27 March 2011

Of weddings and funerals

There was death in my family a few days ago. My grandmother, who suffered from a weakened heart condition and multiple other ailments, succumbed in the early hours of rang panchami day. She was to celebrate her 75th birthday on Apr 5. She suffered much in her life, but achieved a lot too. May her soul rest in peace.

Weddings and funerals are the time when families - immediate and extended- come together for a common cause. While I've attended many weddings, this was the first death(and funeral) I have experienced. Understandably then, it has left an impact.

Grief and regret are the most common emotions when faced with a death. Regret is usually in the form of 'if only I'd met / called her yesterday'. Or 'if only we hadn't fought the last time we talked'. Grief is a powerful emotion that takes even the strongest ones by surprise. Actually, its a bit confusing - those who you think are the 'strongest' are totally devastated by grief and others whom you regarded as 'weak' astound you by their stoicism and composure.

When a family is large and spread across various cities, it is a challenge to get everyone together for giving a final farewell to the departed. Someone has to take charge of the practicalities such as mode of funeral. Everyone has their own interpretation of what the departed soul really wished to be done after his/her death. It is further colored by their own preferences and beliefs.

The sheer physical effort involved on the part of family members - especially the one who performs the funeral rites, was a revelation. My perception was probably due to what is seen in movies where one usually sees the male protagonist lighting the pyre with a flaming torch and then spreading the ashes in a flowing river. This perception too was laid to rest as I saw my dear father (eldest son-in-law of my late grandma) perform all the rites without a murmur of complaint.

The best part of both weddings and funerals is that everyone comes through for each other in their hour of happiness or grief -be it neighbours, friends, family and extended relatives. It is at times like these that the true nature of people is revealed. There were some who could not help stealing a glance at the cricket score even during the funeral. And then there were those who traveled across the country to be in time for the funeral. As they say, it takes all kinds.

09 March 2011

International Women's Day

The significance of Mar 8 has gone up manifold off late. So much so that not wishing a woman in your life on this day is tantamount to insulting or neglecting her. Even in big corporates, there is a lot of emphasis on promoting gender diversity. There are various publicized advantages of this such as different perspectives are brought in etc.

Frankly all this hullabaloo leaves me more confused rather than elated. Is it something to be proud of that the world celebrates an entire day for us women? Is one day enough to justify our importance? Some men say - aren't all days women's days? This year is the centennial year for the women's day celebration. Does that mean that for last 100 years, the status of women in society has remained pretty much the same? Is it something to rejoice over or ponder over gravely?

Flash back a 100 years and we can see that women the world over have risen remarkably in esteem and power. Today's woman walks shoulder to shoulder with men in all walks of life. At the same time, she still rules the roost on the home front. Many men have ventured into the feminine domains of the kitchen and childcare but there is still a long way to go. Working women had to be literally superwomen to be able to juggle all their responsibilities earlier. Nowadays the rules have been relaxed a bit on both the home as well as work fronts. With husbands helping out with household chores, parents pitching in with childcare and employers allowing work-from-home policies, women can balance their work and home lives much better today. They no longer feel guilty and unfulfilled. Infact having a career is not considered taboo for a woman anymore. She can drive, operate complicated gadgets, handle her own finances and supervise a bevy of support staff - be it maids, cooks, nannies, daycare staff to ensure smooth running on the homefront.

Men on the other hand do not seem to be doing anything drastically different from what they were doing a 100 years ago. They still love to follow games(earlier over radio, now on trendy 42" LCD TV), meet up for gossip over beer or chai, discuss the latest gadgets, share financial advice, crib about wife and the mother-in-law and rail at the increasing taxes and inflation.

Perhaps it is time to have an International men's day? They too need the tender loving care and focus that we women have enjoyed for the last century.

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