The next great adventure. July 31, 2006Posted by silentEcho in Emotions, moron's Diary.
He was ancient and very weak. But he suddenly woke up from his sleep, got up from the bed and began walking with his spine bent as usual, the walking stick in his hand. He came to the middle of his room at my village home and then suddenly the walking stick fell from his hand and vanished, he stood tall, the bent in his spine no longer there. His white dhoti was shining and there was a radiance on his face. I felt uneasy with the vision. Suddenly the room vanished from view and as I was seeing a chariot driven by horses. I saw the charioteer release the horses and I knew no more.
‘What sort of adventures?” asked my friend from Delhi when I told her that life was going good and that I was having adventures, almost daily. Just the day after my grandfather too had an adventure. He died.
I woke up in the morning and went to the Hall of my home at Bhopal.
My mother was crying, sitting at the edge of the deewan. My father, however, looked calm and composed. He gave me the news. It was as if I already knew. I didn’t cry because somewhere in my heart I felt that he needed it. We left for the village immediately.
My uncle and brother were sitting near him preventing flies from sitting on him. As I climbed up the stairs, my grandmother started crying. My uncle was crying silently as was my brother. My mother started crying again and my father, who hadn’t shed a single tear by then, melted. ‘Dono bhai subah subah hume doodh bana ke dete the,‘ he had remarked about Grandfather and his brother when we were cruising along in the car.
I noticed that my grandfather was not looking any different from what he looked like when I had talked to him just three days before his death. Only difference was that he was not coughing or struggling hard to make himself understood. There was a big clot near his left eye due to him meeting the deep just before he measured it.
I noticed that I was not crying. I don’t know why but I didn’t cry during my entire stay at the village. Others cried, even my younger brother, but I didn’t. If you are thinking that this is a sign of strength then let me correct you. It isn’t. I didn’t cry and it suffocated me. Something wanted to come out of me but it’s still in there even as I write this post.
His last rites were performed. I was amazed at the number of things Hindus have to do when a person dies. His clothes were changed after the body was bathed, symbolically though. Heads of my father, uncle, brother and me were shaven. Then at the scheduled time he was put on the arthi and taken to the village shamshaan. The chita was made and he was put on it. More logs were put on him and then began the last yagya of his life. Yes the last rites are a form of yagya. Although no mantras were chanted but the Gayatri system of rites suggests last rite mantras as well. Kapal kriya was done. It resembles the poornahuti to the yagya. We stood there for a long time. It was raining but the chitasthala had a tin shade. People were crying, me too, but only due to the smoke that was going in the eyes and working as irritant. Or was it just me thinking that it was smoke?
The next day we went to collect ashes and bones in a sack which was to be taken to Sangam later. The sack now had a man once living. Some other rites were performed. Then we came back home. We had Uthavana on the third day. We went to the village temple. I thought about why Hindus do or have to do these rites and social gatherings, mrityubhoj et cetera. I saw that my father and his brothers were busy in managing things. Even my little brother was busy looking at the people who had gathered. The females were busy preparing the food. I got my answer. The ancients really were wise. It gives the grieving family a psychological freedom from grief. It gives them something to live for. It might be taxing economically these days but it nevertheless succeeds in its actual purpose. I felt my head bow in honor of the ancients.
Life is mortal. I am not telling a new thing but at times such as this, this truth strikes big. My grandfather probably never realised this. Till the end of his days he was worried about my sister’s marriage, about grandmother’s health, about my uncle’s work and about other things. He was a perfect family man. This is why he was burnt and not buried. Very few people know that in Hindu tradition only family men are burnt. The sanyasis are buried.
That day I sat in the hall of the village home. The room where he spent most of his time in his last days. In the very last days all his daily chores were done in this room. The room had a vacant spot now. His bed had been removed and a dari was put there where my grandmother was sitting. She would cry everytime a visitor came: a conditioned response I thought. But I didn’t cry.
It rained all evening. The village dog was crying but I didn’t cry for the man. I didn’t cry for the man who had distributed home made sweets and kheer to the whole village when I was born about nineteen years ago.