I have never been a BJP bhakt or a Congress fan; rather I dislike politics in general. Politics according to me is a game a group of people play, who claim to work for the country, but are working for their ulterior motives. I am not saying they all are bad, as there are some who have done some great work to make India what it is today. One such man, for whom I have a lot of respect is, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The first BJP prime minister and a recipient of Bharat Ratna, who passed away last week. He was a visionary and a statesman, who also was the rare and a perfect example of the idea that politics is to work together for the country and not work in an individualistic way.
This is not a blog about his political achievements but about the hope he has given the daughters of our country even after he has left us. The daughters of the nation have got hope after his foster daughter, Namita Kaul Bhattacharya performed the last rites on 17th August, 2018. I was upset that the country had lost one of the best prime ministers but the woman in me was hopeful that we have broken another taboo. There was a hope that India one day could be free from the patriarchal practices it has lived with.
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As per Hindu traditions, it is the duty and responsibility of a son to light the funeral pyre of the parents and this the only way the dead get moksha or salvation. This is a bizarre tradition in my opinion and there is no logic behind it. I tried to Google the reason behind this practice as I believe most of the Hindu traditions have a logic behind it. My research gave me reasons like that is believed that women are emotionally weak to see death and a dead body behind cremated. The norm is for the son to perform last rites and in his absence, a close male member of the family does the cremation. This is, in fact, the main reason why families in India want a son.
This is about equality and not about who is emotionally capable to handle the sorrow. If the brother and sister are brought up with the same values and if both take care of the parents, why does the religion allow the daughters to feel outcast on their own parent’s funeral? In no way, I am demeaning anyone, but today it is a fact, that daughters take care of their parents in a better way than the sons even after they are married. This is about the equal rights a woman; a daughter shout get.
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The tradition is weird and the worst is we do not even question it. In small towns and villages, women do not even go to the cremation ground. Legally daughters are allowed to perform the last rites of their parents and thus, no one objected when Namita Bhattacharya lit the funeral pyre as the whole nation watched. Last year, Indrani Mukerjea, who was in jail, was allowed to perform the last rites when her father passed away. I am not sure, that it has been clearly written anywhere in our sacred books as well, but then as this is a tradition we have followed, it has come somewhere from our ancestors. I am sure there must be many out there, who would have raised eyebrows, but these daughters did the right thing.
While I was doing this little research, I read some weird reasons as well. One of the main ones was that the son carries the legacy of the parents and thus, it is his right. Another and the strangest reason was that the spirit can enter the body of the woman and thus, they are not allowed near the body at the cremation ground. Like seriously?
I did not find any good reason why this custom has been followed in India. I have a lot of respect for our traditions and customs, but I think the concept behind this one is unacceptable. We have followed it for ages, but we need to question it now. There are many practices we have gotten rid of which are inhuman and against the right and dignity of a woman, so I think it is time we raise questions on this one. A daughter should have the equal right to perform the last rites. In fact, I firmly believe that when all siblings together light the funeral pyre, the parents get moksha, as the people they loved and lived for, are standing together and ensuring they get peace in the other world and are saying their final goodbyes with all their love and respect.
It is not that daughters are not performing the rites in our country. There are more and more cases heard of both, in small and big cities, but when something like this is seen by the nation there is more acceptance towards it. It is a known fact that popular personalities from any field have a wider reach and things they promote are easily accepted by the society. Namita Ji did not do something pathbreaking as there are many before her who have done it, but when the nation saw on TV what she did, I just hope the mindset of many would have changed.
It is not about who loves the parents or who takes the legacy forward and who takes care of them. It is about equality, it is about bringing a change, it is about being free from patriarchal practices, it is about letting India grow.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together”
The man has gone and he taught us a lesson while going too. The country will miss you, Sir. Rest In Peace, Atal Ji.