I believe in God; as in, a supreme presence existing in the universe around us. I do pray sometimes, it makes me feel calm and fills me with hope. But I am certainly not one for doggedly following rituals. I don’t believe in the concept of observing a fast to appease any particular deity. I am, most definitely, not religious. It makes my blood boil- people’s orthodox and extremist beliefs on the basis of their particular religion. But, there is a particular ritual that I perform with all my heart. And that is the “Shraadh”.
All my life, I saw my mother perform the Shraadh for my grandparents. She had never seen my paternal grandmother, who passed away when my father was only two and a half years old. My paternal grandfather, she stayed with for about three years after her marriage. He passed away soon after that. She performed the rituals with full faith and devotion, and she had to do it all by herself every year, as Dad would be away at sea. For us kids, it was an exciting day, as we got to eat a variety of goodies. We would all offer our prayers and only then could touch the food. This is one of the many beautiful images of hers, firmly etched in my memory; her performing the Shraadh with utmost faith and devotion.
And this is the reason for my being absolutely appalled when it was suggested that my father in law’s Shraadh be done away with; meaning that it be performed once and finally at Gaya. My husband and I had to force our way in, to insist that we would perform it till we are alive and won’t hear of it being done any other way. When we performed it the first time, three years ago, I was constantly on the phone with my mother, with her telling me the hows and whys. Two years after that, I performed the Shraadh for my mother too.
I am a female, and traditionally it’s the son of the deceased person who performs the Shraadh. And surely enough, this is being done by my family at my Doon home. But I couldn’t stop myself from following my heart, and so, I do it too. Actually, it happened quite naturally; there was no need to give a second thought. So, me and my husband offered our prayers to both the dearly loved and departed souls. Our Pitras. I do it my own way as due to time constraints, the husband can’t always come from his office to offer the prayers. I prepare Poori, Aloo (Ranjan’s dad’s favorite; and next year I plan to prepare Chholey, another favorite of his), Paneer ( my mother’s favorite; and next year I will make Thinchwani- a garhwali dish, which she and I used to relish; also, baingan bharta, which no one made like she did), Tori and Kheer. Then, I arrange five platters with portions of these food items for specific animals to consume. The feeding of Brahmins comes next. I offered two platters to my husband’s Khalsa/Sikh buddies (sahayaks); who, according to me are some of the bestest people that I know. To me, they fit the criteria of being a Brahmin by karma (deed) perfectly – he who is pure of mind and soul. Next, some ration ( which is called Seedha) meant to be donated to Brahmins again. My maid, who is one of the gentlest souls that I have seen, fit the bill perfectly. I do all of this in good faith; because isn’t that the meaning of Shraadh- “Faith”?
This is my way of performing the Shraadh . I hope they smile from up there, seeing their favorite food laid out for them; made with utmost faith. Food made for them. Shraadh performed for them. By a not-so-prefect daughter-in-law and a not-so-perfect daughter. A daughter, who will continue to do it for the rest of her life. Dear Mummy, I hope you are feeling happy, as you watch me follow in you footsteps. Rest in peace eternally.
© Oct 2016 Sapna Dhyani Devrani