The Final Farewell
Thursday, November 08, 2012
The last Week has been kind of surreal----as if I'm a part of a Nightmare that I'd like to desperately wake up from but somehow it is never ending and I just can't!!The day I was dreading but waiting for has finally come and gone---Sudhir has been laid to rest with all the proper Rituals and Rites of Hinduism.Yesterday--7th. November--was his first Death Anniversary according to the Hindu Lunar Calender----and it was marked by a solemn Religious Ceremony to honour it.Yesterday Sayali performed the "Varsha Shraadh Puja" for him and he now is supposedly fully released from all Earthly bonds and ties.
For us Hindus this is a very solemn occasion---a kind of a final "Goodbye" to the departed Soul.A Feast is cooked--consisting of some mandatory Pulses and Vegetables as well as those that the deceased was fond of.Since we are Gowd Saraswat Brahmins----or GSB for short----our food is cooked fully without the use of Onion and Garlic for Foods such as these are considered unfit for the Soul to eat!!Since his sisters and mine had not been a part of his final Rites in the USA I wanted them to have a sense of closure---and a chance to say their Farewells to him.The Rites and Rituals entail an elaborate variety of Stuff--and since Sayali had told me that she'd be here on the 6th. November I got busy running around and doing most of the stuff before she arrived.
As usual she flummoxed me---had Sandy not intervened she'd have been here last Friday--the 2nd.November itself--but she actually made it in on the 3rd. November because BA was busy flying people home in the week preceding those dates.For me it was a wonderful and lovely surprise as well as a great relief to have her with me as we finished making the final arrangements together.The Caterers had been fixed as had the Priest performing the "Puja" and the Lists had been systematically ticked off to ensure that everything was in order.Preparations for cooking Sudhir's favourites at home began on the 6th.---with Sayali making one his favourite Indian Desserts--"Shrikhand" at home.I cooked a savoury dish he was extremely fond of named "Panchamrut" signifying the essence of Life---tickling one's tongue with five different flavours--Sweet,Spicy,Sour,Bit
ter and Salty.This is one of those mandatory dishes--and a must for all "Pujas"---both in Happiness or in Death!!Then I cooked his favourites----Fresh raw Black eyed Peas,sprouted Field Beans,sprouted Mung Bean Curry also mandatory and "Doodh Paak" a rich Indian Dessert which is made with Ghee roasted Basmati Rice ground coarsely and cooked in Milk.Sugar and reduced,thickened Milk is added once the Rice is fully cooked----along with Saffron Strands and Cardamom-Nutmeg Powders.Besides that I also cooked the plain "Varan-Bhaat" or Dal and Rice--another mandatory dish.By 9.30 a.m. everything was ready and by 10.15 a.m. the Caterer and his men had reached.The priest arrived by 11.15 a.m. and after assembling the Components ritualistically the Ceremony began at 11.45 a.m.---continuing till 1.45 p.m. when the feeding the Crows Ceremony took place.
This Ceremony of feeding the Crows is an interesting thing to observe and has always fascinated me.A Silver/Copper/Brass/Steel plate is lined with a fresh,tender Banana Leaf,filled with Food and ceremoniously laid out in an open space for the Crows to feast on.Many times the Crows begin eating out of it immediately--signifying that departed Soul is pleased and happy to participate in the "Puja" being offered for it but sometimes they just gather around and don't touch the Food at all--circling around the Plate instead.It is then that the relatives think of different reasons as to why the Soul is reluctant to participate in the Ceremony and begin uttering various promises to appease the departed person.A particular promise may click and then the Crows may begin to eat the Food offered---but in case that does not happen a Crow made of Hay is used and the Ceremony completed---leaving a niggling sense of doubt, defeat and inadequacy in the hearts of the relatives concerned.However such cases are far less than the ones where Crows gather round immediately and within minutes the Banana Leaf is empty!!Such was the case yesterday---we were followed by Crows the moment we stepped out of our Apartment Building the Crows began flocking around us--following us to the designated spot.The moment we set down the Plate the first Crow dipped his beak in the serving of Sayali's Shrikhand---and then all of these feathered messengers of Souls began polishing off the rest of the Food in earnest!!!The Leaf was overflowing with Food--for there were 20 courses and 7 Sweets on it!!The funniest thing about the way they ate--for they followed the same pattern that Sudhir would have--with "Shrikhand-Puri "first--the "Bhajiyaas/Pakoras,Kachrees and Chutney" next next and then the "Varan-Bhaath with Papadums and Panchamrut"!!!
I have a sense of satisfaction because of the way everything functioned smoothly----the whole Ceremony unfolded sedately--moving on well oiled wheels.The other aspect of this--the one which is tearing me apart internally---is to finally accept that he will never be coming back to me ever again!!I hope all the positive Vibes both Sayali and I received mean that he is happy and contented with everything we did yesterday and that he completely approves of it.Now I face a bleak Future alone--surviving till he finally comes to fetch me when it is time for me to go.So--collecting lots of logical data to bicker on with you when we meet again--hopefully very soon!!