Saturday, February 11, 2006


If I reacted to the postponement of my father's first anniversary in trying to think If we have been disrespectful in one way or the other, the question of," now when" was uppermost in all of us siblings. The oldest brother of mine ( the eldest son ), who according to our scriptures, is the one who has to perform the rites being in the lead, had already contacted our priest locally. He diplomatically said, the usual custom is to perform the anniversary on the 11th day ( i.e. the day we are freed from the 10 day isolation resulting from the death of our cousin) ,but in any case, you consult with your priest at your village. By now, my other brothers also started asking me about the possible dates when we could perform the rites.I could only tell them to wait until we hear from our village priest. We were all sure, he would find out some convenient date(!) to suit everyone. I also added that, if only my astute and blessed mother-in-law were alive, she would have quoted some such incident from the past. Her favorite anecdote was the postponement of her father-in-law's first anniversary rites because of the birth of a son to her sister-in-law. I had, actually, not asked her in detail about how the rites were performed on a later day, if the rites were performed on all the 4 days or it was capsuled for two days. I can never find out now.

This takes me back to my childhood days, when any such doubt would be clarified with authority by the then headpriest of our village (who happened to be my fathers maternal uncle), whom we fondly called"Amman".When he had said his opinion, there was no second opinion sought in any matter. Or on later days, after our "Amman" passed away, there would generally be a discussion among the elders in the village, as to how it was performed on similar occasions in the past. Today, if my mother has to get an opinion on this issue, she is the only elderly person in the whole village, all others being new comers to the village or a very young generation.

By evening, my older brother had received word from our village priest. "You can either perform the rites on the 11th day or perform it on a later day conveniently. You need to perform only the Sradham and the homam.My brother is yet to get the views of the other brothers.

My youngest brother, who incidentally was in town, brought up another question? If the rites could be performed on the 11th day, how do we sanctify all the clothes that we will be carrying with us on that day? A very relevant question. When someone from the close family dies, it was a practice to observe a 10 days abstenanace and social isolation from all functions and sanctify the whole house on the 11th day by washing all clothes and utensils used during this period and sprinkling holy water. If all were to reach there on the 10th day or 11th day, what will we wear when we wash all the clothes that we carry? All the customs have been drafted in days when people did not normally move out of the closeknit society. Such questions were never asked nor had to be answered. In rare occasions where people had to travel they usully arrived well in advance and such problems rarely arose. Besides, the dresses wore by the people were very simple and therefore could be shared
without much problem. The lifestyles and practices pose such technical problems these days. Today the generation of middle aged men and women face such problems when one knows about such practices and at the same time cannot observe them due to various constraints.

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