. We went to their house to pay condolences to his wife. Let us call her Kamala. That was the third or fourth day after her husbands death.

She was sitting in one corner of the room on the floor with grief stricken face.

There were many people, most of them relatives roaming hurriedly here and there and occasionally coming to her and adorning her in some way or other.

When I saw Kamala the first thing I felt, was a shock. Then there started a dull pain in my heart.

She was dressed up just like a bride. A bright colored saree, hand full of green bangles, lot of flowers in the hair, turmeric applied on her face and a bindi on her forehead

An old lady passing by saw her and commented “Why is this sticker bindi? Let her wear a big size bindi with kumkum(a red colored powder)”

The old lady removed the sticker and applied large round bindi with kumkum.

“Oh Kamala, why are you accepting all these things? Don’t you know what is going to happen in a few days?” my heart cried silently.

But she had already been conditioned to acceptance. Even as tears flowed down her face, she sat silently accepting whatever was being done to her.

I knew the reason. And it broke my heart.

People believe that the man’s ‘atma’(spirit) would be roaming around until final rites are performed on 11th day.

To keep the man’s atma happy, his wife would be decked like a ‘sumangali’ (married woman whose husband is still alive) things for those 11 days.

And what happens on the 11th day?

The same women would break her bangles, erase her kumkum, remove flowers from her hair and what not.

You adorn her like bride, and one day you suddenly remove all those signs of sumangali.

You do not let her grieve peacefully in those eleven days.

You do not let her come out of her grief after eleven days.

We went there to talk with her for sometime and console her. But there was absolutely no scope of talking with her. We couldn’t withstand all those happenings. Even as we tried to explain her not to accept all these things, she would not listen.

We returned home after ten minutes

I think irritating would be a very mild word for this ritual.

(Even though this ritual has been done away in most of the places in India, it still continues.)

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Can a wife cope with the death of a husband?

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Year 2008. Sultry afternoon in Mumbai. I was waiting for that phone call. That was the time when my daughter would call me every day.

Finally I heard the phone ring.

“Amma” said her voice. Her voice was heavy and hoarse. I knew why her voice was so.

“Didn’t you sleep yesterday night? I can guess from your voice” I asked.

“Yesterday night the telephone was continuously ringing. After every half an hour I have to lift the phone?”

“But why do you sleep beside that phone? You can sleep on the other side of the room”

“What if they call and I miss the call?”

The ‘room’ I was talking about was a waiting room out side an ICU in a very big corporate hospital in Mumbai.

Our son-in-law was in that ICU, surgery is done for brain tumor. Only one person for a patient is allowed in that waiting room. And she was the one staying in that waiting room since previous one month.

Eating there, having bath there in common wash room and sleeping there. She would not allow any others to stay there.

There is this land line(inter com) phone in one corner of the waiting room.

Sisters or doctors would call from inside the ICU if some thing urgent is required for the patient. Whoever is sleeping beside the phone would lift it and wake the concerned person by shouting the name.

And my daughter has taken up the job of lifting the phone every time it rings in the night.

She didn’t want to miss a single call. What if she misses a call and that particular call is about her husband? What if it was very urgent and if not attending it leads to serious consequences?.

She was very optimistic about our SIL’s survival. She used to celebrate if there is a very slight movement in his finger.

My heart would miss a beat whenever I thought “what will happen to this girl after his demise(doctors have already expressed that chances of survival are only 1%).

And finally, the doomsday arrived. Early in the morning, the phone rang in the house.

“Only a few hours are left” said my daughter.

We all rushed to the hospital.

“Let me sit beside his bed” she said.

“But what will you do?”

“I will pray that he should pass away in peace” she said.

She was just sitting quietly until he breathed his last breath.

After few hours she retained her composure. First thing she said after she stopped crying “let boys(our two grand sons) not know about their father’s death until tomorrow morning. Let them sleep in peace”(both the boys were at home looked after by one of the relatives).

Then she said “Do bring the body to the house tomorrow. The boys should have a last look of their father”

Within one month of our SIL’s demise, our younger grand son’s birth day came.

“Because his father is not there he should not forego his pleasures in life” she said. And celebrated his birthday.

“Even though my parent’s support is there, I should earn” she said and found a good job within two months.

Yes a woman can cope with the death of her husband if she decides to be her children’s father and mother both and if she decides to become empowered within herself.

Please see also this post of my daughter trying to rebuild her life.

The Power of Beginnings.

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How are widows treated in modern India?

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We lost our beloved son in law in 2008.

He had brain tumor and he was in the hospital for 45 days. During those entire period of forty five days my daughter stayed entirely in the hospital.

As soon as we admitted him in the hospital, the doctors told that there are little chances of survival.

In spite of doctor’s prognosis, she was still hopeful that he would survive.

We were mentally prepared for son in law’s demise, but we were worried much about our daughter.

How will she react on that day? Can we control her? What if she tries to do some undesired sad things?

Finally after doctor’s word of death, we all gathered and gave her as much confidence and as much courage as we could give.

For the sake of her two children she could somehow maintain her composure.

I took one month leave and during the entire month gave her as much confidence as I could. Finally all of us came to a decision and I returned to the work in Bhubaneswar.

The true story begins here.

During her stay in the hospital, our daughter lost much weight and all her dresses became very loose and she was really looking old in those dresses.

I pestered her to buy new clothes. After I had returned to Bhubaneswar, that is nearly four months after the demise of our son in law, she along with one of her cousins went to market and bought 3–4 dresses.

She did not feel any thing unusual to show her new dresses to neighbors and relatives.

This resulted in a huge hue and cry among relatives.

“She has purchased new clothes!”

This remark was made even by youngsters (Who consider themselves modern) and old people as well, in a satirical way.

One lady who is in her forties advised our daughter not to buy new clothes for one year and even if she bought, not show them to others.

My daughter called me over telephone and told every thing, crying in agony.

All the confidence, all the courage, we gave her for one whole month was shattered in few minutes.

The next morning I went to Vizag and met that lady and asked her about her advice to my daughter.

“I advised her like that because I wanted to protect her from nasty remarks made by others”, she said.

“See I appreciate your concern for her. But to protect her you should have said, ‘You go and purchase whatever you need. Don’t be afraid of those people who make nasty remarks’. That way you could have built more confidence in her and reduce her grief and your protection would have been more effective”

Next time when you meet a woman who lost her husband, I think you know how to behave.

Please see also this post of my daughter trying to rebuild her life.

The Power of Beginnings.

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